The Incredible New Services From Prusa
A new and potentially game-changing 3D model repository has appeared: PrusaPrinters.
You guessed correctly, this is a service provided by our friend Josef Prusa, whose now-enormous manufacturing empire probably produces the most 3D printers on this Earth. We are not sure, but it's conceivable their operation produces and ships as many as 10,000 units per month.
They recently announced they've shipped their 100,000th device. This makes for a rather large community of users all operating more or less the same 3D printing equipment. That's an asset few other 3D printer manufacturers can boast.
Prusa has thrown their resources behind a new initiative that should significantly enhance that community. Up to now the community essentially worked together through standard discussion forums provided by Prusa. Now that's all going to change.
Josef Prusa explains:
“It’s now over four years since the launch of PrusaPrinters.org. I wanted to have a place where I could share our own news, but also to have a nice home for the community to hang out. There was a forum on the old web, but we eventually shut it down, since we already had one for printer owners. Anyways, time flies and our community grew to over 100k printer owners and I knew we needed to get back to this. New PrusaPrinters were in the works for almost 2 years and turned into a surprisingly complex project. It consists of several main parts.”
The new site is composed of a number of different major components, the primary two being a brand new 3D model repository they call the “Model Marketplace” and also something and they call the “World”. We'll discuss those in a moment. The site still includes a blog for important announcements, as it did before, as well as a discussion forum.
The Model Marketplace is a 3D model repository, where users can upload their files and share them amongst other participants. It's a lot like Thingiverse or YouMagine in many ways, but there are some key differences.
There is an ability to upload GCODE directly, as well as the 3D models themselves. This ensures that you might be able to ignore the print parameters, as they would be inherently bundled into the downloaded GCODE and hopefully ensure a successful print. In my brief explorations of the site so far, I haven't seen much of this, as most users tend to just upload the models.
The Model Marketplace is ready for 3MF files. This is a more advanced file format to represent complex 3D models, particularly those with multiple components that are used in multi-material prints. Prusa has made the site very easy to use in this regard, as you can simply upload a zip file containing all of the materials, and they will automatically sort out what you've submitted.
While the repository has just opened and it does not contain an enormous number of models yet, it does appear to be an improvement over other sites, particularly Thingiverse. I will have more thoughts on that aspect in a future post.
The other major component of the new PrusaPrinters site is the “World”. This is a service we haven't really seen from any other provider yet. It is a database of, in theory, all Prusa printers worldwide. Somehow, Prusa automatically knows the geographic location of all printers that have been seen on the Internet.
If you register an account with the site, you are then able to “claim” a printer at a given location. You can specify what kind of printer it is, and associate your identity with it if you wish.
One thing I've noticed is that if you happen to geographically relocate your Prusa 3D printer, it may show up more than once on the World map. Prusa themselves say that they've only recently shipped 100,000 devices, yet the World map lists 145,000 as of this writing.
The more interesting aspect is that you can specify services your printer can provide to other members of the “World”. These services include:
Print on demand: indicates you are able to receive requests for prints from others.
Tech support: indicates you are willing to provide technical support to others having issues.
Show and tell: indicates you are willing to show your printer to others who are curious about the technology or devices.
One of the success factors that has driven Prusa to such heights has been the enthusiastic support of their community. I suspect the enthusiasm is derived from a combination of a high-quality product, excellent customer service, and a low price. But this new set of features in the World will enable that enthusiasm to achieve quite another level.
One thought I've been wondering about is whether Prusa will at some point run out of customers given their enormous production volume. This new service may delay that date significantly, as it could itself generate vast numbers of new clients. And as those clients join in the World, they will in turn generate even more clients in a virtuous circle.
This new site now offers an incredibly new and valuable functions to the Prusa community, and given their already large user base it is bound to be successful.