3D hubs mandating how a hub delivers a print

iI'd like to get some thoughts from hub owners about all the recent mandates coming down from 3Dhubs on how we deliver our Products.  The recent SLA mandating that you remove support and sand nurbs was an up charge that was used to successfully meet the pricing 

demands of my customers based on their needs.  Now I will be forced to add that to all outgoing prints without an option to offer my customers that would save them money on a print.  

 

I for for one am pretty fed up with his type of top down dictation and am seriously considering exiting this service.  

 

What are are your thoughts?

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Hi @CollectorCNC, @Zapaer & @Telemetry,

 

As a member of the 3D Hubs support team for nearly 3 years now I've seen a lot of SLA orders come by. A big issue with these orders was the fact that customers often did not receive the order as they expected it. The SLA quality guidelines are there to align the services of all SLA Hubs in order to have a fair price competition. 

 

Just as in the FDM Quality Guidelines, the guidelines can be overruled if both customer and Hub agree on different terms. For example, if a customer would like to remove supports themselves, by all means. 

 

@CollectorCNC, please understand our position. We're always trying to find the middle ground between what is best for the customers and what is best for the Hubs. It is not our intend to dictate anything but for the network to be reliable and successful, we feel this guidelines can be very beneficial to both parties.

 

Best,

Robin - 3D Hubs

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@Robin3D,

 

Thanks for providing some insight.  I think everyone will agree that guidelines around dimensional precision for prints make sense.  Managing customer expectations is a much different animal and can, as I am sure 3D Hubs has found, be very difficult.  Please understand that my intention is not to bite the hand feeds me.  

 

3D Hubs initial promise to me as a hub operator was to deliver opportunity through an online marketplace that I could only dream of building which in turn would allow me to position my small business to grow.  My job was to present my business effectively enough to differentiate myself from the other hubs, and deliver on customer expectations to ensure good reviews and repeat business.

 

So far, I feel like we've both kept our agreement, but I hope what you read below gives the 3D Hubs team some insight into how this feels to smaller operators such as myself, and why I object to some but not all of the changes that are happening.

 

What I see:

The 3D Hubs marketing has been increasingly focused on prints created using astronomically expensive equipment such as the new HP Jet fusion printer, while at the same time moving away from the maker/decentralized manufacturing movements.  This comes across as 3D Hubs wanting to position itself as a more direct competitor to shapeways.  In order to make that shift, a change is business strategy is required.  

 

  • Average order price must go up in order to attract hubs that can swing the initial expense of the new tech required
  • Order volume must be shifted to hubs capable of obtaining big ticket tech so they will stick around
  • Hubs delivering prints using older technology (FDM and SLA) must be shed to enable the volume shift  

 

All of this combined, allows remaining larger hubs to continue delivering the lower cost alternatives such as FDM and SLA that 3D Hubs is currently known for, allowing the marketing team to focus on the newest, shiniest tech while pushing public perception more the direction of shapeways and away from older less costly printing methods.  The easiest way to accomplish this without just booting hubs, is by introducing added cost to the transaction through guidelines that force the base price of a print up, ie the guidelines around base levels of finishing which have no connection to actual print quality.  

 

Once the base price has been pushed up enough, orders for $10 to $25 will decrease enough to choke out the little hubs (while remaining higher cost transactions continue to funnel to larger hubs), not because the customers aren't there, but because there is no discussion with the operator.  Customers simply don't place the order.  If they don't place the order, the hub operator doesn't get the opportunity to discuss whether or not the price can be adjusted based on a change in the agreed deliverable.  The flip side is, if as a hub, I don't go in and adjust the automated pricing, I get to look like the jerk who's adding charges that are supposed to be built in according to the 3D Hubs website.  

 

From a customer perspective all of this remains unseen because all they see is the slick marketing and a list of deliverables from the hub that they are mentally checking off without ever first having a conversation.

 

3D Hubs provides a valuable service, and I don't see anything wrong with being in the business of making money, but I was sold on 3D Hubs because it fit with what I see as the soul of our species "making" a comeback against rampant and destructive mindless consumerism.  I see 3D Hubs moving away from that and hope I can sway your needle to think again about the initial idea, decentralizing, and expanding the network of providers, while helping providers get in touch with local customers in an online world where it is increasingly difficult to be seen without large scale, complex, and expensive web development.    

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Well said.

I think many of us, for some time now, have been saying that it is becoming obvious that 3dhubs is trying to drive out FDM and the "little"guy.

