I’ve been pondering who was behind the rescue of 3D model repository Pinshape, and now we know who it is.
This morning, Pinshape announced that they’ve been acquired by none other than Formlabs, manufacturers of the very popular Form series of resin-based 3D printers. In the press release, they say:
With Pinshape, Formlabs further sets the new benchmark in professional desktop 3D printing by continuing to broaden its already robust ecosystem of 3D printing offerings.
Terms of the deal were not announced, but I can imagine the size of the transaction was not particularly large, given the near-death experience of Pinshape.
For Pinshape, they’ve already known the good news for some time, as evidently Formlabs has been the one providing cash flow to keep them going. Now the rest of us know this news. According to their press release, Pinshape will continue to operate as a “standalone business within Formlabs”, so users of the site have little to be concerned about.
For Formlabs, this is perhaps a pivotal moment, as it joins an exclusive club: major 3D printing company having associated 3D content sites.
The first in this club was, of course, MakerBot, when it smartly launched Thingiverse as a means of providing a content ecosystem for their products. More content should mean more printing, which of course leads to more printer sales. Others in this club include Ultimaker with YouMagine and XYZprinting with 3D Gallery. You could even add 3D printer reseller iMakr with MyMiniFactory to this list.
Such relationships are usually good for the owner – and good for the 3D repository too, as each can develop their own communities and direct traffic between them for mutual growth.
The other point made by this acquisition is further evidence that it exceedingly difficult to profitably operate a standalone 3D model site. Yes, there have been dozens, perhaps even hundreds of them pop up over the past few years. Why, I even started one myself five years ago, only to discover the hard truth:
Virtually no one buys consumer 3D models.
Or at least that was the case back then. It’s likely not too far different now. Therefore, such repositories truly need external support from other companies, such as 3D printer manufacturers (or resellers).
Going forward, I suspect there will be further consolidation in the 3D model repository business, with the larger ones eventually being strapped to the sides of one 3D printer manufacturer or another.
For the rest, good luck.