The good die young.
March 31 will be a sad day for the 3d printing community. Pinshape was a solid website. It offered Arguably one of the best layouts if not the nicest looking website designed for storing our 3d models online. With a user base of 75K+ it had quite a few models available. So it comes at a bit of a surprise that it’s closing up shop. The thing is though compared to the size of the internet that is hardly a drop in the bucket. I have seen video games with stronger communities go belly up. The sad fact is that money rules the land,server space isn’t cheep and this community is very cheep. It’s who we are.
The DIYer’s,Home Buisness Operators,Students,Teachers and sadly Pirates. Sure some of us spend thousands on printers but even those people will likely choose to avoid paying for a 3d model and that is how Pinshape ultimately failed. The investors either couldn’t see the long term value or more likely unwilling to wait for the payout. Without investors they just can’t afford to operate anymore.
“Ultimately, investor confidence in the consumer segment of the 3DP industry has weakened significantly over the past 12 months. We’ve seen most major 3DP players abandon the consumer segment entirely and shift their focus to industrial applications and opportunities. It’s still unclear to many how end consumers will adopt the technology, and what use cases will prevail to justify further investment.”
It’s not just Pinshape effected by this either. Quite a few websites like this have taken losses in 2015. Some worse than others and Some that may or may not have deserved it but that’s a discussion for another time. We need to focus on how we as a community can keep sites like this from the same fate. Pinshape should serve as a reminder. That any of our favorite sites could just as easily disappear.
What can we do to prevent this in the future?
I’m not going to say go out and buy products from websites like this cause lets face it that’s not what this community is about. We are about sharing and that is what we need to do. When deciding on how to write this blog I asked around in the 3d printing communities I hang around in and it surprised me just how many people just hadn’t heard about pinshape. One of the easiest things we can do is spread the word. Just cause you know about a website doesn’t mean your friends do. You don’t need to knock on doors but if you see a cool model on one of your favorite sites show it off. Not only will you help out the creator of that model but another person could see the site for the first time. I never fail to see a post about some “New” 3d printer(lets face it 3d printing tech is actually very old. 1970’s old in fact). We need to do this with the Places we get and store our models as well. If everywhere a potential investor turns they hear about “That website” they would be far more likely to invest in it. And what’s good for the host is good for the designer. We didn’t just lose pinshape we lost thousands of models. Sure a lot will migrate to other places but some were one time post by people trying something new for the first time or entering one of their contests others might just not care to re-upload because they didn’t see any interest in the model they made. 3d printing has gotten pretty big in recent years but we are still on small islands in a much larger ocean. We as a community can’t afford to lose dry land. I dare say that the 3d printing community is one of the few places where the little guy can compete with larger entities. Like a school of fish chasing off sharks we need to stick together. When we fail to stick together the sharks win.
“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.”
My final thoughts are this. I have been following the 3d printing community since 2009 when the Reprap first hit the scene and watched as it grew from just a few guys fooling around with nuts,bolts and a fancy hotglue gun spitting out weed wacker line to some pretty fancy printers like the Ultimaker, and that wouldn’t have happened without the overwhelming support of everyone involved. The same goes for the sites we use to store our files to share out but where you can’t turn around without seeing a “new” (see above) 3d printer we still only have a few websites. In some ways that is a good thing to be sure. It makes it easy to find a model but competition makes everything better. So I will leave you with a list from 3ders.org of their top 10 websites to get STL’s from and the goodbye letter from Pinshape if you haven’t read it yet. If you know of a site that you like that isn’t on that list spread the word and if you only know of the ones in that list pick one of your favorite STL’s and just share it out. Every little bit helps. I know each and every one of us only wants 3d printing to get bigger. A Printer for every desk and a print in every hand.
3ders.org top 10 best sites to download free stl files for 3d printing.