They are trying to up the cost on FDM as one method to push customers to the more expensive (read - more profit for them) services.

They continue adding pointless "features" while ignoring complaints and feedback from hubs about real issues.

If they really don't want FDM services and small operators then just do away with it but they need to quit talking out of both sides of their mouths.  3dhubs is not as clever as they think they are and we are not as stupid or naive as they seem to think we are.

It is blatantly obvious what is going on.

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Hi @CollectorCNC,

 

Thanks for the elaborate response, I have to disagree with you here. Yes, we are adding additional services to 3D Hubs as they are released to the world. That does not mean that we stop supporting FDM or SLA, these technologies are extremely well suited for a specific type of project where SLS and HP are there for others. Personally, my favorite type of printing is SLA on the Form 2 because SLS and HP don't allow me to show off all the details in my models as SLA or DLP can. (my desk at 3D Hubs in attachments)

 

In a previous response you said: "As I stated, I HAD the option to use support material removal as an optional upcharge." This is exactly what we are trying to avoid, customers want to pay the amount they see quoted on the 3D print page and they don't get surprised by additional costs after sending in the order. Some Hubs would charge support material and removal as an additional costs while others already counted for this in their base price. We're simply trying to level the playing field.

 

I hope my explanation makes sense.
 

Best,
Robin - 3D Hubs
 

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Maybe you guys need to stop trying to micro-manage all of the hubs.  If I want to incorporate a cost for support removal as part of my base rates for every part then so be it.  But if I want to keep the selling cost down for the customer and only apply a charge for support removal where I deem it necessary then I should be able to.

You are not "leveling the playing field" by doing what you are doing.  You are trying to lump all jobs into a "one size fits all" model for every location.  As an example - I can print T-Shirts and sell them at $20 a shirt in Oklahoma.  I can sell the same shirt for $50 in Los Angeles.  Is this unfair?  No - it is what the market will bear in those areas.

 

Customers are getting "surprised" by charges because your system is flawed.  You were allowing hubs to add charges after the job was agreed on.  All costs should be finalized before the customer agrees to proceed with the job.

 

You should be more worried about fixing the system so that when a customer and a hub each have agreed on the order the cost has been agreed to and set.  At this point there are no "after" charges to "surprise" the customer.

 

Order flow:  Customer load STL, picks material, color, resolution and other options that may be available and selects the hub they like > hub reviews initial order and communicates any issues, concerns or suggestions such as additional cost for support removal > customer reviews and if satisfied accepts and cost is locked in otherwise looks at options > if customer accepts then hub confirms acceptance and the order proceeds for payment and production.

 

Hubs should survive or die based on a normal free market, not because you think it is unfair that I don't charge for most support removal when Joe does.  Maybe Joe is paying an employee to remove supports and I am doing it myself so my overhead is less and consequently my cost to produce the part is less.

 

I have watched the same comments being made week after week for the last year about basic issues with the order system and yet nothing has been done.  Your biggest asset to improving the overall experience and success, the hubs, are being completely ignored.

 

It really seems like you guys want this to be more of an employee driven business where hubs work for you and get a flat rate for jobs rather than as independent contractors.

You have a good platform and if you want it to go in a new direction then fine but enough of the excuses and double talk.

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well....

 

i have used the price of surface area to get paid by the hours spent on printing... its not perfect, some parts have less surface area but takes more time etc.... you get my point

 

for the material cost i have used the price for used material which only became available recently 

 

what we real need is a way to upload slicer configs for the most popular slicers so that time needed can be calculated and the time spent factored in

 

of course for that to work 3dhubs can only support slicers that can be cloud driven... and they need to include some way to take post processing in to account...

 

Next they need to fix the sorting by distance feature... google api's can do this for them and yet they still meassure distance by bird route and not the route by car or bike.... for sure i'm not going to run the bike for 6 hours because the bird route says its close by and the fact is another

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I beilieve there can be a middle ground. 

For example, there can be a bargaining option regarding terms in the guidline: Both side can accept some of the terms or all of them in the guideline, as long as both sides have reached an accord, there will be hardly any misunderstanding.

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If 3dHubs is going to micro-manage all of us hubs, then I would say that we are being employed by 3dHubs and that we should be also compensated per hour for anything that we have to do with regards to printing. Uber lost its claim that it was just an app and that it's driver's were subcontractors, and they are employees. If 3dHubs is going down this path, it is a slippery slope. 

 

There next step is going to be that hubs won't be able to assign prices for their prints, and that there is one set price per location. 

