As MakerBot announced that they were unrolling new features and products into their expanding ecosystem during CES 2015, one of the biggest gaping holes in their platform was making the entire 3D printing experience more social. Between the legions of new 3D printing enthusiasts to existing user groups and Makerspaces, the social activity has been expanding on their Thingiverse platform with discussions centered around more complicated build assemblies and questions regarding them.
To aid in the increasing social aspect of Thingiverse, MakerBot recently expanded the platform (which currently features over 500,000 free downloadable 3D models) to include a new Groups section that allows users to organize their own ‘clubs’ with members that share common interests and/or are working on larger projects together. Since it launched a little over a week ago, there have been user groups popping up ranging college 3D printing clubs to SolidWorks user groups. The platform allows for the group members to organize themselves under a common interest, share their own forum and upload files to their own ‘Things’ category.
Although the new feature might not be necessarily groundbreaking, it does open the door for how an increasing amount of users approach sharing and discussing their 3D models and projects. Similar to how Google’s Drive allowed for school teachers to let students upload their papers and add comments or otherwise interact with their work, a classroom could setup a Thingiverse Group for specific projects that can be discussed in the forum, shared easily and of course, be 3D printed from home or back in the classroom.
Perhaps the biggest question is what MakerBot has in store down the road for the feature. Since Thingiverse is heavily-marketed as a free platform, it wouldn’t make sense to start charging…although if they did, it would most certainly entail closing off a group from the public and creating a private, password-protected cloud storage option for groups of Makers who might not need to step into more complex product data management platforms.
Regardless, the Groups feature is now active on Thingiverse in the case you’re looking to join an existing group or create your own centered around a specific 3D printing topic.