THRE3D is a new directory for 3D printing and a pleasant surprise. I don’t often offer a wholesale good / bad rating when I review, just observations and conclusions, but, well, I’ll come back to that. It’s not the first in its field, however unpopulated that field may be: but is it the best?
THRE3D provides a comparison of prices from retailers, converted to USD$ for accurate comparison. A click on the a-bit-like-Pinterest board items and the user is taken to the wholesaler or retailer site selected. The catalogue is relatively comprehensive: 10 pages (over 200 items) of 3D printers; 9, full, pages of filaments; Applications and Services notching up smaller shares of content at this time.
The site’s main page greets the viewer with an example of good web design: clear, minimal, bright. Immediately opportunities to interact, to be drawn into the content subject, and the site, are offered such as a poll. It’s less immediately obvious that most information will be offered from the bar on the top right, but once scrolling through the menus they seem reasonable, if a victim of broken graphic design and vague header names, looks like a mild hierarchy problem. Outside of that, the feel of the site is smooth and fluid.
I’m not too sure whether a newcomer would be attracted to the brief explanations on some of the topics, but, this is a comparison directory, not an encyclopedia. Insofar as that synopsis goes, it fulfills its remit.
PrintDDD has proffered an equivalent service: see Juho’s neat review from last week; and services that emphasise listings of individual topic areas, such as solely entry-level 3D printers, are out there to: such as ‘Top 10 Reviews’ uninformed attempt frowned at by Rachel recently.
Using a different mode of channeling information, B3dge, who have perfected the art of streaming feeds from social media on the topic of 3D printing, have been doing their thing for some time now. And that thing is comprehensive, insomuch as the infrastructure of the site is not dependent upon much, if any, content maintenance. I could be succinct:
B3dge appears to have no writers, no experts as such, little point of contact. It is, literally, a website full of advertisements. If I were to inject personal ethos into this article, I’d probably leave it at that, or continue in that vein: sites that offer little original content are easy to criticize, less obvious regarding assessing their actual worth as a service.
But, if there was one site to hit for a ‘what’s happening in 3D printing this very second,’ B3dge is full of instant kicks, diverse media channels, and, for those willing to navigate the distractions, hidden resources. If you are aiming to find the latest 3D printer offerings on eBay, the latest 3D Printing video’s from YouTube, or enjoy the luxury of having hashtag mentions of 3D printing filtered for you (however easy it is to search #3dprinting in Twitter) then it’s all there.
However, this is a world away from simple, articulate introductions and explanations of terminology, friendly prose and uncluttered design: the things that are perhaps most required by newcomers and those who are seeking utility not luxury, functionality not entertainment. B3dge and THRE3D are also a world away from where industrial 3D Printing professionals will be looking.
For many though, they will present valuable tools amidst the myriad online services that now avail the seeker. There are, a few years into the ballooning 3D printing sector expansion, loose classifications of sites emerging:
3D Printer Manufacturers / Wholesaler
3D Printer Sales / Retailer
Online 3D Printing tools
3D Printing Maker Group
3D File Repository
3D Printer Networks
3D Printables Search Engine
3D Printing Director
3D Printing News
Numerous sites are, inevitably, crossovers between these sub-genres, others specializing in individual areas have been teaming up. The range of approaches taken are immense. Some clearly lone amateurs finding their feet, and niche; others multi-million dollar start-ups. Doubtless the Darwinian process of market forces will whittle down most of the early entries in to most of these niches.
Some of these classifications may see only one survive, others, such as 3D Printing Maker Groups, orientated around local level meetings of makers and hobbyists will more probably than not spread in tandem with the projected expansion of the market.
Coming back to the ethereal stamp of approval with a good / bad rating. No doubt about it: THRE3D is good. Is it the best? That, I leave to your opinion…