Today we have an interview on quality 3D printables with Rees Calder of My Mini Factory. He is a CMO or a marketing guy. I saw this new release that went out a couple months ago about them, and that was what caught our eye. They were talking about doing popular promotions for designers and trying to attract exclusive designers. I like their site. It is one of the ones that we feature on and off in the various holiday collections that we do. Their site is easy to navigate and the design is really good. They have great photos in there and everything is printable.
When they said that they were looking for designers to put their things exclusively on their site, I was like, “Okay, I admire you for wanting to have unique content, but what is in it for the designer?” We have heard from others that nobody is quitting their day job to sell their designs for 3D printables online right now.
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Quality 3D Printables with Rees Calder of My Mini Factory
Thank you for joining us here in WTFFF, we have wanted to talk with you for quite a while now about the quality 3D printables on My Mini Factory.
It is my pleasure to be here.
Can you start by giving our audience just a little overview of My Mini Factory since we have cited some of your designs on some of our pictures on certain holiday seasonal top picks? I think there is more about My Mini Factory than just another file repository. Can you help clear that up for us?
Well, fundamentally we are a file repository – a place for 3D artists to come over and download files to print at home. What sets us apart from the multitude of other platforms is that we actually guarantee printability. We do that through a two-step process. The first is digital validation of the files. We use a software to check the files if they will actually print. Second is the proof method wherein we are actually printing them. Every single file that hits the platform has been physically test printed by us or by a member of the maker community.
The files hit the platform and they go through this validation process. If they use it themselves, has printed the files, and has uploaded the photos of the print then the file will be sent to a member of our community to be test printed and then the file will go online after we have essentially verified that it is printable.
This will have more value, as prints become ubiquitous. As people don’t want to dig through the noise in finding the files that actually print. When someone wants a plug and play experience, they go to our site and have a safe knowledge in every single file that they do download will print 100%.
Are you identifying which printers that they were printed on? So you will be confident that it will print in that printer?
Occasionally, we do. We try to benchmark them on either FDM or SLA technologies. You will be able to see that this particular object was test printed on using this kind of technology. Obviously, if it is a very small intricate jewellery piece we are not going to tell people that it will print greatly on a MakerBot. We narrow it down to that level. We can’t actually test them on every single printer. We have tested it and also our printers’ community has actually that range. We want to say that it prints pretty well in FDM or SLA technologies.
I understand that you have some partnerships with certain printer manufacturers where your libraries are available to their user base. Do you test them further to those printers as well?
Yes, we did a little bit of that with them before. Again we can’t test every single one and we’re closing on 20 thousand objects now. We will certainly test the sample. You can suggest some test files in some printers. First thing that we did is with UK printers’ manufacturer Cel Robox. They are available to download and print. We don’t really have the capacity to test every model on that specific machine. We can actually have a general confirmation that they will print on a desktop 3D printer. This technology is still young. Printers will still fail. Things will still go wrong. But we can guarantee that we won’t have a broken file. The file itself is a whole kind of a ready to print file.
I understand. It is very important that you’re doing that testing. It is one of the things that we cautioned our listeners in the past. When they are searching for files to download and print. If they don’t see a photo of that file actually printed, it is a warning that you could be getting yourself into a lot of time lost by working with a file that has not been tested yet.
Father’s day is fast approaching and you’re very late on getting a gift, choose a file that has a picture because you’re going to print that on time if you have a couple of days to print it.
It is nice seeing this on the website. It looks amazing on the screen. But how that thing translates into a single object is not what exactly what you anticipate. How the photo of the printed object might look might be different in its intended glory. We can be confident that this thing has been actually printed will print on my machine as well.
I want to ask on how that works? I have seen that you broadcasted on your email or other places where you’re talking to two designers about coming on board exclusively with you. This interesting kind of relationship you have with the Cel Robox, where the designers have designed parts that are going to have their sizing software. It is much more automatic and a simple way for your designs to be accessed. In reality, how does that model work from a designers’ perspective?
