It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere! 3D printing in a neighborhood near you

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Partnership lets you print a thing within 10 miles of home

It’s big news that now, even if you don’t own a 3D printer, you can find a design for an object that you like and get it printed. It’s even bigger news that the partnership making this possible is a merger of two key concepts that are shaping the future.

The facts: MakerBot, a subsidiary of Stratasys Ltd., made two announcements this week. The first was that it is reducing staff and closing locations. The second is that it is partnering with 3D Hubs to connect Thingiverse products to printer hubs.

As a result of this partnership, more than 1 billion people who don’t own 3D printers will be able to 3D print objects from Thingiverse within 10 miles of home by touching a button. The average turn-around time is less than two days!

One door closes, and another opens. While 3D printer sales may not have measured up in recent quarters for MakerBot, with this partnership it has taken a giant step toward “creating a 3D printing ecosystem,” in the words of Joey Neal, Chief Experience Officer at MakerBot.

Founded in 2009, MakerBot is known for having the largest installed base of desktop 3D printers. More significant in relation to this partnership is that it operates Thingiverse, the world’s largest 3D design community.

Based in Amsterdam, 3D Hubs operates the world’s largest 3D printing network. It’s a marriage made in heaven, or at least a marriage which signals a paradigm shift reaching the masses.

So what are the specifics? Thingiverse boasts more than 700,000 designs. It has invited eight of its top designers to place a button on their items, “Get This Printed.” Pressing that button will allow a consumer to choose from 15,000 3D Hubs locations where the object can be printed.

Once a location is chosen, when a user enters payment information, there is an opportunity to “tip” the designer. Formerly Thingiverse provided designers with an opportunity to showcase their work. This arrangement allows designers who choose to monetize it. Eventually it will be an option available to all designers in Thingiverse.

Everyone wins: consumers who do not yet own their own printers, both designers and general public, have the capability to get the item printed locally in a very short time. Designers have an opportunity to make some money on their creations. 3D printer owners have an opportunity to maximize the value of their investment in a 3D printer, which might otherwise have periods of “down” time.

Power to the people: partnership brings creativity and production power home

The really big 3D print news is that a paradigm shifting concept has come to our homes.

Two ideas have been an important part of the 3d print “revolution,” open source design and distributed manufacturing.

From opensource.com: “The term “open source” refers to something that can be modified because its design is publicly accessible.

“While it originated in the context of computer software development, today the term ‘open source’ designates a set of values—what we call the open source way. Open source projects, products, or initiatives are those that embrace and celebrate open exchange, collaborative participation, rapid prototyping, transparency, meritocracy, and community development.”

From The World Economic Forum: “Distributed manufacturing is one of 10 emerging technologies for 2015 highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s Meta-Council on Emerging Technologies.

“Distributed manufacturing turns on its head the way we make and distribute products. In traditional manufacturing, raw materials are brought together, assembled and fabricated in large centralized factories into identical finished products that are then distributed to the customer. In distributed manufacturing, the raw materials and methods of fabrication are decentralized, and the final product is manufactured very close to the final customer.”

So let’s think about this for a moment. At our end as consumers, we are used to hoofing it to a series of local stores to find a finished product, very likely made on the other side of the world. Usually personalization and modifications are not options other than to have a design we want added onto a factory produced t-shirt from China or some tailoring done on a mass-produced suit or dress we purchased. We are offered “options” on expensive purchases like cars to personalize them, but that’s something different. The options themselves are manufactured in the traditional way.

In an open source world, we can tinker with the code for a design to make it work exactly as we would like it to work. If we don’t have that capability, we can interact with a designer to make adjustments. It’s easy to see some of these interactions from people’s comments in Thingiverse.

It’s only the possibility of distributed manufacturing, though, that makes that personalization or customization practical. The altered code can be used to 3D print one object locally. It doesn’t have to be applied to masses of product in a centralized factory.

So here we are with a paradigm shift that will completely alter the way we think, the way we shop, the way things are produced and our economy. This paradigm shift is the result of two ideas that are core to the 3D printing industry: open source interactions and distributed manufacturing.

Bram de Zwant, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs, calls this a merger of creativity (MakerBot’s Thingiverse) and production power (3D Hubs local printing of custom items).

So it’s great news that we can all choose an object from Thingiverse and print it locally with a button that connects us to the resources of 3D Hubs.

But the really big news is that now it’s possible for each and every one of us to be part of a dramatic revolution in how we do things and how we think about things. Before we know it, this revolution will become so pervasive that we won’t even realize any more that we’re part of it.

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One thought on “It’s everywhere! It’s everywhere! 3D printing in a neighborhood near you”

  1. Being an expert in the print industry, I always knew something like this was going to take off. I’ve always liked the sound of “3D Printing”. Fantastic read by the way!

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