The 3D printing industry has not been kind to very startup that has entered this bold and innovative space. It may be a natural progression of new hyped industries, but it’s sad to see small firms fade away as the hype dies down. Though some companies may desperately burn bridges with customers, others drop out with a more positive reputation. I would venture to argue that Pinshape, which today announced the close of operations, falls into this latter category.
In response to a Facebook post regarding the news, a number of users seem saddened to see their community go. In fact, the blog relaying the news was inundated with visitors that it crashed. Fortunately, Pinshape CEO Lucas Mattheson was able to send me the text. The startup states that the site will end service on March 31, not for lack of success in terms of community growth and engagement, but a lack of investor confidence in the consumer 3D printing market. Referencing the close of Amazon’s 3D printing shop, Stratasys’ goodwill impairment from the MakerBot acquisition, and the shutting down of 3D Systems’ Cubify division, the Pinshape team writes that it was difficult to secure further investment for a 3D printables site that had largely become filled with free content:
The value of a 3DP marketplace is obvious in the long term, but for many, the path to monetization isn’t so clear. Part of our challenge was demonstrating a financial path forward. Today, 99.5% of our transactions are free. Given the size of the market, in January 2015, we choose to focus on free, and build the largest community possible to validate our platform and provide confidence we could continue expanding as the consumer segment picked up. Unfortunately, the opposite happened, and the market slowed considerably with signs of weakness.
In terms of our product – the platform, we’ve had nothing short of success. Together, we’ve built one of the most active and trusted marketplaces online. One thing I can tell you without hesitation is that our team worked incredibly hard for you every single day. We have an amazing team who worked for startup wages to be a part of this journey, and we’re super proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time.
Pinshape’s fun contests and talented community allowed the site to grow, according to the company, to 75k+ active users and over 1500+ downloads every day. As the site wraps up operations, Pinshape will pay out all amounts owed to designers, asking those designers to ensure that their PayPal information is accurate and urging everyone to make sure they have backed up their own 3D files. Despite the end of the site, the team does note that they will “continue to explore options to transition the platform to a new home.”
I regret seeing Pinshape’s closure, wishing that we could have given them more exposure, but knowing that we were inundated with content ourselves. I hope that the Pinshape team will go on to bigger and better opportunities in the future. After all, the VR and AR hype is now building and talent will be needed to ensure that those platforms can find physical manifestation of 3D assets in the form of 3D printing.
Update 4/1/2016: Just as the doors were closing, they’ve been reopened. This is not an April Fools joke, as they shared an update on March 31 stating the following:
We’ve had an overwhelming amount of interest and support from the 3DP community and we’re hopeful that we’ve found a company that shares our vision of Pinshape to take over. As a result, there will be no interruption in service! Yay!
Thanks to everyone for your outpouring of support the last few days. There have been so many kind words!
We look forward to keeping you updated with a more formal announcement in the days to come!