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In the Works: Boffles, a Global Marketplace for 3D Printer Files

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If you don’t have a 3D printer at home but you’re a pretty accomplished 3D designer, there are now plenty of great web-based services that let you submit your .stl files and print your designs. You can probably find a 3D printer close to home who charges a competitive rate by using an online network like 3D Hubs or MakeXYZ. Even if you’re short 3D design skills, you can still locate a vast selection of 3D printed objects for purchase on sites like SculpteoShapeways, and i.materialise.

But what if you have your own home 3D printer but aren’t the designer you wish you were or just haven’t honed your creative skills to the extent you’d like? Plenty of 3D designers share their files on sites like Thingiverse and Instructables, so if you know what you want, you can find 3D printable files for loads of things. However, you’ll likely have to do some time-consuming searching and, while that can be fun, you’d prefer to spend your time 3D printing.

Auckland, New Zealanders Wayne Miller and Dane McMillan aspire to fill in this major gap in the online 3D designing and printing bofflesnetwork. Their solution: A Boffle. You’re probably wondering, “What’s a Boffle?” According to Miller, a Boffle is “a 3D design file that can be easily printed on any home 3D printer.” So, you can be the 3D printer but someone — Boffle — else can do the designing for you.

In hopes to fund the project, getting the website and web service Boffles.com up and running, the pair are running a Kickstarter campaign. They’re asking for $5,000 NZD (about $3,700 USD) from backers who want to help realize this goal of establishing a new online “App Store of 3D files” and building a virtual bridge between 3D designers and home 3D printers. Thus far, the campaign has raised about $400 NZD but, with 28 days remaining in the campaign, Miller is confident he can raise the money.

One of Boffles’ core aims is to promote 3D technology in schools. Miller envisions Boffles.com as a site where schools — with students from youngsters to college-level — can get special educational discounts on hardware like 3D printers and computers equipped to run 3D design programs.boffles main

Currently, Miller and McMillan have built a beta version of Boffles.com, but they hope to use money from the Kickstarter campaign to expand what they have so far, to, in his words “make some improvements to the UX and back-end functionality” and to increase visibility. Recruiting top-notch designers who can submit the 3D printable files is probably the most exciting aspect of the Boffles-building efforts and we imagine there are plenty of 3D design whizzes who would be all too happy to contribute, not unlike the home-based 3D printers who take on the print jobs on those busy on-line networks we mentioned above.

Backers to the Kickstarter campaign will see rewards that demonstrate Boffles’ work in action. Starting with a $25 pledge, backers receive thanks, a “Bag of Boffles” (with 5 designs at the $25 level, 10 designs at $50, and 20 designs at $100), a free Boffle of the Month for 6 or 12 months, and a Boffles ebook. At higher backing levels are advertising deals that might appeal to other businesses in the 3D printing field.

If the $5,000 goal is reached, funds will be split evenly among three priority areas: the website build, marketing to at-home users, and marketing to the best designers out there.

Check out the Boffles Kickstarter video, below, which explains briefly what Boffles.com is all about. If you’d like to learn more, Miller and McMillan can be contacted via the Kickstarter page or by clicking on a link on the Boffles.com beta site.

Is Boffles the type of site that would appeal to you? Let us know what you think about this initiative in the Boffles forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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