Cubee is a new manufacturing network that hopes to pick up the demand for makers to produce 3D objects.
Cubee’s concept is to create a vast network of local 3D printing operations that connect together to receive requests for part production. They describe it as a “smart, online printshop”. The service provides automatic price quotes, and allows designers to open online stores in the “CubeeMart”.
The twist here is that the designer online shops are directly linked with the printing network. In other words, a shopper might decide to buy something in one of the stores, and the print request to produce the item is routed automatically to a nearby regional 3D printshop on the network.
It’s like the original 3D Hubs and Shapeways got together and had a hybrid offspring.
Notably, both 3D Hubs (now just “Hubs”) and Shapeways have both moved far away from the consumer printing market and desktop 3D printer operators. Both companies saw troubles in those markets and shifted to professional and industrial markets, leaving a void at the low end of the market.
That void seems to be now serviced by Cubee. So far, the service has over 1600 printshop located all over the world. I recall years ago watching the 3D Hubs participant count gradually grow from a thousand to several thousand and more. Nowadays, Hubs doesn’t report such things because their network is composed of industrial operations and not desktop 3D printers.
That count seems to be reinstituted by Cubee.
Cubee is definitely attempting to address the maker community, as their messaging is directed to that segment. In fact, in this explanatory video you can see CEO Uriah Meadan wearing fun antennae, something you definitely wouldn’t see on the heads of the Shapeways or Hubs CEOs.
But won’t Cubee suffer the same fate as 3D Hubs?
They may not, as they’ve taken an interesting step.
One of the challenges that faced 3D Hubs was that of print quality and reliability. With thousands of individual operators working with a variety of equipment, it was extremely difficult for them to guarantee consistent quality for prints. This no doubt constrained their growth in the market.
But now Cubee has partnered with Helio Additive, a company developing an AI-based advanced 3D print slicing system. The system uses a 3D voxel analysis approach, ensuring that thermal flows through the ongoing print job are always optimal. This results in far more consistent quality and print reliability.
Cubee is betting that the Helio Additive slicer will enable their network participants to produce better prints, all the time.
This sounds like a good move, but time will tell. So far Cubee has been relatively successful in attracting participants, but the more the merrier. These types of systems have a “chicken and egg” problem in that in order to attract buyers you must have designers, and in order to attract designers you must have buyers. But it seems that they are already over the initial steps and now must be focusing on growth.
If you’re a 3D print operator and wish to gain some extra business on the side, you might consider signing up as a Cubee network participant.