3D Systems has taken what might be its most aggressive step yet in creating a personal 3D printer and content creation market with its unveiling of Cubify.com, an online community and content creation site, and the Cube personal 3D printer for the home.
3D Systems has been fleshing out its lower-end 3D printing strategy pretty aggressively over the last year. It has acquired Bits from Bytes, a provider of low-end 3D printer kits for hobbyists and engineering enthusiasts, and Alibre, a maker of low-end CAD software.
With its latest moves, 3D Systems is aiming to kick things up a notch -- or bring 3D printing down a level to appeal to the masses, however you want to look at it. The company says Cubify.com combines "coloring book simplicity with a cloud-based gaming format."
Rajeev Kulkarni, vice president and general manager of the company's new Consumer Solutions Group, told us that the site brings 3D content creation into everyone's living room. "We're trying to help anyone not well versed with 3D creation to get their ideas into reality and simplify the entire content-to-print process."
Cubify.com offers an expanding palette of 3D apps and rich libraries of 3D printable games, puzzles, and collections. 3D Systems is making the APIs available to encourage partners, developers, and engineers who want to "unleash their creativity and who want to monetize their skills" to develop apps and content to be marketed and sold at the site. The company says its developer community will eventually number in the thousands.
The difficulty of creating content has been one of the primary inhibitors of mainstream consumer adoption of the emerging crop of less expensive 3D printers. "In the past, if you wanted to design a 3D model, you had to start with a CAD package, so you needed some expertise to create the models," Kulkarni said. "With a platform like this, other developers can create small apps that are focused on simple steps, so users can make a few choices, do some poking and stretching, and customize the model."
The Cube is 3D Systems' first plug-and-play (not a kit) personal 3D printer for the home. The $1,299 unit, which creates objects within a five-inch cube, is simple to use and comes with an easy-to-load cartridge capable of printing 12 average size parts.
Other 3D printing companies that have typically catered to engineers are now trying to get the mainstream consumer segment on board. As we reported, Autodesk released its Autodesk 123D Catch and Make family late last year in attempt to foster what it is calling "personal manufacturing."