If you’re planning to buy your very first 3D printer, user ratings can be a great place to start looking for the hardware that best suits your needs. The 3D Hubs Report is a monthly report that gives valuable information on trends in the 3D printing market. In many ways, however, the information put out by the report can be misleading to end consumers. Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard put a word of caution about interpreting the numbers published in the report. You wouldn’t want the numbers to get you into purchasing the wrong product, would you?
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Analysis Of 3D Hubs Report
This is the Ask Us Anything segment.
This episode, we thought we’d go over the monthly trend report from 3D Hubs, and we’ve been getting this monthly for quite some time. I’ve pushed back on them and asked them to add some things to it and they have done that in the past. It’s a good idea for us to start reviewing it every month and giving you our take on what’s going on because some of the data in there might be misleading.
It’s good data for sure. They have certainly a large membership that gives you a lot of good information but good information for who is the question.
That’s what we need to talk about. Is this a good general market information or is this skewed to a specific service bureau profile? Who is this information for? You have to think about that and put it in context when you’re looking over the numbers here because it might mislead you into doing the wrong thing. Buying the wrong printer and/or if you are manufacturing a printer, putting in the wrong features. We have to look at that carefully. One of the interesting things is that they’ve put in a chart that says their most wanted printers and this is their hubs top choices for the next purchase. You have to think about that carefully because when they say their hubs, it’s not the hubs’ client. It’s the hubs’ service providers.
These are independent men and women who have a printer and they’re selling space and time on it to make items. When I look at it over the months that I’ve seen this report come out, the Form 2 is the highest-ranked one it says. That’s the most coveted present they’d love to find under the Christmas tree. The thing is that Form 1 is a great printer. There’s no question about it. I’ve seen its quality and it’s fabulous, but is it just a little trendy because it’s about to come out? Of course, I want the latest greatest and it doesn’t have anything to do with their need. What I would rather know is what they want and what they shell out money for.
What they want someone else to give them for free. When they spend their hard-earned money, what printer are they going to be buying that’s going to be the most productive for them?
When you have Ultimaker 2 on there, that’s been out a while and now. Do you still want one? That’s a little more telling. I’m not sure that the top one is not a little too reflective of just trendy information in general. Anyway, there are other interesting ones on this. The most telling one in terms of service quality and liability because assume that these guys and girls out there are using these printers a lot.
They’ve got a lot of hours of use.
How likely are they to buy the next printer from the same manufacturer? That’s an interesting piece of information. Surprisingly, Ultimaker’s only done it 32.6% here. Where they were high on that other chart, they’re low here compared to LulzBot, which is up almost at 50%. That says maybe for this particular type of use where you’re printing, you don’t know what any given day, but you need it to print reliably all the time because you can’t be late on your client’s orders. These printers LulzBot, MakerGear, Zortrax are all ranking well.
What’s interesting to me on that graph is the difference between the top one and the bottom one is a narrower delta between the two.
You’re going from 48.8% to 32.6%, so it’s not a big span of difference.
It seems like the bottom 5 or 6 are all almost the same. They’re in the mid-30% range.
The interesting thing is that it’s also reflective. They put the number of reviews in fine print in the graph here. Ultimaker has 301 reviews while LulzBot only has 41. It might be muddying the numbers as well in terms of when you have 301 reviews out there, you’ve got a broader range of people who have used it. You may have a larger audience that is responding to this particular question, so you get a different answer. If you have that many, of course, they can’t be balanced to respond to 100% of them wanted or 48.8%. It’s a lot easier to have that have only 41 people.
It is maybe easier to get a higher average from a smaller pool. To me, the Ultimaker has always been impressive as a machine and as a company when we talk to people who use it because they have the community members speak for them at trade shows and things. These people use and like these prints a lot.
I should point out here that Form 1 is the top winner at 54.3% and Form 1 owners would pick the Form 2 or Form 1+ as their next printer. I’ve heard that that printer is consistent.The latest trending 3D printer may not exactly be the best one for you. Click To Tweet
It produces a good quality product. We’ve seen that. Our only issue with that printer is the limited resin choices available. It’s limited to one material, one color.
Let’s jump around and talk about that. That color distribution is the saddest thing I have ever seen in my entire life and I’m disappointed but at the same time, it reflects. The distribution is that 53.5% of the prints done by 3D Hubs’ customers are black and white.
That doesn’t surprise us as we hear that from filament manufacturers too, that more than half of their sales are black and white filament. There are a lot of other colors and they all divide up in small pieces of the pie the remainder of that market.
