Interview with Brian Garret of 3D Hubs

Following the publication of the 3D Hubs’ Trend Report last week, 3DPI’s Shane Taylor caught up with Brian Garret, one of the founders of 3D Hubs and probed a little further….

3DPI: How do you see the balance between open source and closed source evolving in the future?

Brian Garret: We clearly see there is a market for both open source and closed source 3D printers. In my view the maker community is already a few million strong and growing. This community traditionally has a strong connection with open source printers.

However on the other hand, mainstream customers are most likely to prefer a hassle free experience where hardware and software are tightly integrated. These needs can be met using both open source and closed source models.  What I do expect however is that many commercial printers will keep building on top of the foundation that the open source projects have created.

3DPI: Do you also get interest from professional printer owners (SLS, SLA, ZPrinters, Poly/ProJet etc)?

Brian Garret: The interest is definitely significant: we already have nearly all the local 3D print shops in the Netherlands signed up and we have over 50 full-colour ZCorp printers on the platform. We see that most of these shops use 3D Hubs as a marketing channel through which they attract additional customers.

Furthermore, we are working with high-end SLS owners in order to provide special features from them. We are happy to bring them on the platform as well and we believe that offering more choice in materials will be beneficial for the customer.

3DPI: Can you give me some examples of popular prints on the platform?

Brian Garret: Our Makers print an extremely wide variety of things, but two interesting example include this quadcopter and this self-designed coffee grinder. More will follow in our Maker Tales series.

3DPI: Do you see any significant differences in printers between countries?

Brian Garret: We do see that specific countries have their own favourites when it comes to 3D printers. For example Italy has its own maker scene where the Wasp and Sharebot are popular printers. Furthermore we do see that Ultimakers and Leapfrog printers are especially popular in the Netherlands. In the US we see a strong dominance of Makerbot.

3DPI: It appears that the Netherlands is really a 3D printing hotbed, do you have any explanations for this?

Brian Garret: The Finnish designer Janne Kyttanen started a company called “Freedom of Creation” in 2000 which made him famous in the Netherlands because of his 3D printed consumer projects. I believe that early exposure to 3D printing has inspired many Dutch designers, hackers and entrepreneurs to start something 3D printing related. Furthermore, the Dutch Design culture and Philips have also added to the fertile ground for 3D printing that has spawned the ecosystem with companies like Shapeways, Ultimaker and us.

3DPI: In that vein: it looks like you’ve had a lot of activity in Italy, any thoughts on the reasons for this?

Brian Garret: After chatting with our Italian interns Simona & Simone we’ve identified some key insights, which can be mainly attributed to influential Italian people in the 3D printing field that act as evangelists, such as: Massimo Banzi, one of the founders of Arduino, Alessandro Ranellucci, founder of Slic3r, and Riccardo Luna, director of Wired Italy.

In addition, several 3D printers and maker projects have Italy as their homeland such as Sharebot, Kentstrapper and Wasp. Finally, in Italy the art of making is greatly developed over the centuries. Craftsmen have updated their techniques to the most innovative ones, for example Maketank, a marketplace in which Italian artisans sell their products.

Maker Faire in Rome has definitely been our catalyst for success there, after it we have unlocked three cities in just one month and magnificently increased the number of 3D Hubs in Rome and Milan, which were already unlocked.

As 3D Hubs continues to go from strength to strength, we’ll continue to keep you updated on how things progress.