Prusa Research seems to be taking aim at capturing the crown of 3D model repositories from Thingiverse.
Hidden in one of their recent newsletters, Prusa Research revealed they have developed a tool to automatically import Thingiverse 3D model entries directly into their own repository, PrusaPrinters.org.
Thingiverse, of course, is the grand-daddy of 3D model repositories for hobbyist 3D printer operators. It was created in late 2008 by then-independent MakerBot as a way to encourage sharing of 3D models for buyers of their new CupCake 3D printer. MakerBot correctly realized that few of the buyers were sufficiently skilled in 3D design to create their own 3D printable content, so they made a way for others who could to share.
Thingiverse had the classic “first-mover” advantage. Because they were there and no other repositories seemed accessible at the time, they collected 3D models quite rapidly. But as their collection grew, so too did their importance: where do you look for something? In the biggest repository!
And that seems to have always been Thingiverse. Today they boast of around 4M 3D models.
However, it’s not completely peachy at Thingiverse these days. After the acquisition of MakerBot by Stratasys in 2013, there was less attention to the repository as Stratasys and MakerBot remade the business. Thingiverse is still there and still by far the largest repository of 3D printable objects, but many believe it is getting overdue for a makeover.
MakerBot still operates Thingiverse and does use it successfully in some of their new programs, but many current Thingiverse users are not interested in those programs.
Meanwhile, Prusa Research launched PrusaPrinters.org earlier this year. The site offers a number of interesting services, such as the ability to perform print on demand services by Prusa printer owners, coordinate enthusiast demonstrations, and share 3D models – just like Thingiverse.
As of this writing, the number of 3D models in PrusaPrinters.org is vastly smaller than Thingiverse: just over 4000. PrusaPrinters.org has literally 1000X fewer 3D models than Thingiverse, although the site is growing rapidly.
Since the takeover of MakerBot/Thingiverse, there have always been a vocal minority of designers who just don’t like Thingiverse. We’ve even posted a list of alternate repositories they could consider.
That list, created in 2018, obviously did not include PrusaPrinters.org, but it will in future editions. The point here is that 3D model designers want to spread their designs around to allow the maximum access to the material. This means you can often find a design on multiple repositories.
PrusaPrinters Import Thingiverse
That’s where I think Prusa Research is heading here. By creating an import tool, they are making it easy for Thingiverse designers to move their works to PrusaPrinters.org, thus building up that site’s content.
The Thingiverse importer was apparently tested by a group of secret beta testers, and now the system is certified for use by any registered user of PrusaPrinters.org. Prusa Research explains:
”To prevent users from stealing other users’ models, there’s a simple safety mechanism in place. Before you are able to import your models, you need to confirm that you actually own the selected Thingiverse account by simply copy-pasting a piece of information into your profile. Once you are authorized, you can select the models you wish to transfer and confirm the selection. Once everything is processed, you’ll see the results in your Drafts. Double-check the information and publish the print files – it can’t get any easier than this!”
They say: “it can’t get any easier than this!” and that echoes one of my personal axioms: If you want something to happen, make it easy to happen.
PrusaPrinters wants Thingiverse content.