3D Hubs Moves to NYC
The 3D printing global market is expected to grow 500% in the next five years.
This year, the sector is forecast to generate $3.8 billion globally. And while we won’t all be printing mugs from home factories tomorrow, Bram de Zwart does believe that 3D printing hubs around the world will be able to bring manufacturing to everyone's neighborhood. In fact, the 3D-printing-lab-next-door is already becoming a reality thanks in part to his startup, 3D Hubs.
3D Hubs provides an online platform that connects all local 3D printers across the world. It’s a convenient option for tinkerers, inventors, and businesses looking to find and order products from 3D printers, without needing to own one themselves.
Bram and his co-founder Brian Garrett (pictured, above) started 3D Hubs out of their frustration with the current state of manufacturing. These days, a product is made in China, stored in a warehouse, and ultimately takes months to be shipped across multiple oceans. Fuel and transaction costs are tremendous, and because of mass production, waste is endemic.
3D printing allows people to take designs from anywhere in the world and produce them on-demand and to-order, right from where they are. So, they set out to create a network of local mentors who share information on the 3D Printing process in their local areas.
Need to produce a specific item in a specific quantity at a specific time? Simply choose your area, upload a model, and ask for a quote. Your neighborhood 3D printer owner then prints the object out and delivers it to your door via mail or foot.
At this point, there are over 8,500 3D printing locations in the 3D Hubs network, connecting one billion people to a 3D printer within ten miles of their home. This makes it the world’s largest and fastest-growing 3D printing network. Note: find the closest 3D printing location to you by clicking on the interactive map at right.
Last month, 3D Hubs raised $4.5 million in Series A funding to advance this mission and to bring local 3D printing systems to the world. They also opened a New York office at the New Lab Space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which hosts 10-15 new manufacturing firms.
As an Amsterdam-based delegate in NYCEDC’s Spring 2014 World to NYC program, 3D Hubs was able to dip its toe in the waters of the NYC tech ecosystem before deciding to open an office in New York City.
“We were interested in NYC before we came but we got more excited about NYC after going through the program,” said Bram. “It helped us to build our network here and to better understand the operational aspects of opening a company.”
Bram says that the 3D printing community in NYC is the largest in the world, with over 138 printing locations in the five boroughs.
“Silicon Valley may be the software capital of the world, but New York City is the hardware capital of the world.”
"And within a few years, 3D printing will do for hardware what cloud computing did for software,” said Bram. “There’s a huge market for consumer brands, so we want to make them aware of 3D printing. We’re working with AutoDesk and FairPhone to show them how 3D printing can be a profound new way to engage with customers."
As more hobbyists, inventors, and businesses turn to 3D printing to make their ideas a reality, there’s no question that the growth of 3D printing has increased the demand for services like those provided by 3D Hubs.
The creative force of the maker movement has already transformed a once obscure manufacturing process into a technology with the ability to produce real, innovative, functional products. Perhaps 3D Hubs will grow into the truly global platform it aspires to be.