I bought a 3D printed gift on Shapeways recently. For a lightweight object that fits in the palm of my hand, it cost $6.50 in shipping. That’s Shapeways’ flat shipping rate, and it can be expensive when all you need is a $5 item.
For cheaper jobs that don’t call for Shapeways’ fancy professional printers, it makes more sense to go local. There’s UPS and local makerspaces, but also sharing economy sites that will connect you with local citizen-owned 3D printers.
3D Hubs, a new site based out of the Netherlands, announced today that it received an undisclosed amount of seed money in a round led by Balderton Capital and will now go global. 3D Hubs already has a solid presence in several European cities, and cities outside Europe can “unlock” access to 3D Hubs once 20 people have listed that their machine is available for print jobs. No U.S. cities have been unlocked yet.
3D printer owners list the cost per print job, plus print type, print quality and delivery time. The user experience feels a lot like booking a room on AirBnB.
3D Hubs joins a growing group of 3D printing sites designed to link people who have 3D printers with people who don’t, the most popular of which is Makexyz. Makexyz currently has about 22 3D printers available in New York City, while 3D Hubs has six.
3D Hubs said in a release that these types of sites make sense because 3D printers sit idle an average of 95 percent of the time. But considering the low response rate among 3D printer owners on Makexyz, it’s likely that they introduce the same headaches that exist on other sharing economy websites. Either way, 3D Hubs’ first mission is to hit critical mass and start unlocking more cities.