If you’re new to the 3D print industry, one of the things you need to have is a 3D print design library. Now, the question is, who do you use to help you design that library – crowdsourcing or professional designers? This is what Tom and Tracy Hazzard tackle in this episode. Each source has its own advantages and disadvantages that mostly depend on your business model, how you plan to market your designs, and the budget you’re willing to shell out. One thing to remember is that you need to have a great quality of designs that are marketable if you want to be successful in this business.
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3D Print Crowd Source Vs. Professional Design
This is Ask Us Anything segment.
This 3D print question is coming from the manufacturer’s side and from the business side of 3D printing and not so much from the consumer side, but it has an application both ways. The question is, “Should we use 3D printing crowdsource or professional design to create our design library?” That’s a great question because it depends on what the purpose of your library is.
That was what I was thinking. If you have the intent of building a library, why do you want to build it, who are your customer, and what do you see those models as being? What types of objects?
Here are a couple of things. If your plan is to sell models, you need to go the more professional design route. If your plan is to give them away for free and have a membership model, crowdsourcing is fine for that start. You may need some professional designers to feed the library in the beginning because you have to have a little bit of critical mass to make you seem like you’re big enough for people to participate in your library. A lot of library creations have come that way. It’s hard to get up to 100,000 designs without crowdsourcing.
In this day and age, it’s probably hard to get there without crowdsourcing. I’m thinking back to an interview we did with Buzz Baldwin of 3D Printlife. I was impressed that as a company, they decided, “If we crowdsource it and wait for people to make models in their spare time and expect them to put them up for free, it’s going to take a long time to build a library and how useful it is going to be.” They recognize this and decided to put a budget toward paying professional designers to make models for them. They even have an intention of paying them to create it, but also giving them a little share of the paper print revenue model of that going forward, which is admirable. I don’t think enough people are doing that yet and if companies are doing that.
In my opinion, if you want to get good quality models made, you need someone to be doing this in more than their spare time. You need a professional designer to give it a considered thought and do it with some amount of priority and a schedule that you can count on as a business. I always say this, “Hope is not a strategy for your business.” If you’re hoping, “If we make it attractive enough and we put enough marketing into it, maybe people will upload their stuff and we can get some critical mass.” Hope is not a strategy. I wouldn’t go betting on that.
There are a lot of libraries competing for your attention and they already have a jumpstart on that. You’re right, Tom, the idea of starting with professional design, you have to have something that looks fabulous on your homepage. This is one of the things we talked about with Kelechi. He was our Nigerian, mentee, a winner of the mentorship contest. When he was starting his design library, it needs to be relevant for your market. In his case, it needs to be relevant for the domestic African market. It needs to resonate with those people who might be interested in doing more services from him. It has to resonate with wherever your audience is. Those designs need to be a flagship.
They need to be stuff you can tweet, Instagram, show off and look different than everything else that’s already has a huge jumpstart on you. They have to be able to make my top ten list. Those things have to happen. If you can’t do it in a crowdsource sense, have some budget and hire some professionals to design, to push it along because you’ll push the quality along of the whole program. Those people who are coming in and wanting to crowdsource, they want to be a part of it because it has a higher level of perceived value. They know that they’re in good company. That’s critically important.
If you’re getting crowdsource designs, people putting them up for free. The other issue is you’re not going to be able to demand that those models be exclusive to your site. How are you differentiating your model library from anybody else’s?
I see that happen all the time. When we go through to do our holiday list or our top ten list and we jump around from site to site, we see a lot of the same thing. A lot of times I use Yeggi because it’s a consolidator and it looks at all those sites so the duplicates fall out and I can find it, but I’ll find it on Shapeways and then I’ll find it on Cults 3D or 3DShook. I find them in all those places.
Also, if you have a limited budget as a company to help hire professional designers to create this content, it’s okay. There are levels of professional designers, there are a lot of young ones starting out who you might be able to hire a little less expensively. Maybe they don’t have as much experience but that’s the tradeoff. More established companies with a larger budget can hire more experienced designers to create content that would be more appropriate to their audience. There are levels of designers out there for everybody. I personally would encourage companies to engage professional designers and you’re going to differentiate yourselves.
I want to qualify that because it’s not just professional designers like professional CAD designers, this needs to be outputable in a product. At the end of the day, it’s an object that is being printed. It needs to be safe and it needs to be highly printable. There has to be some skill level there. Hiring good CAD designers isn’t enough.
I was thinking about it but I didn’t say it. I wasn’t talking about just CAD technicians who understand how to make models, I was thinking of more industrial designers or product designers.
Jewelry designers. Whatever are your categories that you want to fill, go for the people who are best in those categories and reach out to them. There are a lot of designers out there who are dying to make some money in 3D printing. They love it and they’re passionate about it, but it’s not their day job. A little bit of money would go a long way to them being able to have some time to create these things.
As the market grows toward the point where your mom would get into it or anybody’s mom would get into it, who’s less technical. They’re willing to pay for a nominal fee, whatever it is for a good quality downloadable file that’s in the category of things that they would want to make. I don’t think there’s this expectation among that emerging consumer, that it should all be crowdsourced and that it should all be free. People should be giving their mind, sharing their hard work, their creativity for free. I don’t think that is a problem.
That future audience, they want great quality designs, no matter what they are and the idea that you might have to pay for them. They have already tried 3D printing. They know how hard it is to design for it. $10 doesn’t seem too big a stretch in my mind, if that’s what it is.
People are doing that to buy a Kindle book and people are doing that to pay for music or albums on iTunes. There is a monetization model that makes sense and can support the reality of good quality models being created as a full-time effort for people, not as a side gig.
That iTunes that you point out, iTunes would be nowhere if there weren’t professional musicians on there. It has the level of prestige and the power that it does because there are professionals. They may be music celebrities, but we’re all eager to hear their music. We’re eager to go there to buy that. You have to think about your library that way. Is that what you want it to be or do you want it to be a side to your business or your side to your printer so you have some things?
It may be the equivalent of amateur musicians posting things on YouTube to get exposure versus professional ones who have professional recordings that they’re selling on iTunes. I don’t know if that’s a direct one, but it’s close.
You have to think about what it is that you want to do. I hope this answers your question in terms of what the business out there is for these ecosystems or libraries of designs. Sometimes we call it 3D clipart, which belittles it a little bit. 3D printables is more the word.
I like that term better. People understand clipart, but it’s usually seen as cheap and something that comes free with software, which is what we’re suggesting.
You should have a library that comes with your printer, you absolutely should. You want people to be successful right out of the box. They need to have something that you know works. It shouldn’t be something that just your engineers came up with and it’s a screw and nut and it’s a box and it’s a sphere or a bracelet, it should be more than that. They should be fun and exciting things that somebody wants to give away and say, “Look what I made on my 3D printer.”
I couldn’t agree with you more, Tracy.
Thanks again for following. I would love to pose out there this question, how much are you willing to spend for a great downloadable design?
It’d be great if some of our followers could tell us that.
You designers out there, if you want to tell us how much you’d be willing to be paid for a design that’s exclusive. If a library wanted to pay you to do an exclusive design, what do you think the right rate is? Whether its fee and percentage or straight fee, we’d love to hear from you and hear your thoughts on that. You can send us messages anywhere on social media, @HazzDesign.
You can email us at Info@3DStartPoint.com.
Thanks again for following.
- Buzz Baldwin – past episode
- 3D Printlife
- Cults 3D
- @HazzDesign on Facebook
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