What we’ve been hearing is it’s not like anybody’s going out there and just using black and white for the most part. They’re spray painting them or post finishing them or doing something to them after this effect. They’re not for the most part going out in black and white. I’m sure some are or they’re just tests. It didn’t matter what finish it was going to be and what color it was going to be in. What it says to me is that it’s still FDM and SLA. All of those printing methods are not up there yet in terms of being fine, come off the machine, and be ready for primetime.
Especially in the 3D Hubs world, there are probably more customers contracting with them to make things that are more in the engineering community, models, drones, and all sorts of things. Color is not that important to them or the other thing that it says to me is that everybody uses black or white to print the majority of their test models. When they get the settings all dialed in, then they’re switching it to the final color they wanted.
Why pay for the expensive? There’s a color consistency issue. Each one of these guys is going to send to you. They’re green when you say you wanted it green. It’s complicated and it makes the process longer in terms of service because there’s not a consistency where someone could say, “I have that chip. I know exactly what that color is.”
We’re looking forward to having an interview with the founder or the CEO of 3D Hubs at some point. We’ll have to ask that question. I’m interested to know, is there any kind of standards between all the different hubs of what material people are using, or are you left as buyer beware to make sure you verify that that color you’re requesting is what you’re going to get? Are you going to be happy with it?
There’s no material report in this overall monthly trends. There’s nothing that says that they’re all using MakerBot or RioRand or Toner Plastics or any of those particular material sources. Moving on to the highest-rated 3D printers, what I’m glad to see is that there are many FDMs on here because that is a critical difference between using 3D Hubs versus using Shapeways, i.materialise, Sculpteo, or any of those. In most of those places, you’re getting industrial machines, and here, if you want to test out and see, “Should I be bringing this in-house into my company or should I be using this for my particular purposes at home?”
Using the hub as a test before you buy a printer, right?
Yes. Should I be making it at one of these more expensive places and find the materials? Is my design ready for it? This is an ideal way to go through it at a less cost, test it out, and see what it looks like. In a lot of respects, you need to make sure that you’re getting what you want and those other machines can sometimes muddy that. It fixes your file for you. It forces things or allows things that you might not be able to do on an FDM. You have to be prepared for that. This is a telling way to go through and test it, so I’m glad that 3D Hubs are there.
They serve a significant need in our industry. All those people that have bought printers and can sell the excess time that they have on them, they’re being entrepreneurial and it’s helping them too.
The other thing is they put a list together of their top cities, but this is where they talk about growth in a city. New York is their biggest. They have 394 printers in that city and they’ve had a 4.5% month over month growth in that city. The reality is that that’s where the printers are. What I want to know is where are the customers? That would be such a better piece of information. I’d want to know because if you’re going to open up a bigger hub or you want to sign up more printers, wouldn’t you want to sign them up in a local area? That would be better.
A couple of things come to mind as you mentioned New York has the highest concentration and it’s only 350 some odd printers. Manhattan is huge and full of ten-plus million people in a small concentrated area and they only have 350. That surprises me a bit. I also wonder when people go to 3D Hubs to buy something, are the customers going more local? Are all those customers pulled from that same geographic area?
How are they getting the word out there in these cities? We keep hearing like, “There’s a huge pocket in Detroit and there’s a huge pocket in Ohio.” There are pockets of what I expect would be customers in these areas. Wouldn’t they rather use a hub more local to them? You would think so. Start thinking about that. One of the things that I would think is if I were starting here, especially if I were a small business who is looking at doing this or an entrepreneur who’s making prototypes, the ability to be able to pop over and meet up with them at Starbucks or something would be highly valuable to me.
They’ll drop in and see what’s going on if they’ll let you watch your part being printed and things like that.
I didn’t see it in this particular report, but in past reports, they put out the objects and what people are printing. They put out the mix of that. The problem with that is that the mix of the products of what they’re doing is targeted at the way the hubs are working or whatever projects are going on at this. We need to look at trends in year over year and start seeing if we’re seeing a lot more prototypes happen. It makes a difference for you if you’re considering joining a hub.
Are there a lot of customers having repeat business things made over and over again that they’re not investing in a printer themselves? Is it one-off prototypes? Is there a trend toward more end-use products that are not prototypes, whether you’re printing one-of-a-kind or a series of them?
I can’t look at it. Month over month is too soon. I have to look at it year over year and see how it’s trending and as a certain area growing or whatever. Anyway, I’m looking forward to talking to 3D Hubs. What they’re doing is fabulous for the marketplace in general and I want to hear from them about where their growth is and where the future is.
That’ll be coming up. We’re going to have that scheduled. If you have any comments on that or any questions, you can reach out to us anywhere in social media @HazzDesign.
Thanks for reading.
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