Well, it is new. It is basically kind of learning as we’re going. It’s a system for designers to generate revenue in a slightly different method than on other sites. Looking at the current climate of the file sharing space, people aren’t really selling files. They give prices on them, but in terms in generating revenue by selling individual file. The market is immature for that or people are not ready for paying five dollars when there are others that are available for free. It is only fair that they should be able to generate some revenue. Similarly, we are looking for ways on how to start monetizing the platform and introducing some targeted advertising that makes sense. Putting some kind of filament in the printers is a valuable advertising. That advertising revenue is being generated because we have content from other designers. It is only fair that the designers generate revenue and share that revenue.
We adapted something akin to YouTube model. Where based on the number of views on your video and how many Ads that plays on your video, you’ll see a portion of Ads revenue as well. Basically, we need designers that have exclusive capacity; you will start to have a share in the revenue. As we grow as a platform and as we start generating more revenue from advertising, the designers will have more revenue alongside us. That’s essentially how it is working. The mechanism itself is based on how many profile views they get, how many objects they get, how many downloads and how many added in the collection is taken into account. We actually assign each action a monetary value and calculate this. In order to figure out the amount the designers will be paid.
That is really unique. That is an incredibly unique model. It is very clear. That’s not what I expected. I thought it was really going to be the same as some of the other sites we’ve have in the over 250 episodes that we have. That is amazing because these designers and these designs are drawing people into your site. Just like soccer, it drives revenue here in the US. The women are paid one fifth of what the male soccer players are paid here. They are driving more eyes to the sport, they are drawing audiences in and they deserve to be paid in the proportion to it. That is something also about your model here.
Even us, we are podcast hosts but we are business-minded people as well. Honestly, the best business relationship we’ve ever had are the ones where our interests are aligned with the company we’re working with. When they succeed, we succeed. You are doing the same type of thing. I don’t know how much revenue you can generate but that is really a different model. It is admirable. It speaks highly of organization that you’re willing to think outside the box and share your advertising revenue. Realizing the content is helping to make that valuable to the advertisers.
We appreciate the fact that we would effectively be nothing if it wasn’t because of our content creators. We should be giving back to them. The more they contribute, the more they earn. Similarly, it is something about how YouTube has. I am not in the illusion that every single designer on the platform will make a living. It is like 99% of the You Tubers uploading videos that don’t make revenue. But those that really put the time, the effort, and go the extra mile to get the content out there and to have downloads, are the ones who are going to have a profit from this.
The way you’re setting yourself up, I would think if you can attract the quality designers who believe in this model. I am talking about professional designers, not casual or amateur designers. There is nothing wrong about amateur designers. If you can attract professional designers, then you can raise the level of your platform from YouTube to that of a Netflix. It is not user generated content. For the most part of YouTube, it is built as a user generated platform. Netflix is generated by some professional content platforms. That’s where I see the potential.
This won’t happen overnight. It will take a while for people to realize the potential of this model itself on how they can start generating revenue from it. It comes from our whole philosophy of quality and quantity of guaranteed printability. Track the best designers and help them make a living. Then actually turn them into superstars of the next generation. When someone buys a printer, the first thing that they will think is that the files that they want to download are those by superstar designers from My Mini Factory. They’re going to associate good quality and content with a designers’ name and the whole platform.
Let’s talk about that because we are the most notorious holdbacks that you’ve come across yet. We’ve been doing this a lot of years now and we’ve haven’t placed a design of ours yet in a single platform for sale. We are holding back because we are holding back for the right model that will make sense for it- a site that is not taking advantage of the designers. You have just proven to me that you’re not. How will you attract these designers and how will you reach out to them?
We are talking to the designers that are very loyal to the platform and whom we have good relationship with. The best way for us to learn is to learn directly from our users and content creators. By having good communication with them, encourages them to upload more of their content. By speaking to other people of different platforms, engaging on what’s the safest to use. A lot of them is not doing these for money.
They are not fully aware of the fact that anyone can download it for free. There is no revenue model there. Those kinds of people are not the right one to approach in a model like this. They are necessarily looking to make money from the design. Amateur designers looking to be in a professional world then approaching them and saying “Hey, is this something you would be interested in?” It is investing the potential of what this could become. As soon as they see these numbers are increasing, it will create positive feedback loop. It is just good listeners and trying to understand what it is these guys want, why do this and why they choose you to share the designs for free.
