Category Archives: Editorial

Why to Get Your Dad a 3D Printer for Father’s Day: The New Tool Belt

3D Printing a Stroller Part

Dad’s love to fix things. Many a dad has a wood shop or tool shed, and increasingly digital creation software as well.

Although Dad can easily use a hammer and nails to repair part of the house, it is nearly impossible to fix something “Made in China”, that was, before 3D printing.

Here is a story from Duann Scott at Shapeways about fixing his child’s stroller when a plastic piece broke.

Being a father is one of life’s greatest adventures, simultaneously rewarding and incredibly challenging. Some of the most rewarding moments are those when you get to overcome those challenges in a creative way.  I have had the pleasure of using 3D printing to solve some of the challenges fatherhood raises and to help my children understand they can make whatever they want, now.

My crowning victory in domestic innovation and DIY mastery came when I repaired my broken stroller for under $25, saving money and opening my wife’s eyes (and many other geek dads) to the potential of 3D printing. It was incredibly empowering after being abandoned by a manufacturer because a product was out of warranty that I could crack it open and fix it, like a modern day handy man, using LASERS….

Morale of the story

This Father’s Day, give Dad the newest tool in home improvement: a 3D printer.

Or, maybe a gift card to Shapeways?


Via Shapeways blog.

Analyzing Funding Goals of 3D Printing Kickstarter Projects [Data]

3D Printing Kickstarter Projects

Why do some Kickstarter projects achieve their funding goals while others are unsuccessful?

The New York Times recently published an analysis of three years of Kickstarter projects.

Almost 50,000 projects have sought financing on Kickstarter since the site began on April 28, 2009. About half successfully reached their fund-raising goals.

We decided to run our own analysis of 3D printing Kickstarter projects. Here is what we found:

  • Of the 13 projects since October 2009, only 6 have successfully reached their funding goals, or 46%
  • The average funding goal of a successful project is $3,842 and the average funds raised is $11,039, or 287%
  • The average funding goal of an unsuccessful project is $16,874 and the average funds raised is $1,105, or 7%
  • The average number of backers for a successful project is 55 with each backer pledging $164
  • The average number of backers for an unsuccessful project is 21 with each backer pledging only $38
  • There was no geographic concentration of successful projects

Based on this analysis, we are seeing that unsuccessful projects are asking for too much money and also not finding enough individual backers to support their idea. Sometimes this is due to the production quality of the pitch, but overall it seems that crowdfunding backers are not ready to embrace 3D printing projects.

For example, PotteryPrint was an iPad app concept to teach kids about 3D printing. They raised $6,000 of their $12,000 funding goal. Another example on IndieGoGo is Anarkik3D, which has only raised $3,050 of its $120,000 funding goal with 55 days to go. Both of these projects have good ideas and great production quality, but have set targets above the average successful funding level of $3,842.

Below are some charts of our analysis and the raw data.

3D Printing Kickstarter Projects Funding Raised vs Goal

3D Printing Kickstarter Projects Funding by Location

3D Printing Kickstarter Projects Funding by Location



Kickstarter bookshelf photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid used under a Creative Commons license.

Why Google Sold SketchUp and What It Means for 3D Printing

Google Sketchup at Maker Faire

Google acquired upstart SketchUp in 2006, made the product free, and drove tens of millions of users. Now Google is selling the SketchUp product and staff to Trimble, a company best known for GPS technology.

On the SketchUp blog, John Bacus, Product Manager, SketchUp wrote:

In its time at Google, SketchUp has become one of the most popular 3D modeling tools in the world. With over 30 million SketchUp activations in just the last year, we’re awfully proud of our accomplishments. But there’s still so much we want to do, and we think we’ve found a way forward that will benefit everyone—our product, our team and especially our millions of users.

That’s why I’m sharing today that the SketchUp team and technology will be leaving Google to join Trimble. We’ll be better able to focus on our core communities: modelers who have been with us from the beginning, as well as future SketchUppers who have yet to discover our products.

Why Did Google Sell SketchUp?

The simple answer is focus. As founder and new CEO Larry Page wrote in his 2012 update to investors, ”Since becoming CEO again, I’ve pushed hard to increase our velocity, improve our execution, and focus on the big bets that will make a difference in the world.”

SketchUp apparently is not included in Google’s big bets.

Good Move by Trimble

Google made the investment to turn SketchUp into a popular software platform. Trimble can capitalize on that brand. Trimble announced in a press release that SketchUp would “enhance its office-to-field platform”.

Trimble will also continue to partner with Google on running and the SketchUp 3D warehouse, an online repository where users find and collaborate on 3D models. And Trimble will keep offering a free version of SketchUp.

