Protolabs has rebranded their manufacturing network, and there’s an interesting story behind the change.
Specifically, their “Hubs” network is now to be known as the “Protolabs Network”, as you can see in the image at top.
In many ways the naming of the service has evolved in a parallel manner to the function of the service. To understand this, let’s take a look at the history of the operation.
It began in Amsterdam over ten years ago, at that time called “3D Hubs”. The concept was to enable production of 3D objects through the use of idle 3D printers around the world. Buyers could request a print through 3D Hubs and it would be dispatched to a suitable nearby maker that had an idle desktop 3D printer.
The concept worked, at least until the price of 3D printers came down. Then it seemed that rather than requesting a print through the service, it was almost easier to buy a desktop 3D printer. Those US$250 desktop machines have certainly driven a lot of change in the industry.
3D Hubs then gradually switched from a network of informal and casual desktop 3D printer operators to one of professional 3D printing operations, which also had idle time on their industrial 3D printers.
Then 3D Hubs was acquired by Protolabs in a blockbuster deal. Protolabs is consistently among the largest publicly traded 3D print companies on our weekly leaderboard. The service operated separately, but eventually was renamed into “Hubs”, or more specifically “Hubs, a Protolabs company”.
It seems that Hubs has been successful under Protolabs’ watch, and they added in other manufacturing technologies, such as CNC milling. This built out Hubs into a more well-rounded manufacturing service, in line with Protolabs’ main activities.
Now we see that Protolabs has renamed the service “Protolabs Network”, which does make sense.
But there’s one more thing: if you look closely at the new logo at top, it actually says “Protolabs Network by Hubs”.
My prediction: in time the “by Hubs” will be dropped, completing the erasure of the original 3D Hubs branding. They’ll also eventually remove the “hubs.com” domain as well, but that will take considerably longer.
The moral of the story here is that 3D print is a rapidly moving technology, and that the organization and branding of companies must keep up with those changes.