VC firm backs startup to connect designers with 3D printers


by Joe Curtis| 28 August 2013

Balderton Capital has made a seed-stage investment in 3D Hubs, which aims to connect creatives to printers in their own city.

VC firm Balderton Capital has decided to invest in a startup hoping to create a network of available 3D printers throughout the world's major cities.

3D Hubs, based in Amsterdam, hopes to use the money to build a global network of 3D printers which can be used by those without a device to print out designs.

The Netherlands firm claims printers are inactive 95% of the time and hopes to map out the availability of such devices around major cities.

The demand for the machines is growing rapidly, according to a recent McKinsey report, which said 23,000 printers were sold in 2011, up 300% on 2007.

Now more devices are available - with high street chain Maplin offering a device for £700 while MakerBot is selling a digital scanner which maps objects in order to create a 3D print design of them.

McKinsey claims the industry could have an economic impact of $230bn - $550bn by 2025, with even a rocket engine being built using the method.

3D Hubs works by allowing someone to upload a design, choose a location to print it off and then collect it from the printer.

A website release says: "With 3D printing, the factories of the future could become community-run micro-operations. Products could be made on-demand and closer to their point of purchase, with individuals and companies alike driving their design and innovation.

"Making and distributing stuff would not only be cheaper and better for the environment, but great for local economies as well."

It registers a European city as 'unlocked' when 10 printers are listed, while cities outside Europe are considered unlocked when 20 printers are listed.

3D Hubs claims printed items would be ready in two days for collection.

Unlocked cities currently include London, Amsterdam, Antwerp, Brussels and Copenhagen, with Berlin, New York and Melbourne among those listed as coming soon.

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