3D Hubs, the world’s largest network of additive manufacturing services, has announced it will be instituting some significant changes to its business model in the near future. As of October 1st, the company says it will be switching all of its 3D printing services to its Fulfilled by 3D Hubs offering.
Though somewhat controversial, 3D Hubs explains that the decision to refocus its business on professionals users was influenced by its overarching goal to “revolutionize manufacturing.” As the company writes on its blog:
“3D Hubs’ mission is to revolutionize manufacturing, by building a service that makes manufacturing incredibly easy and accessible. Our approach has been to provide users instant access to available production capacity for a range of manufacturing technologies through an online platform.”
In practical terms, the change means that as of October 1, the only option for ordering 3D printed parts through 3D Hubs will be through its Fulfilled by 3D Hubs network, which only consists of services that are included in its 3D Hubs Manufacturing Program.
Changing customer base
Inevitably, this decision turns away from many of 3D Hubs’ early users, which comprised mostly of DIY enthusiasts and makers who used the network to order or fulfil small or one-off orders for small projects. 3D Hubs says it won’t leave these non-professional users completely by the wayside, as it will set up a “dedicated subsection of 3D Hubs Talk” to connect non-commercial, localized 3D printing service providers.
Considering the platform’s evolution since its early days as a maker resource to a growing professional network for manufacturing services, 3D Hubs says its recent decision was dictated by its changed customer base. “Now, the majority of orders originate from professionals who source parts for larger, high value engineering projects,” the company writes. “These users have become a key part of the business and 3D Hubs’ success depends on the ability to serve these customers.”
Fulfilled by 3D Hubs, first launched at the end of last year, was a definitive move towards its professional customer base, as it offered a more standardized order fulfillment process with an added emphasis on automation and reliability. According to 3D Hubs, the feedback since launching the new service has been largely positive and the platform has reported a dramatic increase in customer order value (double since January).
“It has become clear that in order to reach our goal of revolutionizing the manufacturing industry, 3D Hubs needs to double down on standardization and automation of the manufacturing process,” it continues. “That’s why we are taking the hard decision to move away from our original peer-to-peer model and become fully B2B focused.”
3D Hubs’ announcement has also been paired with the introducing of a slew of new features and updates for its professional users which are geared towards improving, standardizing and optimizing the 3D print ordering process. The first update will see 3D Hubs merge 3D printing, CNC and injection molding into a single checkout service, offering instant pricing, smarter lead times, Design for Manufacturing recommendations and live support.
From there, the company will prepare to roll out a series of new tools, including platform-wide unified order management and customer part libraries for easy re-ordering and file management. For 3D printing specifically, the platform will integrate new infill settings, custom print orientation for FDM and SLA and cosmetic side dictation for SLA parts. The company also announced a handful of other updates for CNC and injection molding.
Future of peer-to-peer AM
“We understand that these changes are significant, however we strongly believe that these developments will enable us to better serve our growing professional customer base going forward,” 3D Hubs writes. “We’ve truly enjoyed building the largest peer-to-peer 3D printing community and, with our industry evolving so quickly, the business now needs to adapt for the next stage of its journey.”
The announcement is not completely out of the blue, as 3D Hubs users have been wary of the platform’s move away from peer-to-peer 3D printing towards the professional market for some time. Now, there is little question that these users and makers will be seeking out new opportunities for peer-to-peer 3D printing. The real question is, who will step in to fulfill the gap?