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For those who aren’t cranking out 3D prints in full-rotation 24/7, there is another money-making opportunity on the block on par with MakeXYZ. As previously reported by SolidSmack, MakeXYZ is a sort of ‘AirBnB‘ concept for your 3D printer. Similar to the concept of renting out a spare room in your house to travelers that is otherwise unused, MakeXYZ and the recently announced 3D Hubs aim to connect those looking for 3D prints in their neighborhood with vacant 3D printers…effectively growing the 3D printing community with face-to-face meetups and inspiring new friendships.

3D Hubs and the Growth of 3D Printing Services

While MakeXYZ is focused on delivering 3D prints either by mail or in person, 3D Hubs is focusing more on the ‘friendly neighbor’ aspect of 3D printing community growth with their ‘Unlock Your City’ campaign in 20 cities worldwide. By offering your printer, you are essentially opening up a ‘Hub’ business within your neighborhood powered by 3D Hubs’ incoming 3D print orders.

Coincidentally, the first 3D Hubs customer was located within a one-mile range of one of the first Hubs and thus, the experience-based concept started to take shape:

“The customer, named Ken, needed a mountable frame for his GoPro camera in order to make time-lapses. Such a part exists off-the-shelf but could only be ordered from the US and would cost €45 + shipping. Ken found the digital design on popular content platform Thingiverse, but he had no means of 3D Printing it.”

-3D Hubs Blog

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The method of shipping for this order? Not a cross-country journey via UPS, but rather, a simple 1 mile bike ride for Ken. Not only was Ken able to receive a 3D print sans shipping costs, but the service also offered a unique experience to connect with his new ‘Hub Friends’ Harrie and Ruben…a father-son 3D Print Shop:

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The final cost for Ken’s new GoPro accessory from Thingiverse? €13,50 (or roughly $17.67).

Of course what this doesn’t calculate is the 3D printing demonstration given to Ken by his neighbors and new friends on their Cube 3D Printer…priceless.

Currently there are 15 hubs registered in Amsterdam, with New York City and Berlin being the next two cities in the expansion pipeline. According to 3D Hubs, more functionality will be added to the site, such as checking whether the supplied designs are printable, offering real-time price calculation for each digital design etc.

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Additionally, 3D Hubs was recently accepted to be a part of the Rockstart Accelerator Program along with 9 other startups. The winners of the competition-based program earn up to €15,000 in seed funding to help with the development costs for expanding. As members of the program, the 3D Hubs dudes were recently interviewed by the Dutch entrepreneur site Start Up Scene. Here is an excerpt:

StartupScene: Nice product! Are you already building or is it a concept?
3D Hubs: Thank you. We had the idea about 2 years ago, first we had it ripen in the pub for a while and the last year we have spent our weekends and evenings alongside our job at the market leader in 3D the printing industry. Now we are working full time on it, we are on track with our development to launch mid-March.

StartupScene: I see Amsterdam, NY and Berlin on the schedule, why those cities?
3D Hubs: Brian and I both worked for 4 years in the 3D printing industry and we see lots of activity in these cities. Ultimately the users will determine which cities will be opened after Amsterdam. With our “Unlock your city” campaign users can pre-register and promote their city locally in rally to open the next city.

StartupScene: How do you deal with the distribution of the ordered products? Or is that up to the user?
3D Hubs: By building a large distributed production network in combination with our interactive map, we want to ensure that the distance between the 3D printer owner (“Hub”) and the customer is very close that makes the distribution much easier.
Also, we optimize the distribution and production through functionalities in our website. For example 3D Hubs checks whether the supplied designs are printable. Also we offer real-time price calculation for each digital design so that the payment can be made instantly through our website. The customer can pick up the product directly at the Hub or have it delivered for a small fee, with for example a bike courier.

StartupScene: You got into Rockstart. What do you want to reach there?
3D Hubs: Rockstart has the knowledge and network to accelerate our startup at the pace we want to develop. We’re aiming to become the biggest distributed production network in the world for creating products with 3D Printing, so that in a few years everyone can 3D Print around the corner. It will already be available in Amsterdam end of this month!

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Head on over to 3D Hubs for more information on setting up your own Hub or to find existing Hubs in your area.

Filed under: FAB RESOURCES