In a thread started on reddit, 3D printing service platform 3D Hubs has been reported “dead” in the sense of its definition as a hub.
The thread was initially started by a redditor behind the hub Telemetry3D, and has since been refuted by 3D Hubs co-founder and chief experience officer (CXO) Brian Garret.
As the storm continues across social media, fuelled by some drawing parallels between previous moments – such as controversy around MakerBot – in the industry, 3D Printing Industry contacted 3D Hubs CEO Bram de Zwart for comment.
A change driven by professionals
The issues described by Telemetry3D and seconded by a handful of other 3D Hubs users has occurred as the product of the introduction of an Express Checkout and resulting automated selection of Hubs for operations. Automated selection drives customers seeking a 3D printing service to a pool of 50 Hubs that are also registered as professional businesses.
“As a company, as a startup, we have to get some room to innovate, and try different things,” – Bram de Zwart, CEO of 3D Hubs
de Zwart explains to me that the reason for adding automated Hub selection, and an Express Checkout is a push to improve user experience. He says, “We basically want to direct customers to Hubs that we know have very high what we call Hubs Scores, so high performance scores, and therefore make sure that customers are getting a reliable experience.”
The change is in part a response to a shift 3D Hubs has found in the area where business is generated. de Zwart explains that over half of the platform’s revenue is generated by professional customers, many of which cannot order from personal, non-business uses, a shift also reflected in the addition of its metal casting service.
Quality over quantity
de Zwart adds, “There’s quite a big disparity between the performance of the really many thousands of Hubs on our platform […] that quality certainty has come up a lot by customers. And the second part that has come up, is the fact that they find the checkout quite overwhelming,”
“If we simplify the ordering experience then conversion and customer satisfaction will go up.”
Space for innovation
The change has been effective in America for the past two weeks, and was initially announced on the 3D Hubs Changelog at the beginning of September 2017. de Zwart continues, “We are testing different ways of getting a fair distribution of orders. As a company, as a startup, we have to get some room to innovate, and try different things, otherwise we would remain in a standstill forever. But of course there is always a delicate balance.”
In addition to the Changelog entry, de Zwart says that the company also notified all Hubs that were part of the experiment via email though, he adds, “I think, looking back, we should’ve done a better job communicating the changes more prominently.”
“I want to emphasise that we’re doing this […] to drive more prints to the platform to become even more reliable towards customers.” – Bram de Zwart, CEO of 3D Hubs
de Zwart reaffirms Garret’s statement that Telemtry3D’s account was not suspended due to reddit activity. Instead, the Hub was closed down due to comments on 3D Hubs’ own forum, where Telemetry3D was attempting to solicit Hubs users to other competing services. The timing of the suspension – i.e. within several hours of making the reddit post – has raised a few eyebrows.
In closing comments, de Zwart adds, “I want to emphasise that we’re doing this, all these changes, all these experiments, we’re doing it to drive more prints to the platform to become even more reliable towards customers. So more customers choose to print at 3D Hubs, and therefore the Hubs should benefit.”
For an idea of 3D Hubs operations distribution, you can view the site’s most recent trend report, released July for Q3 2017.
Featured image shows Facebook reactions and 3D Hubs logo by 3D Hubs.