The open peer-to-peer marketplace pioneered by 3D Hubs has been relegated, say the company founders, to make room for a broader manufacturing platform driven by CAD-CAM technologies.
Once upon a time, 3D Hubs could be simply described as an online 3D printing service platform. The initial model matched owners of desktop 3D printers with people in their local area who needed something printed.
The concept was innovative, to be sure. But in the drive to become a sustainable business, 3D Hubs has shifted strategies a few times since they launched in 2013. And those shifts have occasionally given rise to friction with their user-base, as ALL3DP has reported in the past.
Company founders Bram de Zwart and Brian Garret today release a statement which further codifies their transition from a peer-to-peer marketplace for 3D printing into a broader manufacturing platform.
“We started out with 3D printing because it was the most accessible technology with machine costs rapidly decreasing and a minimum order quantity of 1,” they say in a company blog post.
“The exponential growth of our recently added CNC machining service has revealed that the opportunity for custom, on-demand manufacturing is much larger than 3D printing alone and our platform can potentially be used for the production of more than 1 billion parts in the next five years.”
Some insight into this market came from the most recent 3D Hubs Trend Report, which contained data on the most used materials and finishes in their new service.
3D Hubs Places Broader Emphasis on Manufacturing
There are two big changes outlined in the statement.
The first is the decision to offer more comprehensive CNC machining and injection molding services alongside 3D printing. This will provide their customers with a single manufacturing platform they can use throughout the entire product development process (albeit still centered on technologies that are CAD-CAM driven).
This move is based on the observation that “our 280,000 customers typically use 3D printing in the early stages of their product development and then switch to other manufacturing technologies … further down the development cycle.”
The second — perhaps more controversial — decision is to de-empathise the peer-to-peer open marketplace model upon which the company was launched.
“Since last year, our offering is fully focused on professional engineers and designers as they have the strongest need for on-demand parts, but we’ve learned that part of this group is hesitant to use our original peer-to-peer open marketplace as there’s no guarantee on the quality and timeliness of parts.”
To address this, 3D Hubs are inviting a group of their top-performing B2B suppliers to become “manufacturing partners”. Following stricter quality standards, their completed jobs are branded as “Fulfilled by 3D Hubs”.
The goal is to combine the quality guarantee of a centralized supplier with the cost and lead-time benefits of their distributed manufacturing network. In doing so, say the founders, “we’re in a unique position to change the manufacturing industry.”
There’s no doubt that 3D Hubs have taken some bold steps today to shore up their future. Ironically, these steps distance the company further from the desktop 3D printing revolution they sprang from.
Source: 3D Hubs