Online 3D printing service 3D Hubs is at the center of a controversy on Reddit, accused of diverting customers away from local printing hubs.
Pitchforks at the ready? Over the past 24 hours the online printing service 3D Hubs has been besieged by an angry mob on Reddit. The accusation is that a key plank of the startup’s business model has been removed by stealth.
The controversy began on Wednesday afternoon this week, when redditor 45sbvad posted a discussion to the /r/3Dprinting community with the headline 3DHubs is Dead. At time of writing, the post has 1213 upvotes and 309 comments.
“3DHubs has shut down the ‘Hub’ portion of their business model and has become a clone of Shapeways/MakeXYZ,” the post says.
“Customers upload a model and are automatically routed to a printer. Regardless of the longevity, quality, reviews, or services your Hub offers; most orders are sent to a single printer in North Dakota.”
There’s a good reason this statement is controversial. 3D Hubs is designed to put local makers in touch with local customers. If this principle is no longer being applied — and customers are being routed to a single service provider — then having “hub” in the company name is misleading.
“Although they might have the legal right to rip the carpet out from under us; I consider this a despicable and immoral business practice.”
45sbvad goes on to claim that 3D Hubs made all these changes without informing the Hub operators. He runs a Hub of his own, called Telemetry3D.
“My business used to receive about 10% of our revenue from 3DHubs; over the past year it has decreased to 4%; and since this recent change less than 1%,” he says. “Although they might have the legal right to rip the carpet out from under us; I consider this a despicable and immoral business practice.”
Things took a dramatic turn when 45sbvad posted an update to the same thread. His account and comments have since been deleted from the 3D Hubs platform. He speculates that this is in retaliation for his negative comments on Reddit.
On the surface, this episode looks like 3D Hubs is having a “MakerBot moment”, the point where a 3D printing community turns on a company they supported because of behavior that’s considered a betrayal of their original principles.
Digging a bit deeper, however, the outrage on Reddit does not seem justified. Why? There are several reasons.
Firstly, because 3D Hubs is not shutting down their Hubs. They’re running an experimental feature for automatic hub selection, which is fully optional, based on a user’s location and material preferences. These features have been fully communicated on their changelog, the most recent of which was 13 days ago.
According to this source: “The main goal for this experiment is still to provide a new checkout experience for customers that might have previously been overwhelmed with the number of different materials and Hubs they could choose from.”
“I want to emphasize that all actions are taken to drive more prints to the platform and benefit the community as a whole.”
So the second point is that the implementation of this feature has been carefully considered, based on user feedback over the course of several weeks. It has not been rolled out by stealth.
Thirdly, 3D Hubs say they deleted 45sbvad’s account because he repeatedly attempted to move users from 3D Hubs to competitive services. They are adamant that he wasn’t deleted because of the negative criticism on Reddit or elsewhere.
All of this has been stated by Brian Garret, co-founder of 3D Hubs, on the same /r/3Dprinting thread. But the nature of downvoting on Reddit means that, unfortunately, his rebuttal is not getting a fair hearing.
“I want to emphasize that all actions are taken to drive more prints to the platform and benefit the community as a whole,” says Garret.
If any business, company or individual involved in the 3D printing industry is behaving inappropriately, ALL3DP would be among the first to man the barricades. But in this particular incident, 3D Hubs is being unfairly subjected to a Reddit storm in a 3D printed teacup.
We’ve reached out to 3D Hubs for comment. More updates on this story when we have them.
License: The text of "3D Hubs Under Attack by Angry Mob on Reddit" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.