Prusa Research announced unique reward and badging systems for their PrusaPrinters site, and there are some very interesting implications.
The Czech company has become one of, if not the, leading provider of inexpensive desktop 3D printers in the past few years. Their combination of reliable hardware, customer service and trusted community is practically unbeatable, and has led to tremendous growth.
A key piece of their puzzle is PrusaPrinters.org, a companion site that provides a platform for the company to provide helpful information and also for their community to interact, primarily through the sharing of 3D models. To many, PrusaPrinters is a kind of alternative to the original 3D printable model repository, Thingiverse, which launched back in 2009 and still contains by far the most 3D models of any relevant repository.
3D printer manufacturers typically launch a corresponding model community to make sure their customers have something to 3D print. That was especially true at the beginning of desktop 3D printing, but is still true today. MakerBot has Thingiverse, Formlabs has Pinshape, Ultimaker has YouMagine, and so on. Prusa Research has PrusaPrinters.org.
Prusa Research announced two extremely intriguing new features this week for PrusaPrinters.org, one is a reward program, and the other is a badging system.
The rewards program, “Prusameters”, is like a frequent flyer program: the more you do, the more rewards you obtain. Instead of miles that an airline would use as measurement, this program uses various activities to award Prusameter Points. Every 30 days, logged-in PrusaPrinters.org users can receive:
- 10 Prusameters for 30 downloads and 3 likes of your model
- 50 Prusameters for 100 downloads and 10 likes of your model
- 100 Prusameters for 200 downloads and 15 likes of your model
- 200 Prusameters for 400 downloads and 20 likes of your model
- Prusameters for uploading up to 10 makes
- Prusameters for creating new up to 3 non-empty collections
- Prusameters for uploading up to 10 new prints
These points accumulate in the user’s account and can later be used in exchange for actual physical rewards from the Prusa universe, including whole spools of high-quality Prusament filament. Amusingly, if you collect 350 Prusameters, you qualify for a free 1kg spool of Prusament, which just happens to hold about 350 actual meters of filament. Prusa Research offers this exchange only for PLA, PETG or ASA materials, however.
Prusameters can be “spent” on other types of rewards in their online store, including clothing and other items.
Prusa Badging System
The Badging system is a separate entity, but provides a way for more active participants in PrusaPrinters.org to gain unique badges. They explain:
“We were also looking for a fun way to show how far you’ve come as a maker and creator. Something you could be proud of, something that would make you instantly recognizable as an active member of our community – no matter whether you love to design or print awesome models. We’re launching a new system of user levels and badges! It’s something completely different and not related to Prusameters.
The entire system is pretty easy to understand – you can collect badges for various activities and the number of badges you collected is directly reflected in your user level, which is displayed as a small number under your avatar.”
The badging system is a bit mysterious, as there seems to be no limit to the number and type of badges that can be awarded. Some are provided upon hitting certain measurable activity thresholds, while others are awarded specifically by site managers. Even more interesting is that some badges are “hidden” and users will have to perform unstated activities to collect them.
Here are some examples of the new badges:
But what exactly are these badges? You can click on them to find out more information. Here we see the explanation of the “Seasoned” badge, which denotes model upload frequency:
Note that the higher levels are not explained until you achieve them. This makes the badging system more mysterious and the “unknown” will call users to achieve them to unlock visibility as well as get the badge on their avatar.
Here is a list of some badges achieved by the Prusa Research account:
Prusa Reward Program Implications
After reviewing these programs, I have some thoughts.
Consider that each of these programs contains numerous ways to gamify use of PrusaPrinters.org. They are all about activity, and encouraging the users to do more and more tasks on the site. The gamification arrives by users attempting to leapfrog each other on the leaderboards.
Even the simple case of someone swinging by the site while looking for a 3D model might think twice about logging in before doing that download just get some points. That’s a user that’s now identified that would otherwise be anonymous.
Why has Prusa Research launched these programs? For one thing it will absolutely drive more activity on the site, but I think there’s something deeper afoot.
Let’s look back at Thingiverse, the grandaddy of printable 3D model repositories. Because of its long head start, the site has accumulated a massive number of 3D models. As of this writing, they seem to be up to around 5.2M entries.
That’s a massive number, and one that’s so large it has effectively extinguished almost every other attempt to build a large 3D model repository. Why use another site when practically every 3D model ever made is already on Thingiverse?
Countless printable 3D model repositories have died horrible deaths because of this, and virtually all of the survivors are directly supported by 3D printer manufacturers, with the main exceptions being Cults and MyMiniFactory.
But back to PrusaPrinters.org. How do they compare to Thingiverse? As near as I can determine, PrusaPrinters.org has something just over 60,000 3D models available. That’s a big number, certainly, but is almost 100X smaller than Thingiverse.
How could PrusaPrinters ever hope to catch up?
I think I know how. And I think you do, too.
By implementing the rewards and badging systems, Prusa Research should supercharge their user activity. The upload rewards and badges alone should cause many people with idle 3D models to quickly upload them to gain benefits. That in turn will clock up the site’s model count in total.
Could PrusaPrinters catch up to Thingiverse? I’m not sure, as it would require the Prusa community to be generating models at a fantastic rate. To gain, say, 5M models in three years, the Prusa community would have to upload around 4,500 models each and every day day.
That’s actually not that big a number, is it? With a community of hundreds of thousands, it might even be achievable.
However, PrusaPrinters.org might not even have to overtake Thingiverse in 3D models. For example, if Thingiverse had 6M models and PrusaPrinters.org had “only” 3M, that might be enough to shift default behavior among the larger 3D print community towards PrusaPrinters.org. With a site that size, it would very likely be possible to find almost every desirable 3D model anyway.
The new badging system will definitely change the state of affairs in the long term, and Prusa Research could eventually overtake Thingiverse because of this move, one model at a time.