A year ago this month, I attended a startup competition for several barely known companies at the Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo in New York City. Among the companies competing to earn possible funding was Amsterdam-based startup 3D Hubs. As the company’s co-founder Bram de Zwart stood on stage explaining the premise of his company, I immediately took note. The startup, which enabled users to rent out time on their own 3D printers to those without direct access to a printer, seemed to me like an incredible idea.
One year and $4.5 million in funding later, 3D Hubs has become one of the fastest growing companies within the 3D printing space. To put their growth into perspective, during CES just over three and a half months ago, the company reported that their 10,000th hub had been registered. As I met with Bram de Zwart at 3D Print Week this year in NYC, he told me that they now had 15,000 registered hubs. That’s a 50% growth rate in under 4 months!
In my meeting with de Zwart at this year’s conference, we discussed many things, but the majority of the conversation had to do with a new partnership that he was incredibly excited about. That partnership is one with MakerBot’s Thingiverse, and it has just been announced after months of negotiations. In a deal which de Zwart tells us he had hoped to negotiate since launching 3D Hubs, MakerBot’s Thingiverse 3D model repository will now integrate a 3D Hubs button within many of their model pages. Initially this partnership will launch as a pilot program with eight popular designers, which include, Bold Machines, Nervous System, Arian Croft, Isaac Budmen, Laura Taalman, Quincy Robinson (3DKitBash), Simplus Design and Walter Hsiao, with intentions to gradually roll the 3D print button out to thousands of additional model pages.
“This collaboration marks an important step in striving to make 3D printing universally accessible,” said Bram de Zwart, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs. “By connecting our global 3D printer network to the world’s largest 3D print design community, we enable people to 3D print almost anything, anywhere in the world. This is truly about bringing together creativity and production power.”
In addition to Thingiverse users who do not have direct access to a printer now becoming capable of having specific models 3D printed, there is a bit of an added incentive for designers. When users order a model from Thingiverse to be printed via 3D Hubs, during the checkout process they will now have the option to add a small monetary tip which will go directly to the designer on Thingiverse. This should attract even more incredible designs to the Thingiverse platform, and provide designers with an added incentive to share their work for free.
“Working with 3D Hubs is a natural next step as we continue to grow our MakerBot 3D Ecosystem,” noted Joey Neal, Chief Experience Officer with MakerBot. “At MakerBot, we are continuing to look for ways to get 3D printing into the hands of more people. 3D Hubs has built an incredible network to fulfill 3D prints locally, which we see as a natural fit for integration into the Thingiverse community.”
3D Hubs has been on a role lately, recently signing a deal with Autodesk’s Instructables platform to integrate a ‘Print with 3D Hubs’ button into certain Instructables’ pages which require 3D printing. Additionally, just last week, another deal was announced with Sketchfab to integrate a 3D Hubs print button into as many as 300,000 model pages.
This new partnership should benefit both companies considerably. While it will certainly generate a ton of additional traffic and hub registrations for 3D Hubs, it instantly makes Thingiverse more than just a file repository; it makes them an actual marketplace where users can have a model fabricated regardless of whether they own a 3D printer or not.
Let us know if you have tried out this new feature on Thingiverse and what your thoughts are on this major partnership announced today. Discuss in the Thingiverse 3D Hubs Partnership forum thread on 3DPB.com. For those interested in getting the 3D print button next to their Thingiverse designs, you can begin by registering here.