3D Hubs announced a new API that enables any website to connect to their 3D printing network. We think this is a key strategy for them.
From the point of view of 3D printer owners, 3D Hubs is a terrific service that they can plug into to get more value from their idle equipment. Print jobs are routed to their machinery, and they get paid for handling them. It’s great!
From the point of view of makers requiring prints, 3D Hubs is an easy way to get inexpensive 3D prints done locally. Just submit a print job to the network and it’s completed and delivered. It’s great!
But from the point of view of 3D Hubs itself, things are quite different. We imagine 3D Hubs thinks of itself somewhat like Shapeways, Sculpteo, i.Materialise or even Redeye, the leading commercial 3D print services, each of which has a centralized factory of big-time 3D printers to provide prints for their customers.
3D Hubs does not have a centralized factory; it’s printer resources are by definition, distributed. They are not even owned by 3D Hubs; they’re owned by 3D Hubs’ participants.
But aside from that, 3D Hubs has the same challenges as the big guys. They must somehow attract business to keep their machinery (even if it’s distributed) as busy as possible.
The major 3D print services spend considerable effort linking up with associated companies to form “ecosystems” where the result is print jobs being sent to the service.
Now 3D Hubs catches up and provides an API of their own. It’s called “Teleport” and the intention is to place it on any webpage to trigger a 3D Hubs request. They call it, “The 3D Print Button of the Web”. In this way any web property owner can “3D Print-ize” suitable 3D content merely by adding a button that invokes the API.
3D Hubs is targeting three unique groups with this API:
Webshops: Do you run a webshop with 3D Printable designs? Integrating the Teleport 3D Print Button unlocks your products to over a Billion customers within 10 miles of a 3D printer.
Content Libraries: Are you the proud owner of a large database of spare parts or technical designs? Hook it up to Teleport and offer affordable prints and 2 day delivery to your users.
Design Apps: Do you have a game or app with digital content ready for print? Have your users create in App designs and 3D print them around the corner.
Basically, anything with 3D content can suddenly make that content become real in the physical world at the touch of a button.
Powerful, but similar APIs have been available from competing services for a while. However, 3D Hubs’ network provides prints at far lower cost, so it should be interesting to see how this works out. Will button deployers stay with traditional services (and possibly receive higher commissions on higher print fees), or will they switch to 3D Hubs to provide their users with a lower price point for 3D print services?
Via 3D Hubs