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I agree, time for us to create our own system. 3d Hubs is getting way to ridiculous

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If hubs could configure a support removal cost for SLA similar to the per cm3 materials cost we set currently, the customer can check or uncheck support removal as an option during the ordering process, and easily see the cost with, and without support removal immediately. Obviously this will not easily cover all bases as some small jobs are more time consuming than bigger jobs, but it allows a hub to price accordingly. I almost never remove supports, but I do include side clippers with most orders free of charge now. Out of 54 jobs, only 3 had supports removed and I have maintained a 5 star rating due to value (and probably communication). I always include this message on my orders (I have other standard messages used as part of my order processing):

 

Job 1 of 1 for this order: ###### is complete, and post curing. Photos will be attached of the items after post cure completes. I will then pack and ship the order and provide further status updates. Since support materials will remain on the part, here are the guidelines for removing supports and the artifacts left behind from their removal:
https://support.formlabs.com/hc/en-us/articles/115000035230-Removing-Sup...

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If we are being forced to have the default as "You must remove supports.", the chance for a conversation will not happen with my hub. I will be required to change my extremely inexpensive pricing to a model that incorporates my typical hourly rate. This will cause all of my prints to go from near cheapest, to a level that nobody would even click on my hub to "start a conversation" about the now mandatory support removal cost.

While some people host their printers on 3D Hubs as part of a business, I host mine to somewhat passively make money back on my printer while it isn't being used for personal projects. My costs are able to be marginally above actual materials cost since  I do some prep work, the printer does most of the work itself, I plop it in alcohol, and ship it off on my way to work. Being required to spend hours removing support materials, will make me add the actual cost of my time to the order. When sourcing anything not on this site I prefer the "do it myself" pricing to limit my costs. Others prefer this also. Forced support removal removes value from many hubs.

This should be a separately calculated line item that is customer selected during the order process. If you went to an auto parts store or a home improvement/hardware store, and people added labor costs to everything, people would stop shopping there. Lightswitch $3, mandatory electrician hourly rate of $125 for the bookrate has been added to your purchase, please contact us if you wish to discuss the pricing. The item never makes it in the cart.

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Agree with your points.  I do support removal as a complimentary service for the most part.  It isn't a big deal and I want to see how the part is.
Like you, my costs are low so I can price accordingly.  I am not trying to undercut anyone but just offering printing at a rate that I am ok with in my area so people can have access and learn about it.

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@Wirlybird curious as some of my non-3d hubs orders I do remove support and sand. This can take me anywhere from 1 to 3 hours depending on the number of parts, how fragile the parts are etc. If I were to use my typical rates, the minimum cost would be over $300 USD for a stupid simple print that take only 1 - 2 hours of time. 

 

 

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I know it!  Most of the stuff I make doesn't have very complicated supports so they are not to bad to remove.  I just do light clean up on removal and let the customer know about finishing that they can do.  I probably spend an inordinate amount of time fiddling with the supports so that when they print they can pop right off!  I guess that is my OCD challenge!

I did have one job where each part had massive supports (each print was 35 hours) and were a pain to remove, sliced hands and all!  Who knew PETG could be so sharp!  Because of the size and cost of the job I still included it as basic support removal.

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What is sad is that 3DHubs is doing this in a vacuum.  Did they reach out to hubs asking them what to do? Probably 2 or 3 in Amsterdam.  My hubs prices are very low, as the goal for me is to get 3d printed parts out to people for a reasonable cost. There is no place to state what are optional services, or what MANDATORY services are. Might be time for us all to switch to other 3d printing sites, like makexyz.com.

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Great ideas.

I only do FDM for now and generally always remove supports at no real extra cost.  For me at this point support removal is sort of a bonus for the customer and also I would rather just do it then let them fight with it unless they specify they want to.

 

I like your post process info and providing links to tips.  Great idea.

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@CollectorCNC

 

This is nothing new, similar guidelines have been in place for the FDM hubs for several months at this point. 

 

This is to ensure a standard of quality across the platform for all hubs.

 

You can charge extra for support removal or do it for free. 

You can also ask the customer if they want to remove it themselves. 

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I agree it's nothing new.  I operate both FDM and SLA printers.    If you read the guidelines it says hubs WILL remove and sand the supports.  As I stated, I HAD the option to use support material removal as an optional upcharge.  Now I do not have that option and am forced to include that service in my base price making me less competitive especially for customers who wish to avoid paying shapeways level pricing.  

