The romance between 3D Hubs and colorFabb seems to be dimming, with an announcement that the filament manufacturer has pulled out of 3D Hubs’ perks program.
What is the perks program? It’s a discount system organized by 3D Hubs to enable their most prolific 3D printer operators to get better pricing on filament. The idea is that the more prints you make for buyers on 3D Hubs’ network, the more discounts you receive.
The relationship with colorFabb goes back many years, as the two Dutch companies worked together for some time. And it made sense.
But things are changing in the 3D print world. When both colorFabb and 3D Hubs emerged the business outlook was quite different. At that time it was anticipated that there would be zillions of consumers operating 3D printers in their residences, but of course that never happened, at least not yet.
In the meantime virtually all 3D print companies that had been founded on that principle had to make strategic changes. MakerBot, Ultimaker, and many others have evolved their businesses into operations that now focus less on the DIY / consumer market and increasingly on the professional desktop 3D printing market.
For 3D printer manufacturers, the shift is clear: make 3D printers that can 3D print more “professional” materials suitable for more advanced prototyping. And these machines would typically cost more than the consumer market would bear, because they would be used for business use, where buyers are willing to pay top dollar for prints.
For those companies involved in 3D printing but not making 3D printers, it’s a little less obvious what they should be doing to make the switch.
In the case of colorFabb, they have been slowly adding more professionally-suitable filament materials to their product shelf. We no longer see experiments in colors or radical materials designed to entice curious consumers. The text of their email to participants:
In 2014 we started cooperation with 3D Hubs to supply our materials at a discount to active 3D Hubs members.
Next to this we’ve been involved in setting up various workshops explaining how to print with colorFabb materials and supplying the 3D Hubs members with sample packs. It was great getting to meet 3D Hubs members at these workshops and we’ve been amazed to see the workshops go worldwide through the 3D Hubs network. We enjoyed this level of cooperation and have been proud to be part of the 3D Hubs community.
However, we have decided to discontinue the colorFabb Perks / Discount program. October 31st 2017 will be the last day of the current colorFabb 3D Hubs Perks program, orders placed before the 1st of November, 2017 will be fulfilled.
Of course, we still support your business and interest in colorFabb materials. Therefor we encourage you to connect with our sales team to discuss your future filament needs.
For 3D Hubs, they’ve begun a shift towards the same market by adding features and capabilities designed to attract operators of professional and even industrial 3D printing equipment. These new operators in many cases can’t even buy their materials from sources like colorFabb, as their equipment often requires proprietary materials from particular manufacturers. 3D Hubs now even includes CNC machining as a service, which doesn’t even require filament.
In this new space we find 3D Hubs’ successful perks program, which as you might now be realizing, is not nearly as important as it might have been to both colorFabb and 3D Hubs. Accordingly, colorFabb seems to have bailed out of the program.
As of today, I cannot confirm whether 3D Hubs still operates a perks program, as it is certainly not prominent on their site. This is unsurprising, given the above.