Why 3D Print Model Repositories Won't Work

Another Day, Another 3D Model Repository opens for business. We can't tell you how many people we've run into lately that hope to launch a type of 3D model repository. The story goes something like this: 
 
There's gonna be so many 3D printers, there will be a huge demand for 3D models to print. Let's launch a 3D model store! 
 
We thought that too, and even launched such a site two years ago. But it didn't do very well and we closed it some time ago. 
 
The problem with such services are similar to those in other industries: 
 
  • Content - you must have a great selection to attract interest
  • Price - you must hit the price point desired by customers
  • Search - browsers must be able to easily find what they want
  • Brand - customers must know you exist and be able to find you
  • Service - you must provide the best service possible
 
No surprises there. Any competent business manager can address each of them. But 3D printing holds another surprise: novelty. 
 
If you've ever watched someone near a 3D printer, you'll see they are totally fascinated by the visual process. They watch the print head moving and an object emerging. It's hypnotic, like watching a campfire. The novelty is in the seemingly magic appearance of "stuff" out of thin air. The novelty, at least for the majority of the public, is not the functioning of a printed object, at least not yet.
 
So if it's the printing process that's novel, why pay for a model to print? Just get one for free from Thingiverse or other open services. Print anything and you'll get the same reaction from the general public. They'll get the same thrill watching a 20mm cube print as they would printing a $39.99 bracelet.
 
Of course, this will change over time. The thrill will diminish and folks will want things that work, look great or solve their problems. That may even be happening now for the veterans of 3D printing. 
 
Meanwhile, 3D print model repositories will have to be patient. 

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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