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I don't see it that way. If it's minor supports I include the removal for free. 

 

If major supports are required, I charge extra for the support material (which also includes removal, unless the customer wants to remove it themselves). The guidelines do not say you cannot charge for removing supports. 

 

Also we need to remember that once a customer already has paid as long as you explain what the charges are for, they will comply. 

 

Now if 3D Hubs insists you remove supports and you do it for free, well then that would be a totally different issue. 

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I think you are missing the point entirely.  The policy is that you must remove and sand support material.  That means I don't have a choice between offering that as a service to my customer or not.  To comply with the use agreement for 3Dhubs.com, Hubs must remove and sand the supports.  

 

Yes I can decide to charge or not, but I have to perform that finishing service regardles of my customers preference and budget.  

 

prior to this mandate I could offer levels of finish work.  This takes one more level of control from the hub and I personally don't appreciate this level of interference in how I do business. 

 

The fact fact that hubs in populated areas are getting high search rankings while many hubs are being downgraded by some magical algorithm in favor of hubs that are hundreds of miles away suggests that this could be an attempt by 3Dhubs to cull a glut of hubs from their service while still appearing to support the maker and decentralized manufacturing movements.  

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I think I have solved my own problem within the 3D Hubs ordering process. Using colors creatively.

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I think there is some flexibility in the guidelines. Ex. I have always removed support material, but offered full sanding and priming as an add on. I made sure to update my hub's description to spell this out. (Basically, it's how I can keep my price lower than other hubs.) With this stated up front, it creates an understanding with the customer and therefore meets the new guidelines. I think as long as customers aren't surprised, then everyone is ok.

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The first line of my hub states I don't remove supports, nearly all of my clients have no idea what my hub 'About' section states unfortunately. Even though it also appears during ordering too, it again goes unread. This is why it needs to be selectable as part of the order process.

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The support material removal option needs to be made a cost definable option that the customer can select during ordering.

 

Out of 50 orders, only one was surprised/confused by having support material attached. I am now spending more time explaining to the customer about support material and if they want me to remove it, or if they want to and I supply free side clippers. I even have "My prices do **NOT** include support material removal." as the first line of my Hub's About section which is visible during ordering, but I still have to explain it. If this system is not altered to have this as an optional cost based service (no matter how it get defined), I will voluntarily offline my hub until that does become a feature. That isn't a declaration of protest, it is simply my determination that the current SLA guidelines will make my continued high level of service too much of an inconvenience for me. My other option is to add my hourly rate to my complex calculation, which will have me receive 0 orders (or people asking if my prices include hand delivery by Justin Bieber, where he also plays a full concert post delivery).

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I agree with @ProtoCulture .  3D hubs is in the business of providing the interface to connect service providers with service seekers.  They should focus on providing an interface that allows us to operate with just as much flexibility as our customers have, not dictating how we do business.  

 

3D Hubs produced an excellent layman's guide to 3D printing.  Why not create a similar guide for potential customers who want to know what they don't know about ordering a printed part.  This could educate the potential customer about the interface, how to use it, and what to expect (things like do I want or need support material removal), and could integrate into the order process to guide the customer to the right hub service.  It would also have the potential to guide customers to hubs that offer things like full finishing and painting services.  In my mind it's a no brainer that an educated customer is going to be more willing place orders, and may want services that they wouldn't otherwise know they can get thru 3D Hubs (read that as higher avg. transaction amounts).  

 

My opinion, working with hubs to allow us to be flexible, is the only way this business model will work for both of parties.  Maybe I am totally wrong, and 3D Hubs wants start buying their own printer fleets and selling their services direct... ? 

 

BTW just to illustrate  proto's point, I've attached some images of 2 prints that required support removal for a customer.  Both prints cost about the same to the customer before additional services.  Guess which one required 2.5hrs of model re-work and 2 hrs of support removal and nurb removal that wouldn't have been quoted into the autogenerated price? 

 

 

@Robin3D

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I think you are dead on in your thoughts here.

3dhubs has focused so much on dictating to hubs what they must do that they have left the customer flapping in the wind.  I haven't had orders recently but it doesn't mean I haven't been contacted.  Customers don't want to use 3dhubs because it has become such a frustrating and cumbersome experience for them.

 

Love those prints!  IS that SLA?  I want to get into it but can't justify the cost.

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Yep form2 is a gem!   Takes a little time to figure out strengths and weaknesses but I have s nearly 100% success rate for print and ship

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