Supersonic Prototyping by 3DHubs


by Mike Marks

A lot has been going on in the world of 3D printing recently. Pioneer rapid prototyping machine makers like 3D Systems and Stratysys sold expensive machines to large corporations. Now there is improved lower cost technology with offerings from fast moving upstarts like Makerbot (recently bought by Stratysys), who make machines for small companies and hobbyists. Where just a few years ago it was hard to find a rapid prototyping service, now it's easy to find one. It's especially easy now because of a fantastic new service offered by

3DHubs is magical. You upload your 3D files, choose a location either close to you or worldwide and instantly get quotes for your part from "hubs" (that's what's supersonic). A hub is a person or company who owns a 3D printing machine and interacts with others in the local area. With 7,100 printers in 140 countries 3DHubs has processed over 30,000 3D prints to date.

Just before New Year's we had 3DHubs quote on prototyping a part the size of a bike helmet and received prices that ranged from $685 to $16,750. Each quote provides details of the machine that would be used, the level of resolution, material options and turn-around time. But how do we know if a hub is any good? There are reviews and 3DHubs has a staff that watches over any project done through its network. Based on the quotes we put in an order with a hub managed by a guy named Brandon. Brandon has been very responsive and there's reason to hope that he'll have the prototype done in time to deliver to our prospective licensee. That's my only complaint about 3Dhubs. Their system automatically quotes and gives a turnaround time (sometimes just an hour). But they don't know what's actually going on at the hub; that needs to be confirmed by a real person. In our case, Brandon told me he had a big project going on but, together with a partner company, he should be able to get the job done. He then confirmed it and we paid 3DHubs. Now we're waiting for results. Brandon is paid by 3DHubs and he doesn't get his money until we approve of the part. It seems like a great system.

My fingers are crossed. Not only on Brandon committing to and actually delivering in time (his price is excellent!) but on all of the steps after that up to and through getting a manufacturing or licensing deal in place and having it prove successful in the long run. Much to hope for in the New Year!

Stay tuned for updates on how this story unfolds.

Happy New Year to all!

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