thinkklip service helps people share 3D printers. But should you?

thinkkilp share 3D printers

A recent look at the “hottest places” 3D printers are being shared, from the thinkkilp site.

Crowdfunding has enabled so much innovation over the past few years through sites like Kickstarter, indiegogo, and crowdrise. Crowdsourcing has also developed more through the internet on sites like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, sourcing tasks to people willing to do them for a few bucks. In an odd twist of crowdfunding, there’s now a site called thinkklip proposing a model that lets people share 3D printers.

Why? I’ll just paste from the site:

  1. 3D printers aren’t cheap.
  2. Does it make sense to have a 3D printer and not use it 99% of the time?
  3. Technology evolves very quickly. Are you ready to buy a new 3D printer every year?
  4. It’s much more fun to do things in group and share what you do.
  5. To print something you can simply send a colleague your CAD file.
  6. Do you have children? You may not want to have a printer at home.
  7. You can receive support from people with experience in 3D printing.
  8. You can always resell your participation in the group, which is much easier to sell than a 3D printer.”

I’m going to address these individually:

  1. Yes they are. You can get a 3D printer for less than $500, and their prices have been predicted by professional financial analysts to fall dramatically over the next few years.
  2. No, it doesn’t, which is why we’ve covered the site makexyz three times now, since it enables 3D printer owners to profit off of their printers’ downtime.
  3. Yes, technology evolves quickly, meaning it becomes more affordable quickly too.
  4. Sure, I’ll give you that one. Join a FabLab. They even have 3D printers!
  5. I don’t even understand this one.
  6. Do you have children? You may want to have a 3D printer at home.
    Do you have children? You may not want to have a stove at home.
  7. Welcome to the internet.
  8. How do you know it’s easier? And who says it’s hard to resell a 3D printer?

I hope the site takes off, but honestly I have my doubts. I’m all for sharing, but this seems to add complexity where it’s not needed. People buy 3D printers because they have plans for them, usually lots of plans. Often profitable plans. If you own only 25% of a printer, do you want your profits limited by 75%? Where does the printer stay? What if someone ends up using it way more than the other co-owners?

If you plan to use a 3D printer only once a month, using a print service is probably more economic. And again, if you have any downtime on your 3D printer, there’s no reason not to list your printer on makexyz to make some money off of it.

I’ll leave you with this interesting statement from the thinkklip site: “We think it makes no sense to make parallels between the ways we use technologies like the personal computer or traditional printing with 3D printing.” I can’t agree with that statement.

But seriously, I hope they prove me wrong, and help get printers into the hands of more and more people.

  • Stephen Rea

    I plan to open a “Virtual Store” which carries no inventory but makes everything on-site using 3-D printers. The Virtual Store will have space in the front window of The Museum Center (next to Museum of Discovery) on President Clinton Avenue in the Riverwalk district of Little Rock, AR. People walking by will get to view the 3-D printers at work through the window. They can also come in to place an order – and may be able to go to lunch and pick up their order afterwards. The can order from a list of .stl files, or, have their object scanned to make a duplicate of, or, contract with one of the local university students to make a 3-D drawing of their part for use at the Virtual Store.