Thingiverse charted – ‘things’ and commons hegemony
3D Printing is still a hot topic. More 3D printers are being developed which can be seen for example in the amount of Kickstarter 3D printer projects. Having an opportunity to use 3D printer is not enough though. Digital 3D models are needed too and sharing the models is said to be common among the community members. For long time Thingiverse has been the de facto service to store digital 3D models for others to use.
Inspired by the discussions about the future of Thingiverse and other activities around the topic, I decided to do some analysis on ‘things’ in Thingiverse.com. Is it really about sharing? What kind of licenses are used?
3D Printing survey 2013 results available!
This is the second in a series of longitudinal surveys on the 3D printing community. The results of the first survey in 2012 can be found on this site and in a First Monday article. Since the previous survey, several interesting developments have taken place in the 3D printing environment, including but not limited to:
- Emerging 4D printing (http://www.webpronews.com/heres-everything-you-need-to-know-about-4d-printing-2013-05)
- Networked 3D printing – 3D hubs (http://www.3dhubs.com/)
- Lots of Kickstarter projects for new 3D printers (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/search?term=3d+printer)
- 3D printable gun (http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33809_7-57560076/makerbot-purges-3d-printable-gun-parts-from-thingiverse/)
- Initiatives for easier scanning and clean-up (http://www.popsci.com/gadgets/article/2013-08/finally-easy-way-3-d-scan-and-print)
3D printing technology is advancing, and at the same time there are important developments in terms of making both the software and the hardware easier to use. The visibility of 3D printing in media has been high throughout the year. Looking forward, these trends can be expected to continue. One expected game changer is the expiration of 3D related patents 2014.
In view of the previous results, we find that the most interesting trends in the 2013 survey are:
- increase in the number of different models of 3D printers used
- increase in the number of different 3D printing services used
- growing economical interests: 3D Printer manufacturing market polarization, new manufacturer startups and kickstarter driven 3D printers
- possible signs of maturing ecosystem and that 3D printing might be on the verge of spreading outside geek communities dispite the lacks in hardware and software.
Emerging Commons Design Economy
3D Printing is hyped subject. It is however a part of bigger economical transformation that has began lately. In this article I describe Commons Design Economy, which is one side of the bigger picture. Data used in this research is mostly statistical and thus this research uses statistical methodology. Data from surrounding world, namely open design related world, was gathered during October 2012. Data for this article has been collected with two methods. Firstly, author has been in personal contact with companies such as Ponoko, Shapeways, i.Materialise, 3DTin and TinkerCAD. Some of the statistical materials are from those connections. The other statistical material is collected with web scraping, which is a computer software technique of extracting information from websites. In addition, some previously collected statistics was also used in this research.
Peer production communities survey 2012 results
Hackerspaces, makerspaces, DIYbio communities and fablabs targeted survey was conducted this summer once again! This survey was the third year in a row. Results are more about ‘Peer Production community core persons’ than about general community. This was not intended, but turned out to be so.
The first ever live survey conducted under the auspices of Peer to Peer Foundation is directed to 3D Printing community. The survey was open from May 1st to May 15th 2012. The survey starts longitudinal research project and continues with annual surveys. The survey contained 20 questions and was directed both the 3D printing service users (end users) and developers.
The 3D manufacturing ecosystem is still immature in nature, as can be seen from the survey in several ways. Firstly, some of the participants see lack of organisation (especially in RepRap) as a bottleneck. Lack of organisation is not just lack of bureaucracy. It causes several other unwanted results such as lack of proper documentation, lack of quality control and lack of test plans. In other words some social co-operation model could solve some of the issues and thereby increase the maturity of the ecosystem. Secondly, 3D manufacturing processes are still too complicated (require too many pieces of at least somewhat separate software). Thirdly, usability and reliability are poor. This is visible in open source CAD/CAM software, which are lagging behind in features and usability compared to commercial ones and in the printers themselves, which should be more easily assembled, used and more reliable.
Keep in mind that all survey data from every survey will be open sourced eg made available for all to use. This enables you to do your own analysis.