A competitor to MakeXYZ has emerged: CowFab. The service, like MakeXYZ permits owners of personal 3D printers to make some cash on the side by bidding on posted 3D print jobs.
At this time CowFab has around a dozen 3D printer operators signed up, with some six projects. It's obviously just starting up, but the service appears more or less complete in terms of functionality.
One of the biggest hurdles for project posters is the question of reliability of the printer operator. To resolve this, project posters are able to inspect feedback and ratings for bidders to ensure their work is done by responsible participants, in much the same way that eBay tracks sellers.
Why would you use a service like this when there are plenty of big-time 3D print services like Shapeways, Sculpteo, i.Materialise and others? The costs could be much lower, as the printer operators typically have far less overhead to worry about than the big services - and their expenses are already sunk into their machines, meaning they could bid quite low.
Of course, this service only works if your project can get by with basic plastic 3D print material. If you need ceramics, glass, titanium or even solid gold, you'd best look elsewhere.
For 3D printer operators, CowFab says their rates are around half of what MakeXYZ charges and they designed in methods to increase competition for jobs, meaning the costs to buyers will be less.
At this time CowFab only operates in the USA, but they expect to offer international services soon. One feature we liked was their content policy:
You may not use CowFab.com for activities that:1) Violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation.2) Relate to transactions involving copyrighted material or designs.3) Relate to transactions involving material or designs that may be used as weapons.
Co-Founder Chris Atkeson says:
The goal of the service is to link together 3d printer owners and people who need objects 3d printed.
If you happen to own an idle 3D printer, why not get it making money for you?