3D Hubs seems to have developed a new strategy for distributed 3D printing.
3D Hubs, if you are not familiar with them, maintain a worldwide network of participating 3D printers, each independently run by separate companies or individuals. Their network is extensive, now offering local 3D print services in more than 150 countries.
But 3D Hubs faces steep competition from a number of other 3D print services, each attempting to innovate beneficial features for their clients, who could also be 3D Hubs clients.
That innovation push has 3D Hubs experimenting with a new concept for them: hybrid distributed products. The first venture in this concept involves a pair of headphones.
3D Hubs partnered with Eindhoven-based Print+, a Dutch startup focused on eco-friendly consumer designs - and specifically headphones.
Print+ produces a low-cost eco-friendly headphone design that is marketed as a kit. However, most of the plastic parts can easily be 3D printed. The partnership with 3D Hubs means that these plastic parts can be 3D printed almost anywhere through 3D Hubs’ network.
By shipping the remaining electronic and other non-3D printed components, the buyer can quickly assemble functional headphones.
The benefit here is that the plastic parts, which are the largest components, are not shipped and thus shipping costs - and corresponding impact on the environment, are lower.
3D Hubs also says that there will be no overproduction, as only those who actually want the headphones will make them. That’s true, but there may be more print failures than you’d see if a mass-manufacturing run were done instead. However, unused tens of thousands from mass manufacturing will not occur here.
I suspect that if this experiment proceeds well, 3D Hubs may begin to find other similar partnerships, where useful items can be eco-purchased in this way.
The DIY Headphone kit is available for €80 (USD$90). You can also just purchase the electronics and 3D print the plastic components yourself if you have the capability for only €45 (USD$50).
Via 3D Hubs