I’m serious as printed Nutella when I say this. You’re about to get silly thoughts in your head. Silly thoughts about fabbing up this type of trinket or that type of trinket, in a really different way than ever before.

CloudFab is set to provide you with more options for your sly design fabrication needs. How? They’re gathering all the print shops and rapid prototyping manufacturers for you. You upload the model, they take care of the rest. How much easier could it get?

We caught up with Nick Pinkston of CloudFab to see what’s going down. He uses that big, scary ‘democratize’ word, but don’t worry, he’s also thrown in an invite code for all you lucky SolidSmack readers to try out the Beta site going live TODAY.

What sort of shenanigans is CloudFab up to anyway?

CloudFab uses distributed fabrication to democratize the means of production. By distributing the fabrication amongst many shops we expand the process types available while increasing flexibly and decreasing part cost.

In the beginning, we’re concentrating on all 3D printing processes (FDM, SLA, ZCorp, PolyJet/ProJet, SLS/M,and more), but more process types, like laser cutting/etching, will become available soon.

Our system gives you quotes from multiple shops on the system – like Kayak.com does for travel deals. All you have to do is upload an STL file, pick which process and material you’d like, and our system sends every applicable seller an RFQ. The sellers then quote you back, and you get to pick the quote that fits you best. After the parts are shipped, the buyer leaves feedback to reward sellers for good service.

Will I need to sell your kidney to start fabbing?

Yea, 3D printing is expensive (especially for hobbyists), and a big part of accessibility is price. So far, we’ve found that we’ve saved customers about 50% by using the spare capacity that all job shops have plenty of. Also, with enough demand, sellers make multiple parts per build which decreases part cost even more.

It’s not always about price though, most industrial designers we talk to prefer turnaround time and quality over low pricing. If you talk to hobbyists though, they’ll put up with a lot for cheap parts. For ultra cheap printing, we’re encouraging the MakerBot / RepRap community to sign up as sellers to serve the hobbyist market.

So, who’s CloudFab?

I did some diggin, found the GearHeadz twitter stream with the CloudFab alpha announcement and site link. There’s not much at the moment on the Gearheadz site, but you can see Nick in action on the local news coverage about Entrepreneurs in the Pittsburgh area.

Ya know what, there are a couple things happening in the 3D printing, fab-it-yourself world that are making it more likely that this all goes mainstream. Making the process easier is one step in that direction. The rest is up to the companies making the printers. Done and done.

Invites for SolidSmack Readers

Interested in trying out the site and seeing the process? There’s an invite for that. Visit the CloudFab site and enter the code solidsmack in the Code box.


Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.