Another member of the 3D printing community has emerged and, along with it, a twist on the open share philosophy. PrintThis4Me isn’t so different from some of the online 3D printing services we’ve gotten to know — Shapeways, i.materialise, Sculpteo, Pinshape, and more. PrintThis4Me members have 3D designs they want to print and they need somebody to do it for them. And here’s the twist: PrintThis4Me basically organizes its online community so that people with 3D printers can bid on the print requests made by other folks who either don’t own 3D printers or whose printers can’t handle a particular job for one reason or another.
It’s a great concept and an excellent way to get people interested in 3D design and printing. How does it work? Let’s say you’ve designed something using a 3D design program and you want to print it but don’t actually own your own printer. You log into PrintThis4Me as a buyer, submit your design, and request bids from printers. Printers then submit bids on your print job and you select the one that suits you. You make pick the printer with the lowest bid or you may choose the one with the highest rating. Not unlike eBay, PrintThis4Me has a rating system so you will know what to expect from the printer you select for your print job.
Once you’ve selected a printer from the PrintThis4Me community, your job gets processed and the item is shipped to you. PrintThis4Me gets 7.5% of every transaction that’s completed, so everyone’s happy. It is a great system. It connects members of its community to one another and lets home-based 3D printers make some extra cash.
“But it’s already happening!” you say? That’s true. 3D Hubs and MakeXYZ are already doing this, connecting printers with buyers. In fact, 3D Hubs can now boast a 10,000-person-strong force of 3D printers. There are hundreds in the MakeXYZ printing network. Chances are pretty good that when you search for a printer using one of these large networks, you’ll find one close enough to home that you can actually pick the completed job up yourself and save on shipping.
So what’s different about PrintThis4Me? They take a 7.5% commission whereas 3D Hubs takes 15% of each transaction. MakeXYZ takes a 5% commission, so in theory they’re the most budget-friendly of such services. However, within the three networks, the prices of individual 3D printers varies quite a lot and that’s probably at the heart of why PrintThis4Me decided to give it a go.
Their network is smaller but will almost certainly grow as folks from the larger networks join up and offer their services in yet another venue. At a minimum, competition is good. Also, adding another community-network-based 3D printing service to the mix is another positive step toward taking 3D printing even further into the mainstream.
Is PrintThis4Me a community you’d be likely to use? Let us know what you think about this new marketplace in the PrintThis4Me forum thread over at 3DPB.com.