LayerTrove is a Scotland-based 3D model store who have just launched a 3D models series that may bring them troubles in the future.
The company is one of dozens seeking to capitalize on recent interest in desktop 3D printing. As I’ve said many times, the major barrier to consumer adoption of 3D printing is the inability of most folks to quickly design a desired 3D item. They can often do so for 2D printers, merely by taking a photograph or typing a letter.
But very few can find their way through a complex 3D CAD system to generate a 3D model of the replacement dishwasher knob they desperately need. Or the interesting 3D character from the movie they saw last night.
3D model repositories hope to overcome that barrier by providing good quality 3D models for purchase and download. Unlike most such sites, LayerTrove takes the time to properly evaluate and test their 3D models to ensure they are actually printable. It’s a critical thing that many repositories simply don’t do, and you can frequently find entirely unprintable items in some repos.
LayerTrove’s collection is quite small, as they’ve just started. Their 3D models are all developed in-house by their small team of designers, and I believe they’ve done quite well.
The 3D models they provide are typically “kits” with many parts that must be assembled into a complete model. This often results in a much more interesting item than a single-object print.
The level of detail on these models is terrific. Here we can see one of their samples (they offer a sample piece from most of their items). It’s Captain America’s pants, and is comprised of almost 400,000 faces. That’s a huge amount of detail for a 3D print, suitable for large-sized prints.
LayerTrove does charge for downloads from their site, typically in the USD$5-10 range, but remember that these kits contain numerous parts and have been print-tested.
What kind of models do they provide? Their small collection includes trains and rockets, but also characters from Marvel, the Simpsons and Disney.
This is where it gets a bit sticky. I asked LayerTrove if they’ve licensed the designs from the rights holders, and was told they have not done so.
I believe this is a very risky strategy, as the rights holders, particularly Disney, are extremely aggressive when protecting their rights. They’ve been known for taking down items using their trademarks and designs even when placed on free sites, let alone one that’s charging a fee for them.
It’s highly probable that these unlicensed items might suddenly disappear from LayerTrove as soon as they receive legal notice from rights holders. That may come soon, or later, but in the meantime, LayerTrove continues to market them.