Prusa’s Next Big Move: Premium Content on Printables

By on May 23rd, 2023 in models, news

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Prototype “designer page” for a monetized Printables [Source: Prusa Research]

Prusa Research is on the verge of launching a premium content feature on Printables, marking a strategic move in the competition against Thingiverse.

Emergence of Printables: Competing with Thingiverse

Printables is steadily carving out its own space as a worthy rival to the industry veteran, Thingiverse. Despite the massive number of 3D models on Thingiverse, data gathered by Prusa Research indicates that Printables is gradually closing the gap, especially in terms of site visits. Printables adds about 750 new 3D models daily, a number expected to grow over time.

Visits to popular 3D model repositories [Source: Prusa Research]

Prusa Research has been exploring avenues for monetizing its platform for quite some time, to provide designers an opportunity to earn from their designs. The company is now at the cusp of implementing such a scheme.

The Controversy of 3D Model Monetization

The topic of 3D model monetization has always been contentious. While the concept of paid 3D models has existed for years, particularly in realms outside of 3D printing, freely downloadable 3D models is in fact a novelty.

This concept originated from Thingiverse in 2009 as a service for MakerBot customers who needed something to print on their new desktop 3D printers. Other leading desktop 3D printer manufacturers quickly adopted this model, including YouMagine, PinShape, among others.

While several independent 3D model repositories popped up over the years, most struggled to survive. MyMiniFactory, not tied to a manufacturer, was one of the few that found a path to profitability through subscriptions, catering to artistic designers seeking to market their work.

The Challenge of Offering Paid 3D Models

Despite the prevalence of free downloads, 3D printing enthusiasts have been conditioned to expect free models as a norm, a practice that’s financially unsustainable unless subsidized by a manufacturer. Monetization often incites frustration among users who, after extensive searching, find the model they desire isn’t free. Prusa Research is seeking a monetization solution that avoids this backlash.

Prusa Research’s proposed approach mirrors that of MyMiniFactory: offering users a chance to “subscribe” to a designer to access premium content. This system lets designers segregate their creations into free and paid sections. With effective promotion, they could potentially amass a group of paying subscribers supporting their design work.

Prusa’s Plan for Printables Monetization

Alongside, Prusa Research is planning to modify Printables to suit the subscription service and promote designer products. Printables will provide PayPal and credit card payment options, and will retain 10% from transactions.

Prusa Research shares:

“We will take a small cut (about 10%) to at least partially cover the costs of running Printables – from maintaining the servers to developer and moderator salaries…”

An intriguing speculation is whether Printables could eventually be spun off into a separate entity. I’ll have some thoughts on this idea in the near future.

Looking Forward: Prusa Research’s Future Plans

As of now, the service name is undecided, and Prusa Research welcomes suggestions. The company is also seeking beta testers who can apply via email in their blog post.

Meanwhile, Printables will continue to operate under the Prusa Research umbrella and is expected to officially launch the premium content feature in the coming months.

Via Prusa Research

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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