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Mark Embling

3D Printing Announcement

Following the recent announcement from 3D Hubs regarding their future direction, which puts the focus firmly on B2B and no longer on makers, hobbyists and small businesses, the 3D printing services I offer will be changing in the near future.

3D Hubs have recently announced the change on their blog and I'd advise you to read their words as well as mine to avoid any inherent biases which may be present in what I've written here. But in a nutshell, they're shifting their business to focus entirely on the B2B market, utilising larger suppliers with more stringent requirements (such as mandatory VAT registration in the EU) which are not practical or possible for small and part-time operators, and as a result will no longer be catering to the market found amongst the peer-to-peer hobbyist and maker community. In addition, they are moving their order and checkout process in a direction which takes the power to select a specific hub out of the hands of the customer and instead this will be handled by their platform.

The result of this set of changes is that a lot of smaller hubs such as mine will no longer be operating via the 3D Hubs platform: individual hub pages and the embeddable order widget which will be disappearing, along with reviews and all history of the hubs which are not going to be partnered with 3D Hubs in their new Fulfilled by 3D Hubs programme. This will be taking effect on 1st October 2018. As a part-time printer owner-operator, with a full time job, mine is exactly the sort of hub who will no longer be able to operate on 3D Hubs.

In order to continue offering 3D printing services, I will be looking at making the following changes in the near future:

  • I will be removing the 3D Hubs widget from my 3D printing page here on my site within September.
  • I will continue to accept print jobs via the contact page and by email for customers who have an STL file ready to print. Customers who have previously given me printing work via 3D Hubs will be welcome, as will new customers.
  • I plan to look at an alternative which will allow for the smooth submission of print jobs (STL file upload) and payment handling - the features which made 3D Hubs great for both hubs and customers alike. This alternative may be in the form of adding that functionality to my own site or by using an alternative platform which offers what 3D Hubs did. A purely message/email-based solution is definitely not as slick and streamlined as I would like.

I, like many other hub operators, makers, and hobbyists, are saddened to see this once valuable resource turn its back on the community like this. That said, they are a commercial business and they are entitled to run that business in any way they see fit, and they are now choosing to focus on the B2B and higher-value engineering sectors. It is hard to not see this as a turning away from the community which helped to build it and potentially feel some resentment for that too, but I have no doubt that in time the maker community will respond by pulling together and coming up with a variety of alternative options. Indeed, there is already talk in the community about building new solutions and platforms to replicate parts of the 3D Hubs process which worked well and we can expect a variety of solutions arriving over the coming months, likely including open source software. I plan to participate here as well, and look forward to seeing what the community produces.

In closing, I'd like to thank everyone who has ordered via my hub in the past and a special thanks to those who took the time to leave great reviews and wonderful feedback over the years. I hope my printers and I can continue to help people bring their ideas into physical, tangible reality.