I was reading an interesting piece by Bertier Luyt when a question arose.
Luyt is one of the pioneers of desktop 3D printing, having started a couple of ventures based in France some years ago. One of them was le FabShop, which launched in 2012 and was a reseller of initially MakerBot equipment. Le FabShop also provided training, a maker space for public use, 3D print service and several 3D designs to the public.
Unfortunately, bad times fell upon le FabShop after a time, specifically when MakerBot began changing their approach to sales. Rather than having multiple smaller resellers, such as le FabShop, the then-growing 3D printer manufacturer changed to focus on supplying gear to a much smaller number of large-scale distributors.
Basically this created a middleman between MakerBot and their original resellers, and that middleman took their cut of the proceeds, dramatically reducing the revenue of the resellers, including le FabShop. As a result, le FabShop had to reposition its activities and eventually shut down in the summer of 2016.
In the Medium post, former le FabShop founder Luyt recalls the entire experience in great detail. It’s a great read, especially if you’ve been involved in 3D printing for several years.
One section of the piece describes one of le FabShop’s gifts to the 3D print community: The Elephant. Luyt describes the origin of the Elephant’s design, which involves creating a 3D model for a makerspace in Nantes. The Medium post is a celebration of the Elephant’s fifth anniversary.
This 3D model, which by the way can still be freely downloaded from Thingiverse, is a very popular 3D model, having had over 1400 “makes” shared in Thingiverse alone.
After the release of the Elephant it rapidly became extremely popular, even reaching the cover of the Wall Street Journal in June 2014, and being named as one of the “iconic” 3D models, along with the Stanford Bunny.
“It was instantly a sensation. We started receiving messages from all over the world, people were printing the elephant in all sizes and colours. The 3D model is magic. It prints flat on the 3D printer bed, then unfold to stand on its legs, and it’s fully articulated; with 0 support needed, and 0 infill material.”
“It’s been used by every 3D printing company to calibrate their printers, including HP when they presented their new fusion-jet printing technology.”
”The elephant turns 5 today. It is probably the most 3D printed thing in the world, and definitely one of the most downloaded object ever. It has inspired many to try new things in 3D printing.”
But is it? I am quite certain the Elephant has been 3D printed zillions of times, but I can think of one other 3D model that has absolutely been 3D printed much more than the Elephant: the humble #3DBenchy.
The #3DBenchy, first introduced in 2015 by Creative Tools, a Sweden-based company looking for ways to help the 3D printing community. It’s tagline is “The jolly 3D printing torture-test”, and it definitely lives up to that name.
This object’s versatility as a basic 3D print benchmark object has been recognized by virtually everyone. This is the object that is most frequently 3D printed on almost every device, and is often the first object to print. In late 2017, Creative Tools announced that #3DBenchy was the world’s most 3D printed object. Why? I think it’s because it is straightforward to 3D print, yet has a geometry that puts the equipment to the test.
Another reason for its print statistics are that it is frequently used to tune 3D printers: 3D printer operators will iteratively 3D print #3DBenchy objects over and over, looking for tiny flaws to be corrected in the print parameters.
But if #3DBenchy is the most frequently printed object, it doesn’t take away anything from le FabShop’s Elephant, which will remain a fantastic 3D print.
As Luyt says, “Love Live The Elephant!”