“SketchUp and the corresponding 3D Warehouse provide an important element of our long term strategy by enhancing the integration of our field presence with the wider enterprise,” said Bryn Fosburgh, Trimble vice president.

Did Google Make a Mistake?

Google’s move is surprising to those who believe 3D printing is at an inflection point and will be a disruptive force on our global supply chain by empowering a new generation of product creators.

We reviewed Autodesk 123D, Sketchup and Tinkercad and later featured Anarkik3D, a crowdfunding hopeful. Although SketchUp was not necessarily the best design software for 3D printing, it was one of the most popular free 3D design software packages on the planet and inspired many people to get into design. Google has now lost that audience.

We have previously suggested that giants like Amazon would get into the 3D printing field. It would surprise us if Google stayed out of the industry altogether.

Perhaps SketchUp was too technical of a product for the mainstream. Should we prepare for a new 3D modeling software from Google? A web-based 123D of their own? Or perhaps a different play.

Impact on 3D Printing?

Not much today, as summarized by Fabbaloo:

Is this a big change for 3D print operators? We think not so much, because SketchUp just isn’t the best tool for modeling solid objects. It doesn’t even output the STL format used by all 3D printers unless you install a special plug in.

But the long term impact depends on whether Google re-enters the 3D printing field with a new product.


Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid, used under Creative Commons license.

Analyzing the Market Size of 3D Printing Creators and Consumers

Globalization Impact on 3D Printing

Robert Schouwenburg, CTO and Co-Founder of Shapeways, wrote an interesting blog post connecting venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s 100-10-1 rule of social services with the 3D printing and personal fabrication industry.

Fred Wilson – VC Union Square Ventures – often recites his rule of thumb of social internet services. It is the 100-10-1 rule. He sees with social internet services that on average 100% of users consume, 10% of users interact and 1% of users actually create.

When you apply the 100-10-1 rule of thumb, the opportunities for scaling such a service become immediately clear. As far as I know there are no exact figures available on how many 3D modelers / product designers there are in the world. But let’s assume there are 5 million of them. That would turn social fabrication into a 500M users opportunity. That is Facebook and Google territory. Just imagine 50M users interacting on personal fabrication and the effects it can have on product design and how we design products. This is a very significant opportunity. Of course, the big caveat is that not all 3D modelers / product designers are interested in social fabrication. Maybe only 10% or less. That still leaves a 50M opportunity.

Great analysis, but we believe the 100-10-1 rule will be broken for 3D printing and personal fabrication.

Let’s define the steps as 100% browse 3D printed goods, 10% buy 3D printed goods, and 1% make 3D printed goods.

First, the 10% will likely increase to 50% or 75% as the industry grows and buying a 3D printed good is as seamless as buying a SKU at or Walmart retail. This would be further aided if Amazon, for example, gets into the business of selling 3D printed goods.

Second, the 1% will likely increase to 10% with a combination of globalization and design software becoming easier

Globalization: 3D design of consumable goods will become a mainstream profession for people in developing countries, especially India and China, if there is an efficient marketplace for them to sell their designs.

Software enablement: How many people use Photoshop? Only professionals and hobbyists. But how many people use MS Paint? I would wager a decent size of the population who have computers have dabbled in MS Paint. If 3d design software is made to be as easy as MS Paint to create real, valuable 3d printed objects, the creation will increase. We are already seeing steps in that direction with Autodesk 123D and other tools.

The implication is that not only are there more designers and more purchasers, but a greater volume of 3d printed goods purchased, making the overall size of this industry quickly a multi-billion opportunity in the next five years.


Photo credit to anjan58 via Creative Commons.

Will 3D Printing Disrupt the Lucrative Toy Industry?

LEGO Star Wars kits are currently selling on for hundreds of dollars. Even small components come with a hefty price, such as a V-wing Starfighter that measures 9″ when full assembled and costs $20.

Enter 3D printing and open-source design package LeoCAD. If kids could design their own LEGO-style building kits and print them out on their home 3D printer, why wouldn’t they? Hey, even LEGO is training kids how to design online with the LEGO Digital Designer.

With the price of toys so marked up, it’s within reason to think that kids will turn to generics or pirated designs to fill out their toy chest after parents tap out the budget at retail.

Look back at the music industry. The only way to buy music in the late 90s was to purchase the full album at retail. Then Napster and other P2P sharing software came along and allowed consumers to download individual mp3 songs, albeit pirated. When iTunes launched with individual song pricing and a more reliable service than the P2P networks, consumers flocked to the legal alternative. The retail music industry died but the digital music industry was born.

Perhaps in the next 5 years we’ll see the retail toy industry collapse and be replaced by a digital successor. The question is whether we will see a digital toy black market in the interim. In our view, that will be up to the toymakers and their willingness to disrupt their current model.

Some references are from MIT Technology Review.