Thangs.com and Printables.com, two popular file sharing sites for 3D printing, announced the launch of paid membership programs to give financial support to designers. Though both announcements were made on Twitter within an hour of each other, Thangs.com beat Prusa Research to the punch with a membership program in place and over a dozen designers already signed up.
Printables is still working out the kinks and will launch its program in June. It announced the program to get last minute feedback from the entire community – including what name the membership service should receive.
The two companies appear to have reached the same conclusion independently. One: designers deserve the opportunity to earn a living doing what they love. Two: Patreon is terrible for 3D printers. Patreon is the leading service for creators who wish to be paid directly by fans. It offers clients a way to collect money and post written content or video, but does not offer file hosting. 3D artists who use Patreon are forced to use a 3rd party service like Dropbox to deliver files of their models.
Ondřej Stříteský, a project manager at Prusa Research, said in a blog post “It was mentioned by one of the artists on our call, that it sometimes takes them more time to publish their model and manage all of this than to actually model it.
Both services will allow designers to offer several paid tiers, subscription only models and a range of exclusive member only perks. Designers can pick and choose exactly what they want to offer on either site. They can also continue to offer free models.
Dennis DeMeyere, Thangs co-founder and Chief Technology and Product Officer, said in an interview that his company’s service can also provide protection from intellectual property theft. He explained that Thangs 3D search algorithm can monitor the web and alert designers if their models are being re-uploaded to other platforms. “That 3D algorithm is our core patent and it is hard to trick (though nothing is perfect). That’s where our search capabilities really help designers.”
Both companies agree that discoverability is a major hurdle for 3D designers who may need to post constantly to social media to get their art in front of fans. Printables and Thangs plan to make that conversion easy, as supporters are already on the sites looking for great stl files to print.
Thangs approach to discoverability is more straightforward, with both free and subscription models mixing together in search. Users already have the option to filter out paid models, as Thangs casts a net across the entire web for available 3D models.
Printables is going in the other direction, and wants to keep their search free of files you can’t access. You will see paid files only if you’re already a subscriber – non-supporters will have to visit a designer's profile page in order to check out locked files.
Both companies have announced their administrative fees, with Thangs taking an 8% cut and Printables planning on 10%. These fees do not include transaction fees from payment services.
DeMeyere said the new Membership program is inline with Patreon’s fees and much cheaper for designers than most 3D marketplaces. It will also save designers time. “For example, they don't need to manually manage all their members every day, and then pay for the business plan of Dropbox or Google Drive. So they end up saving considerable cost, and honestly, if you interview a dozen designers on Patreon, they’ll tell you that the number one pain point is manually adding and removing members from their Dropbox or Google Drive every day. It was the only thing every single one complained about. With us, we have that Google Drive capability and it’s included for free and fully automated.”
Both Thangs and Printables will continue to run contests for site users. Thangs hosts a weekly points base contest where winners are selected based on the number of unique uploads, downloads, likes and followers they’ve gained during the week. 25 winners each week receive gift cards to Matterhackers or Jakes 3D, with values ranging from $100 to $30. Printables hosts themed contests both weekly and longer term with winners chosen by the Prusa team based on merit and popularity. Winners compete for Prusameters, printers and filament. Prusameters are part of Printables reward system where users can earn free filament and printers by posting to the site as both a designer and maker.
If you’re interested in joining Thangs.com membership program, visit the Membership page to join the waitlist. New designers are being onboarded every day. If you want to join the closed Beta program for Printables, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Printables early access” in the subject line and include a link to your portfolio. Prusa Research is looking for a few designers for testing the platform before its launch in late June.