While 3D Hubs may be one of the largest networks of independently operated 3D printers, it really just provides access to printing. Until today, that is, with the addition of a new content service.
With 3D Hubs, those without a 3D printer can easily request a print of their 3D model on a local 3D printer owned by independent operators. But the catch is that you must provide a 3D model to print. Having our own 3D printers, we know that a very common scenario is to be requested to print something – without the provision of a 3D model. Usually, not much happens because production of 3D content is a specialized skill.
That scenario will be overcome in some cases with today’s announcement. 3D Hubs is partnering with Fairphone, a designer of custom phone cases to provide exclusive purchasable 3D content. Here’s how it works:
- Fairphone’s online store offers a variety of phone cases for purchase. (In fact, it seems they’re running design contests to create more.)
- You select and purchase one or more that you like. Your money will be distributed to not only Fairphone, but also to a 3D printer operator to produce the model.
- You select a local 3D printer operator to produce the item.
- The selected 3D models are transferred to the local 3D printer.
- The local operator runs the job and you’ll conveniently pick it up in your own city.
It seems like a good deal for customers, Fairphone and 3D Hubs – but we think it’s much more important to 3D Hubs. This announcement could be the beginning of a number of content options for 3D Hubs. We can imagine 3D Hubs partnering with multiple providers in the future – all of which could then easily shunt printing operations to anywhere in the world via their growing network of 3D printers. It’s like Shapeways suddenly having 3D printer factories all over the world – with less content, of course.
But that may change.