Interview, Brian Garret: 3D Hubs restructures as B2B manufacturing platform

Following the 2017 rumor that “3D Hubs is dead” the online manufacturing network has announced that it is switching all its 3D printing services to the “Fulfilled by 3D Hubs” offering. With this change, 3D Hubs puts an end to the peer-to-peer network it was built upon to focus on a more lucrative business-to-business strategy.

In this article, 3D Printing Industry speaks to Brian Garret, co-founder and CPO of 3D Hubs, to learn more about the move.

The creation of a turnkey manufacturing platform 

3D Hubs started out as a per-to-peer network offering people with 3D printers the opportunity to make things for customer’s in their local area. Overtime however, the site has continued to diversify its services going beyond just 3D printing to metal casting, injection molding and CNC milling. Ultimately, this has lead to a total re-branding of the site as “The go-to-place for manufacturing” and “A turnkey manufacturing platform,” not just for peers, but a service for businesses seeking on-demand short-run, production.

Image via 3D Hubs
Image via 3D Hubs

Fulfilled by 3D Hubs

Launched at the end of 2017, the Fulfilled by 3D Hubs service was set up to support the site’s Manufacturing Partners. Manufacturing Partners are business-registered 3D printing hubs selected by 3D Hubs based on performance factors such as “Weighted Order Completion Rate,” “Average Hub Rating,” “Average Order Response Time” and adherence to 3D Hubs quality guidelines. As Manufacturing Partners, these businesses are automatically selected to fulfill orders made by 3D Hubs customers.

Previously, the platform allowed customers to select their own hub for a 3D printing service, with the decision based on material availability, proximity to the customer, and a person’s own discretion. On this note, Garret explains, “As for the manual selection, we won’t be offering this as soon as we move 3D Printing over to the new check out. The reasoning here is that we’re continuously putting a lot of effort into making the quality completely standard between all manufacturing partners, we’ve got some more features lined up achieve this.”

“As a customer,” Garrett adds, “there won’t be any noticeable difference who is manufacturing the 3D printed parts for you. We’ve managed to successfully implement this for CNC machining and injection molding already over the past year. While it might take a little getting used to it removes a lot of friction as you no longer have to worry about who is producing your parts, 3D Hubs software will do that for you automatically.”

With Fulfilled by 3D Hubs, any hubs that are not partnered with site are also being phased out by the company, as pointed out in this reddit discussion. The only platform 3D Hubs is offering for local 3D printing services is a dedicated place in the Talk Maker forum.

3D Hubs service changes are to provide better quality Martins for your money. Photo including the 3D Hubs Marvin mascot via 3D Hubs
3D Hubs Marvin mascots. Photo via 3D Hubs

Community’s response

Understandably, the move has left many in the peer-to-peer community disgruntled. Not only did these people help 3D Hubs build its reputation, but now they no longer have a full platform for local services – unless they are registered and running their 3D printing as a daily business.

The decision to make the move, as discussed in the official statement by Garret and and fellow co-founder Bram de Zwart, is as follows:

“As the platform evolved from a peer-to-peer 3D printing network into an all-round manufacturing platform, 3D Hubs’ customer base changed. Now, the majority of orders originate from professionals who source parts for larger, high value engineering projects. These users have become a key part of the business and 3D Hubs’ success depends on the ability to serve these customers.”

“It has become clear that in order to reach our goal of revolutionizing the manufacturing industry, 3D Hubs needs to double down on standardization and automation of the manufacturing process.”

So, what now for the community? And what evidence does 3D Hubs have of its growing business-led customer base?

Facts and figures

According to the statement, “Since launching this service, [Fulfilled by 3D Hubs] we have seen explosive growth in the usage of our 3D print service, particularly by the professional user group. Customer feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we’ve seen customer order value doubling since January.”

Prompted for figures relating to this claim, Garret said, “At this time 89% of all orders are being completed by Fulfilled by 3D Hubs Manufacturing Partners. We’ve seen 138% year over year revenue growth in the last month,” and “Fulfilled by 3D Hubs has received a high Net Promoter Score of 72 over the last 11 months, indicating that customers are very happy with the service.”

What is the message to peer-to-peer customers that no longer feel 3D Hubs is suitable for them?

Garret, 3D Hubs: “We’re professionalizing our service to match the quickly maturing 3D printing industry and growing number of professional businesses who are turning to this exciting technology as a viable manufacturing solution. For existing peer-to-peer customers this means they can expect our service to become more reliable and repeatable as we’re investing heavily in automation and standardization, both on the software side with Design for Manufacturing feedback as well as on the supply side with our Manufacturing Partner network.”

“To be clear, we plan to keep offering our service of affordable prints at fast turn around times to our existing customers, but over time they can expect a more streamlined service.”

Why isn’t there space for both peer-to-peer and B2B services on 3D Hubs?

Garret, 3D Hubs: “We investigated this as a possibility, however the development effort required to maintain the peer-to-peer platform next to the Fulfilled by 3D Hubs solution, was creating too much technical complexity and slowing down our innovation drastically.”

“While we had both models running side by side for the majority of this year, it became clear that we had to pick one and double down on its execution.”

“While we understand that some Hubs will be frustrated, we know that this new direction aligns best with the future of distributed manufacturing and the needs of our customers.”

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Featured image shows 3D Hubs founders Brian Garret (left) and Bram de Zwart (right). Photo via 3D Hubs.