Before the lowrider caddy, the diamond-encrusted 3d printed sunglasses and a poodle in your arms named G-Code, you had the dream of becoming the biggest 3D print service on your block. A $10 domain and two weeks later, you’re rollin’ in the muh-hu-hu-ney, siftin’ stl’s and ringin’ dinner bells… It’s all due to 1) the cash you dropped on a few 3D printers 2) crazy good marketing skills and 3) a 3D printing e-commerce plugin for your website that makes it all possible.

The STL Harvester

Whether you’re an established 3D printing service or just getting started, the web is most likely how people are going to find and use your service. Protocow is helping you set up shop with a plugin–a simple iframe code snippet–called the STL Harvester.  The STL Harvester allows you to provide instant quotes to people in need of a 3D print. Upon visiting your site, a person will upload their .stl file(s), choose from your selection of printers and purchase the print. Here’s a neat animated video that doesn’t explain it all that well, but is still interesting to watch.

We’ve seen 3D printer locating sites like MakeXYZ and Cowfab that help people find 3D printers in their area. Protocow compliments those sites to an extent, but allows you to enable and control the e-commerce experience on your own site instead of theirs. Protocow is also similar to the Shapeways API in that it allows you to convert your website into a storefront. The Shapeways API goes beyond that however by providing the ability to sell your own 3D prints through a system that’s tied into the Shapeways marketplace and manufacturing backend.

Sign-up for Protocow is free with a commission-based model set on the number of prints you expect to run per month. Commissions start at 10% (for Protocow) on the free tier and decrease to 1.5% at the Enterprise tier priced at €300 ($400)/month. There are certainly increasing options when it comes to making money online with your (dusty?) 3D printer or your 3D prints. Is this one just what you were looking for?



Josh is founder and editor at, 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.