Amsterdam-based 3D Hubs mentioned something very interesting in their recent newsletter.
The company has been around since 2013, when they launched as a community network for putting idle hobby desktop 3D printers to work for real money.
The concept succeeded, but growth stalled as consumer interest in 3D printing faded in 2014-2015. However, as many other involved companies did afterwards, 3D Hubs began a transformation of their business to the new, expanding market of professionals, including engineers, architects and product designers, who have all “discovered” the utility of 3D printing.
3D Hubs’ transformation included a move towards more industrial-style 3D printing equipment, rather than the somewhat limited desktop systems. This put a huge variety of capabilities in front of their customers, who increasingly were engineers and designers that demand different materials and finishing processes.
Along this trajectory, 3D Hubs recently added something quite different to their service portfolio: CNC machining. The overall concept was identical to their 3D printing business model: independent CNC machine operators hook up to a community network and receive work from interesting clients through 3D Hubs’ extensive network.
CNC machining is not 3D printing, but in fact is quite the opposite: instead of material being gradually added to create a final object, material is subtracted to reveal the final object. It involves a lot of cutting, as you might guess.
It’s also a very mature technology that is used everywhere, and frequently offers far lower costs than 3D printing. However, due to the nature of the CNC machining processes, it cannot create more complex geometric shapes, which must be left for 3D printing processes.
But here’s the interesting thing. 3D Hubs says:
Within 3 months after launch the net income from CNC already approached that of 3D printing, which has also continued to grow in parallel.
Whoa! 3D Hubs spent FOUR YEARS to get their 3D printing network up to its current level, and their CNC machining network matched it in only THREE MONTHS?
There are a bunch of interesting implications here.
First, this obviously places 3D Hubs in a better place financially. It’s conceivable they may have just doubled their revenue, making the company far more solid financially. It also puts them in a much nicer place when looking for investors or credit in the future.
Secondly, it places 3D Hubs in a quite different market, where they have other existing players. There are several companies offering CNC machining networks, and now 3D Hubs joins that competition. But 3D Hubs ALSO has 3D printing capability, which some of their CNC competitors do not. 3D Hubs can offer a more complete suite of capabilities to clients.
Finally, this move may suggest even more moves by 3D Hubs in the future to add additional making services. I could see them offering finishing services, for example, and easy ways to transport parts between services for completing multi-step jobs. Their are plenty of other making services they could involve, such as sheet metal folding, injection molding, vacuum forming and more.
All good news for 3D Hubs, and thus for their clients, too.
Via 3D Hubs