Pirate3D takes on Thingiverse with its own site for 3D printable designs

As it gears up to ship thousands of units of its low-cost desktop Buccaneer 3D printer, Pirate3D announced today that it has launched an online repository for 3D printable objects called Treasure Island. The site will have to compete with the totally dominant Thingiverse, but Pirate3D said it is taking a more curated approach.

One of the core components of 3D printing is community. If you own a 3D printer, you don’t need to know how to design objects to print; you can just go online and download any of the thousands of objects people have posted. While Thingiverse is owned by desktop printer maker MakerBot (and its parent company Stratasys), anyone who owns a personal 3D printer is likely to use it as their primary source for pre-designed files.

As a result, Thingiverse is impressive just for the sheer number of designs it contains. You can search for pretty much anything, and someone will have uploaded it. But the site also suffers from the fact that anyone can upload anything, as many of the files end up being poorly made or fairly useless. It can be frustrating scrolling through pages and pages of uninteresting designs or starting to print something only to realize it has a flaw.

As a result, some sites are moving toward a more curated approach. Pirate3D promises that it will screen each uploaded design for compatibility, though it doesn’t sound like it will assess the overall usefulness of each design. Like on Thingiverse, you can add tags and designate if there are any limits on how a design can be used.

The front page of Treasure Island.
The front page of Treasure Island.

As of noon on April 29, there are only 13 designs on Treasure Island. That number will likely grow as Buccaneer shipments speed up. It’s unlikely that the site will compete with Thingiverse anytime soon, but it could prove very popular among Buccaneer owners, who will have a guarantee that objects found on the site will print on their printers.

At the very least, Treasure Island will give Pirate3D a sort of mission statement. Part of the early 3D printer community is upset that newer printers are closed source instead of open. With its closed-off body and specially sized filament spool, the Buccaneer is not very friendly to people who prefer to tinker with their printer.

MakerBot, which is now closed sourced after years of being open source, is quick to point to Thingiverse as an example of good it does for the 3D printing community. Pirate3D can now do the same.