Print a Thing’s Community 3D Printing Network

Another 3D printing network has emerged: Print a Thing.

The company operates in a manner similar to the existing community networks: those with spare cycles on their 3D printing gear can apply to be “suppliers” with Print a Thing. They’ll be certified and then ready to receive print jobs dispatched from Print a Thing. 

For users, it’s as simple as uploading an STL file and adding it to your cart. There’s no auctions or supplier selection; Print a Thing simply selects what they believe to be the most appropriate supplier for you. 

Print a Thing competes with not only 3D printing community networks like 3D Hubs and MakeXYZ, but also centralized 3D print services like Shapeways and Sculpteo. Their approach is to provide prints a lower cost (than the centralized services) and at a better level of service (than the community networks). We presume they accomplish this by very carefully selecting suppliers to participate in their network. 

The network is largely invisible to users, however, providing the illusion that Print a Thing is a centralized service - but under the covers it is actually a distributed network of independent suppliers. This could make usage more simplified for casual print-seekers who don’t want to be bothered with the notion of dealing with independent printer operators. 

For now it appears Print a Thing only includes operators of filament-based equipment, as their material choices allow only nine colors of PLA and four of ABS plastic. There is no provision for full color, metal, nylon or other materials. As such it is highly likely their pricing will be lower than Shapeways, for example, as Print a Thing’s ABS/PLA costs are quite a bit less than Shapeways’ nylon material, gram for gram. 

Print a Thing may be challenged to attract printer operators in two respects: each of their suppliers must undergo some type of certification process, which may scare away some operators (and perhaps that’s a good thing!) and secondly they must overcome the huge momentum of existing networks like 3D Hubs, who now have over 16,000 participants. 

On the other hand, if you have a 3D printer, it may be a good strategy to have as many irons in the fire as possible to attract more print jobs. 

Via Print a Thing

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!

+