When the 3D printing platform was announcing its pending closure, total turnaround: the manufacturer of 3D printers Formlabs acquires it. Following Thingiverse of Makerbot, here is Pinshape of Formlabs.
March 29, breaking news: The Canadian platform for the exchange of 3D print files, Pinshape, is going to close down. “Unfortunately, we could not build a sustainable business to continue operations,” explains the team in a blog post (that has since disappeared). The news is sudden, the deadline very short: the closure is expected two days later, on March 31. A potential buyer has just let them down. “We don’t have any other choice.”
The period of mourning will be short-lived. On April 1, new announcement from the Pinshape team: finally, they will remain open. One month later, in a release, Pinshape announces the takeover by Formlabs, manufacturer of 3D printers founded by three former MIT students. How much? Contacted by phone, Lucas Matheson, co-founder president of Pinshape, remains discreet: “We will not reveal the terms of the agreement”. As for the potential buyer that deserted at the last moment, “no comment”.
Although “no significant change” is predicted in a near future for Pinshape users, the operations, based in Vancouver, will progressively be transferred to Boston, at the Formlabs headquarters. Concerning the fate of the seven Pinshape employees “we haven’t formalized the details,” announces Lucas Matheson.
For Formlabs, that is following in the footsteps of Makerbot and its Thingiverse platform, it is a good catch. Called “the Itunes of 3D”, Pinshape, founded in 2013, allows designers to share or sell their print files. On its blog, the Pinshape team also gives out advice on learning about 3D printing: “How to print without a support” or “the most common printing errors and how to repair them”. The community counts 90,000 users in more than 150 countries, details Lucas Matheson, including thousands of designers. Approximately 150,000 print files have been shared, most often in open source, and Pinshape records 1,500 downloads/uploads per day.
Ebay and Amazon are getting ready
Even if some users are worried about Formlabs taking over the platform, most of them are delighted with the rescue. Lucas Matheson says he is “very enthusiast about Pinshape joining the Formlabs family.” “At present, in terms of autonomous business, it seems difficult for a sales platform to function in an autonomous manner, he explains. We have always known that Pinshape would be better off incorporated within a larger organization that can offer longer-term support.”
Especially since the boom in desktop 3D printers has not occurred yet. An “unexpected market contraction,” admits Lucas Matheson, even though he remains optimistic on the “opportunities on the professional and prosumer market.”
Despite an ecosystem under construction, the 3DP platform market promises to be flourishing. “The role of platform supplier is the most strategic objective to aim for, and this role is still largely to be taken,” analyzed the Harvard Business Review. It is no coincidence that large companies are placing themselves: Ebay has patented a 3D printing marketplace and Amazon has preempted the domain name amazon3dprinting.com (that links for the time being to amazon.com). “The value of a 3DP market platform is obvious in the long-term, but for many, the path to monetization is not that clear,” admits Matheson.