A new 3D model repository is coming, or so promises the Repables homepage with a header that reads, “It’s kinda almost ready! Get started now…” When there are vast repositories out there already, like Thingiverse, one must wonder, what does Repables.com have to offer that Thingiverse doesn’t? The answer may be that what it offers is Thingiverse’s old Terms of Service.
Back in February of 2013, Thingiverse changed its TOS so as to grant MakerBot permission to host the images and files of its users and to protect MakerBot from potential lawsuits, according to the company:
Thingiverse does not steal. We created Thingiverse to be the greatest place to share things using open licenses. The terms, that we set up in February of this year, allow us to share your designs on our website and protect us from companies with lawyers. Could we make that more user friendly? Yes, but lawyers cost money and making it simple for people to understand will cost many hours of lawyer time.
While it seems clear that Stratasys, née Makerbot, does not exactly own the files uploaded to the popular file sharing site, it seems that, based on Makerbot’s shift to closed-source printers and its change in Terms of Service indicate a less open model. This shift caused a huge uproar in the RepRap community, angering people like Josef Průša, of the Prusa Mendel RepRap – who went so far as to start an Occupy Thingiverse movement – to pull their files off of Thingiverse and start looking for alternatives.
— Richard H (@RichRap3D) June 20, 2013
In the wake of the Thingiverse controversy, a number of alternatives presented themselves. Most of them cost some bit of money or limit the amount of free models users can download per month, but there are a few free ones. Then came Repables.com, a strangely blank website with a smattering of CAD files. No “About” section; just “Explore”, “Upload”, “Donate” links, and a lengthy TOS page that seems to resemble the way Thingiverse used to be. After Googling for information on the site, I found this video by Gavilan Steinman at the Midwest RepRap Festival, during which he interviews Gerrit Coetzee. At around minute 11:26, Coetzee has this to say:
One project I’ve wanted to do for a long time is make a sort of open source file sharing site that’s not tied to any 3D printer manufacturer. So, all of the 3D printer manufacturers need a place where people can get designs or companies can put designs and things, but the problem is that it starts getting complicated when, you know, one company owns the site that hosts all of the files and another company doesn’t want to put their files there because then they’re promoting the other company’s printer. So what I’m hoping to do and what will be done is I will have a non-profit foundation that manages a website and a database pretty much for sharing files that’s manufacturer independent, license independent, that’s just for the community and people all over the world to exchange information and exchange data in a friendly manner.
Essentially, Coetzee wanted to start something like a Wikipedia for CAD files, a public repository free from any potential corporate control or influence. It’s an admirable idea that extols the overall virtues of the open-source movement. Still, Repables is one of many CAD libraries on the net and I hope that one of them can prove to be as huge and useful as Wikipedia, without relying on corporate connections, like Thingiverse.