There’s no question that a desktop 3D printer is at its most useful when it’s producing parts of your own design. After all, if you’ve got a machine that can produce physical objects to your exacting specifications, why not give it some? But even the most diligent CAD maven will occasionally defer to an existing design, as there’s no sense spending the time and effort creating their own model if a perfectly serviceable one is already available under an open source license.
But there’s a problem: finding these open source models is often more difficult than it should be. The fact of the matter is, the ecosystem for sharing 3D printable models is in a very sorry state. Thingiverse, the community’s de facto model repository, is antiquated and plagued with technical issues. Competitors such as Pinshape and YouMagine are certainly improvements on a technical level, but without the sheer number of models and designers that Thingiverse has, they’ve been unable to earn much mindshare. When people are looking to download 3D models, it stands to reason that the site with the most models will be the most popular.
It’s a situation that the community is going to have to address eventually. As it stands, it’s something of a minor miracle that Thingiverse still exists. Owned and operated by Makerbot, the company that once defined the desktop 3D printer but is today all but completely unknown in a market dominated by low-cost printers from the likes of Monoprice and Creality, it seems only a matter of time before the site finally goes dark. They say it’s unwise to put all of your eggs in one basket, and doubly so if the basket happens to be on fire.
So what will it take to get people to consider alternatives to Thingiverse before it’s too late? Obviously, snazzy modern web design isn’t enough to do it. Not if the underlying service operates on the same formula. To really make a dent in this space, you need a killer feature. Something that measurably improves the user experience of finding the 3D model you need in a sea of hundreds of thousands. You need to solve the search problem.
Continue reading “3D Printering: The Search For Better Search”
We would imagine these experiments were spawned by a devastatingly boring day at the office. [Sparr] found himself the proud owner of one thousand rare-earth magnets and decided to see what geometric shapes he could build with the spheres. These are gold-plated N35 Neodymium magnets that measure just 6mm across. He discovered that every structure is built from rings of magnets with shapes dependent upon what sequence of increasing or decreasing members are used. What he’s done is visually pleasing but we’d like to try it ourselves to see how resilient each structure ends up being.
[Sparr’s] post is from the Freeside Atlanta blog, a hacker space collective. [Curbob], a regular with the group, tipped us off that a few hacker conventions are coming up in their area and they’re looking for speakers for one-hour talks about projects. If you’re near Raleigh or Atlanta this is your chance to show off that ridiculously complicated project you’ve been risking your marriage to complete.