The community of people in your site that are looking to download files, are they really people with 3D printers on their own or are they also people that are looking for files to have printed? What are you doing to try to market your site to the potential customers that will want more professional exclusive content?
I would suggest that the majority of those with printers are loyal users. We got a lot of people in the site who were just interested in seeing 3D printers content and do not actually print it themselves. The majority of loyal daily visitors are people with 3D printers and people who are looking to files that they want to download. There are also people who just want to check what’s new in the site and start printing without any fear of something going wrong. In terms of communicating and marketing the platform, it is about quality over quantity. We might not have hundreds and thousands of files but if you go click the new section, you can really find files that you want to print. Imagine it like a YouTube and Netflix. They are both successful companies, one with different focus from the other. You can really think of the quantity and quality factor and be attracted to platform naturally.
Don’t you think that those with 3D printers that appear on the site are limiting the market potential of these designers’ products? If I am considering of bringing my files to your platform as a professional designer, is there an exclusivity component there? There is a bigger market that is emerging. There are many people in the world who might be interested to download files who don’t have 3D printers. Is there a reason that prevents someone to download it in ceramic or some other material that doesn’t have 3D printers?
In some companies, you are in their library already and they already know much about you. That is really great in terms of promoting people in coming to the site. However, there is a whole bunch of audience who will never buy a printer that don’t know enough about 3D printing. It is our job to advocate and to grow that audience, to send them to great sites to become the next YouTube. How do we, as a global community of 3D Printing industry, make that happen and grow the audience?
Well, we actually target people who actually haven’t heard about 3D printing. What we do to adapt to those who don’t know anything about 3D printers is by delivering them high quality content. There are people who may have heard about 3D printing but doesn’t know that you can pick a 3D printer even on a MacBook. We find areas interested in video games to have them fascinated in 3D Printing, working with influences in the video gaming industry. Hearing of 3D printing may haven’t been done before but one of a thousand would say that “Hey, this is really interesting.” I can actually start thinking about a fun content. We can figure out that we can do that.
We can think of something that is appealing to mass audience and showing them that this is what you can do in the technology. This is exciting. We are preparing ourselves for the influx people who learn about 3D printers. I think that how we add value into the industry by attempting to bring as many people as we can and who may not hear about 3D printing. If we can show them things that will really capture their imagination, that there is a whole world out there that they may not be exposed to.
Yes. I think there are many different things that the market can do to expose 3D Printing. I am hoping that the My Mini Factory is doing something to grow market for designs beyond just trying to market to those who already have 3D printers.
We are here for a long run. We see that it is only 1% of us that have these machines right now. We are hoping that in five or ten years’ time, that numbers will grow significantly. We want to be there when that happens. We want to be there when people don’t want to go through the noise to click the button and do 3D Printing. That is what we are hoping in the coming years. That is when quality is going to be essential.
You’re right. If you don’t have a unique preposition to offer the market, if you have twenty thousand really good files, it would be fantastic.
I think that people who own 3D printers are those who are happy to have those things. In a few years’ time, people aren’t going to do that. In the early days of music, people spent hours looking for that perfect track and going through that noise. Now, it is a one-click thing on iTunes. Digital music is now widespread. We have to be prepared at that time, when people aren’t willing to put up with the noise and have just one-click experience.
How long have you been doing this? How long have you been in operations?
My Mini Factory has been around since June of 2013. I joined in 2014. It was started because of the noise problem. We have noticed that when looking for content a lot of time is spent digging through trash and printing things that are normal 2D. When it fails, you only waste ink. If a 3D print fails, you wasted 25$ spool of filament. In that point of time, we then think of making quality printers.
Do you print any services? Or somebody who wanted to buy a print and have it printed out? Do you do that?
We do this through a kind of special request. We did it for a while. It is not necessarily where we see the industry growing, we are much more about those people who want to own this machine and print it themselves. It is frustrating to show people that when you buy prints in a 3D Hub, it will cost you a hundred. That is not what printing should be. If people are dying to get their hands on it because they don’t want to buy 3D printers, we will help people out. We want them to experience this technology and see what this machine can actually do. Well they can only buy it and start it by themselves to contribute in 3D printing industry.
