When it comes to partnering up with existing brands to enable users to create 3D printable products and accessories within their own homes, MakerBot has been on the forefront of showing us what that future might look like.
Between their partnerships with brands such as Sesame Street, Hello Kitty and even Martha Stewart, their MakerBot Digital Store is helping to satisfy both the needs of 3D printer owners as well as brands who create products that (some) people actually want to buy.
Last week, Hoover announced that they have joined this movement and have set up shop on MakerBot’s Thingiverse platform to help enable a new generation of users to create vacuum modifications and print their own replacement parts. While creating ‘hacks’ such as a flashlight mount for a vacuum cleaner might make sense, the ability to 3D print your own existing attachments falls into a grey area that has probably been making the home-cleaning giant a tad nervous.
Just a quick search for ‘Hoover‘ on Thingiverse will bring up everything from a “Dyson to Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Adaptor” to a “Hoover Vacuum Cleaner Hose Attachment‘. These are products that Hoover will surely rather have consumers buy rather than 3D model, share and ultimately, print on their own.
On the contrary, it is also a wake-up call for other manufacturers who might not have a contingency plan in place for when their products become sharable with or without proper attribution to their brand:
“3D printing at home will offer unique opportunities for brands like Hoover,” says Paul Bagwell, Global Vice President of Product Development for Hoover. “We wanted to explore those opportunities early in the development of the technology. We are driven by innovation that meets consumers’ needs, and we are continually evaluating new technology that may help deliver this.”
Regardless of where Hoover sees this going, their “Would you print your own vacuum accessories?” social media campaign probably hasn’t been thought through completely. To rephrase the question: “Would you rather pay $25 plus shipping and handling and wait a week to have a piece that you need right now?“. The answer for most is probably, “no”.
Regardless, it’s nice to see that Hoover is taking the 3D printing movement in stride rather than fighting a battle they most likely won’t win. If nothing else, creating an open source modification platform for selling more vacuum cleaners to a generation of curious millennials doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Perhaps other brands should take note?