Balderton Capital has invested in the seed round of 3D Hubs, an Amsterdam-based startup which currently boasts the largest network for 3D Printers. Leveraging the roughly 95 percent down time that 3D Printers have in people’s homes and offices, 3D Hubs wants to leverage the fast-growing communities of 3D Printer-owners and 3D makers by creating a local-focused city-by-city network.
In order for any given city to get unlocked, European cities need to have at least 10 3D Printers (20 for non-European cities), and once the community is unlocked, 3D Printers set the prices (with the help of 3D Hubs, I hope) that they want to charge to their community.
“3D printers are becoming more commonplace as pricing drops and quality improves, empowering a new generation of makers and entrepreneurs.” – -Bram de Zwart, CEO and co-founder of 3D Hubs
According to a recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute, “3D printing could generate economic impact of $230 billion to $550 billion per year by 2025, and the largest source of potential impact among sized applications would be from consumer uses, followed by direct manufacturing and the use of 3D printing to create tools and molds.”
Local 3D Printing players like Sculpteo and 3D Modelling players like Sketchfab are growing quickly, and large companies are catching on to the rising 3D Printing market. Stratasys recently purchased Makerbot for $430 Million, an acquisition which will allow the quite popular Makerbot to start making use of the 3D Printer patents owned by Stratasys that have inhibited Makerbot’s development up until now. In addition, 3D Systems’ multiple acquisitions of French companies in the 3D Printing & logistics space have suggested a large potential for French/European failing industrial sectors to convert over to a high-growth sector like 3D Printing.
Balderton Capital seems quite thrilled with their seed investment in 3D Hubs. I wouldn’t count on them investing in your 3D Printing company, or even venturing into the hardware market – 3D Hubs remains a software-based network for 3D Printing – but this secondary connection to the 3D Printing market may open up the budding technology to mass market.
Having sat down with Sculpteo founder Clement Moreau last week at their Issy Les Moulineaux office outisde of Paris, he made it pretty clear that 3D Printing’s overhead costs were too high to replace the Ikea-level manufacturing, despite the fact that 3D Printing has begun venturing out of the world of plastic and into the world of ceramic and wax, allowing them to create wax molds for metals like silver and gold. Still, if you’e looking for a personalized laptop case with an embedded mold photo of your family, a 3D file combined with your local 3D Printer may be the least-expensive option for the time being.