No. I think it is in the designers’ perspective. We talked to many designers and that’s why they ended up going to another site. There are great jewelry designers that we have profiled. They are more willing to have their designs on your site but none of this stuff can be printed. It can’t be done on a home machine. Then they will need to be in another site and platform. That would be the designers’ perspective.
Jewelry is the one of the areas that we are pushing to have sales. Designers usually sell physical objects which are really small from the kind of research that we have conducted. These guys can have hundreds of dollars a month.
No. When I think of being a celebrity designer, you just don’t want files but you also want to sell products.
Yes. I guess so. It is something that we could potentially explore. As 3D printers have become widespread, to have 3D printed objects is in the decline. We have designers that are selling files and spreading it that way rather than selling actual objects. It is something that we are looking into, particularly the jewelry. This is hard but if you are designing really good stuff, you will have more revenue.
That has been very educational for me. I understood a lot of your different business’ model of exclusive designs. I hope our audiences are also intrigued about that as we are. Thank you for your time today.
It is my pleasure. It is something new that we are trying out to be able to generate money for this. At the end of the day, if you can’t get your files anywhere else, all the views will go to your profile which will generate revenue. It is about empowering the next generation.
It has been great talking to you and we are looking forward to talk to you in the future.
Quality 3D Printables with Rees Calder of My Mini Factory – Final Thoughts
Every once in a while we get really surprised in one of these interviews, like this one on quality 3D printables. We do our homework, we research the guest and their company, what makes them a little different, and we prepare some questions. We also recognize that we can’t know everything about the interview and we let the conversation go to a certain extent where it needs to go. Today is one of the days where I was significantly surprised. I did not expect to hear that there is a revenue share situation for 3D designers out there of 3D printed objects. I think I have read it in one of their posts, but I understood it to be like sharing it via revenue. It didn’t occur to me that that they meant revenue share like in advertisements. The more your products sell the more money you will make.
What they really mean is they are turning revenue in a very different way and they are sharing it proportionally with the designers, and that is very different which is why I am very excited to see it. This is an attractive way to go about getting designers. We all need to be realistic about where the market is today and the market is not consumer direct. It is just not, as much as we would like it to be. It’s still in the hobbyist stage. Their idea of and initiation into heading into it with video gamers. Right now, that is the way to go because that is where you are more likely to convert them into becoming 3D printers than it is to be able to go out there and hit any other community.
Growth Market of Quality 3D Printables
You are not going to convert those going out there buying housewares tomorrow. It is just not in the thought process yet. It will get there; it is just not there yet. If you are in the business or in the current 3D printing economy like My Mini Factory or some other companies that are in business today, there is a market today and they understand what their market is and what their market is for. It is a growth market as more and more people are buying 3D printers. More and more factories are producing 3D printers so there are more people with them who may want to download quality 3D printables files, which is why it is a growth market.
However, I do still think that there are others in the industries that are doing service bureaus. They are in the business of printing things for people that either don’t have a 3D printer or don’t have a 3D printer that prints those types of materials. Those service bureaus are trying to drive their prices down over time to where they are more competitive with the example of making your figurine – on your own printer it is very cheap, but in a service bureau it is very expensive. There is room for both and there are material options for both. We talk about that all the time. It is great to have it, but it is plastic at the end of the day. If I can print it in metal or ceramic, it will surely add value. This is the place of doing that in the premium level.
I like their business model, and I think that they are doing the right thing to having a unique proposition to set themselves apart for others. It is absolutely fantastic that they are doing that. I still look at the future of the market beyond people with 3D printers. There is an opportunity to grow there and I would like to explore that as well.
Exclusivity Model and Focus Model
He talked about that getting over the exclusivity model is hard for people. I think there are two camps. This is a mindset issue and a goal issue. If you are a designer out there and I am speaking directly to you thinking about whether or not doing something exclusive makes sense long term? Or getting your name and spreading it out so that you are everywhere at once. I think there is a balance to that and I highly encourage the Focus model. Over the years, the designs that we have sold that are the most successful were always exclusive to someone or to a retailer. The ones that we push out there and go to anyone which is an open line item, never sells enough. It is the way that it goes. I just want you to think about that same mindset. I know this is not the same and there are not a lot of sales there, and there is not a lot going on. But being a very high profile big fish in a little pond is probably the best option for your particular business or your stage as a designer.
