Recently, 3DHubs decided to shut down its hobbyist operations and aimed to shift to producing more high quality 3D prints from professional service bureaus and industrial 3D printer service providers.
3DHubs has always been a crucial connection point within the 3D printing network since its inception. The company has a large number of individuals signed up to its network. So far 3DHubs has never been imitated or duplicated, so it only contends with Shapeways, i.materialise, and Sculpteo and is therefore, a unique company in its own right.
Due to the decision to shut down the hobbyist operations, the company has faced major criticism and backlash from its community and people who believe the company is backing away from its original principles. Many hub members felt blindsided by the sudden decision as they believed they were the ones who helped build the community.
Loads of people argue that by shutting out the hobbyist community the company is losing its sense of uniqueness and turning into something generic. Early adopters of 3D Hubs originated from the DIY and 3D printing community. Makers joined the network either as a supplier (Hub) or a customer. The platform at that time was very much free-form, with the goal of serving as many, mostly one-off, custom maker projects as possible.
3DHubs claims to be focussing on improving the automation, standardisation and reliability of its services by their bold shift in business strategy. Since launching this service they are believed to have seen a marked improvement in the professional user group and claim customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far and that the order value has apparently doubled. 3D Hubs has been moving toward manufacturing as a base strategy for years now, and though it’s been declared dead before, according to the company’s statement, business has been better than ever.
So now in order to deliver orders, one must sign up as a manufacturer partner with the company and only then would they be allowed to fulfill orders. In order to be a manufacturer you need to fulfil all the specifications they’ve stated on their website. According to their guidelines:
This would put a lot of local and hobbyist manufacturers out of the equation simply because they do not have the manpower necessary to set up a manufacturing rig or afford to buy the industrial grade printers necessary to meet the requirements stated by 3D hubs.
But this brings across the question, as a consumer, shouldn’t you be receiving the best quality for your hard earned dime? With the advancements made in 3D printers over the years, it would be preposterous to still be receiving bad quality prints with issues like problems with dimensions and gaps in the product. Due to a lack of regulation, customers often received extremely low quality and damaged prints and that lead to the entire 3D printing community receiving a bad name.
3D printing may not be rocket science, but it is extremely easy to mess up even the most simplest of prints. For that reason alone, one should choose to work with professional vendors who’re experienced rather than hobbyists with little to no experience.
In terms of consistency, a customer might receive a professional looking part once but not receive something that looks all that great another time due to a variety of reasons.
At Fracktal, we’ve always believed in prioritising quality of the print over anything else and even the most tiny imperfection would be looked into. While it is unfortunate to see the community aspect of 3D Hubs shut down. Hopefully, hobbyists will find another platform or create their own to sell their wares without a third party getting involved.
The views expressed in the blog are personal.