There are those out there that are saying, “Your name has to be everywhere. You got to be everywhere in social media. You got to do all these things.” But in a world where you are not making money at any of those things – is that market serving you or is it costing you? I just caution that it is short term thinking and not long term thinking. It is a risk. Is Mini Factory or one of these guys that you might want to be in exclusive on, going to still be around tomorrow?
There is a risk in that as you have put your eggs on one basket, but it is also a way for you to focus and work on the stuff that you do, such as making quality 3D printables. At the end of the day if it is your content generation that is being hurt by the fact that you would like to maintain your files in all of these different sites that you have to send all your promotions. You are consistently sending a tweet here and a Pinterest there, and you have to put a different link to all these different shouts in there; you are actually diminishing the power of the directionality of that audience. If they are interested in your work, they will go where your work is. You can still do the social media and you can still do all that, but you are driving them to one link. It is less work for you.
The Reality of Quality 3D Printables
I am thinking about what happened to the last couple of months with the realities of what happened to Pinshape who was on the brink of going out of business until Form Labs bought them. I am not talking about their current model because I don’t know what is going on but thinking of what Pinhape did in trying to build a community and getting people on there while not building a revenue model which allows designers to sell their quality 3D printables designs which they did, they were definitely the vast minority of the site. People were allowed to sell their designs there. I don’t think any of those designers really made much money at all to make it worth their while. What I like about this mini model of My Factory is that not only is it different outside of the box, that speaks highly of My Mini Factory as a company and being innovative while finding to make things work, but I think about that as a startup designer.
If you are a new designer coming to that site, you actually get to draft off on some of the success of the other designers on that site who are proven to have quality 3D printables. Obviously they are not taking everybody with them right now as they are being selective. But if you are a really talented designer and you have a good portfolio of designs that you presented to them, I think there is a good chance that you would be accepted to this exclusive program. I don’t think if you can design other things when you are on the site or is everything that you design has to be on the site – I am not sure. Let’s say that you are willing to do that and be exclusive, if somebody goes to that site to search on the jewelry design that he is telling us about, they cannot just stop there. They may go wonder and search on some of the other collections.
There may be an inherent benefit to this community. I think that it is very beneficial to each of the designers as they are helping each other. I really like how the company is in it with the designers.
What the Customers Like
Some of the reasons why so many people like Pinshape is because their interface is really nice and the way the pictures are presented are really nice. I think My Mini Factory does a really good job at that too. As you are going to go in, this is going to be your store front representation of you so it needs a quality level that they have here. As much as you wanted to be associated with hundreds of thousands of designs, but for me, I hold the quality of the shopping experience for quality 3D printables to be high as well. They have done a fairly good job there and I think that that is a consideration when you want to present your work as quality; you need to have quality presentation of that as well.
I feel like 3D print designers are being taken advantage of in the 3D printing industry as we have saw this happen way back when in app developments and other things, where they were taken advantage of these larger printer manufacturers. As soon as it is popular, they link it out and put it in-house. They build the OS and put it out of business. Those printer manufacturers do not have the design skills that these designers have out there. That is in itself a great differentiator in the model of how this has worked before. But if they are trading on your capabilities, on your content and they are doing that but are not paying you, then there is a problem.
Why should we accept 1/5th? When you are providing the value in whatever it is that you are doing, you need to demand that. It has to be proportional. Everybody has to sink or swim together if this is going to work. I am impressed that they thought that through. It has a lot to work out as it only has 30 days in at this point.
- My Mini Factory
- Cel Robox
- Is Anyone Actually Selling 3D Print Designs?
- Pinshape Proclaims it’s Demise
- Formlabs Acquired Pinshape
I’m Rees – Chief Marketing Officer at MyMiniFactory. I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. After completing a degree in psychology and philosophy I moved to London around 4 years ago. I had always been fascinated by 3D printing and technology in general. After working numerous jobs in London I eventually ended up at MyMiniFactory in early 2014 and have been there ever since! I love being able to work with this technology on a daily basis and cannot wait to see how it facilitates the development and growth of humanity going forwards!
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