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rue_d_etropal

online selling/buying stl 3d print files?

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Posted (edited)

I am sure somene must have asked before, but the world of 3D priinting is moving fast.

Now while some would like all 3D print files to be available free to download, that is not going to happen, especially when 3D printing at home becomes even more popular, so was wondering if there as a recommended online site where 3D printfiles could be offered for sale, reliably. I know Shapeways have been thinking about this but nothing yet set up, all downloads are free. 

Before people start thinking they will be able to get some of my existing designs, then sorry, no, I am thinking of a new direction for designs which are even too expensive for me to buy on Shapeways(and probably most other 3D print services). 

Edited by rue_d_etropal
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I actually think there's an opportunity to look at sharing STL files for free.  I am personally happy to share files that I design, which are done for personal reasons.  Why would I feel the need to "sell" them?  If I can offer files for free and then receive others for free, is that not better?

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48 minutes ago, 55020 said:

I actually think there's an opportunity to look at sharing STL files for free.  I am personally happy to share files that I design, which are done for personal reasons.  Why would I feel the need to "sell" them?  If I can offer files for free and then receive others for free, is that not better?

I think I must be too mercenary, but I’m not making my designs available FOC! If I’ve pored over something for ages I’m not going to give it away!

 

I’m definitely interested to see if this catches on, with appropriate guarding against people selling on (how you guard against that I don’t know) I can see the merit.

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1 hour ago, rue_d_etropal said:

 

Before people start thinking they will be able to get some of my existing designs, then sorry, no, I am thinking of a new direction for designs which are even too expensive for me to buy on Shapeways(and probably most other 3D print services). 

That really is such a pity.

 

I would be in the market to buy an awful lot of your stuff, but at Shapeways prices I cannot justify it. I cannot justify paying £30+ (plus postage) for a tank engine body in that horrible white nylon stuff when for £40 I could buy a litre of resin for the printer and print several of a similar size.

 

I would, however, be willing to buy the STL files for a reasonable sum (I can understand why some people don't like offering stuff for free), as I know I will likely be able to print them better than Shapeways. If the sum were moderate enough, I wouldn't even be bothered about not knowing what chassis to put the body on. I'd be particularly inclined to purchase some of your Metropolitan steam locos, but if they're not to be made available then I'll probably draw them up myself.

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The designs I am considering are for buildings. As they can be quite big, but not too big to be printed in one piece, I am thinking that if there was a safe secure way to market these designs then I would do it. They are on the whole simpler designs so hopefully would be less prone to some of the problems newby 3D printers encounter.

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Depends on what you consider safe and secure - as we have previously discussed - as soon as a purchaser has your STL file they can modify it in any way they choose.

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I guess I'll have to drag out my Met loco drawings and get to work then... Ah well.

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24 minutes ago, JimFin said:

Depends on what you consider safe and secure - as we have previously discussed - as soon as a purchaser has your STL file they can modify it in any way they choose.

That’s the crux of it too for me. I sell a design as “for personal use only”. They add an extra rivet, whereby it’s a new design, and they flog them by the hundred. 

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1 hour ago, njee20 said:

That’s the crux of it too for me. I sell a design as “for personal use only”. They add an extra rivet, whereby it’s a new design, and they flog them by the hundred. 

Reason why I would not use anyone, but a proper set up might be OK.

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All unique .stl files are valuable, until someone else makes their own drawing of the same prototype. Hobbyists rarely count their own labour cost, so there will be many instances of "I'm not going to pay that much - I'll code my own".  And that's without the same direction that many Prototype Historical Railway Societies will move to.

 

As to buildings, I suspect you'll be hard pressed to compete with the lower cost of laser cut versions.

 

Andy

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6 hours ago, Andy Reichert said:

Hobbyists rarely count their own labour cost

 

I seem to be totally at odds with the world.  If I do something for pleasure, which is what this hobby is to me, why should I expect financial gain or reward for that enjoyment?  If I spend time developing something in CAD for the fun of it, I have no internal desire to find recompence from others for the time spent.  I would spend the time no matter what, so why would I "count my labour cost"?

As I stated, I do seem to be on my own with this viewpoint.  Obviously I'm the mug :-)

 

 

Steve

 

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7 hours ago, Andy Reichert said:

 

As to buildings, I suspect you'll be hard pressed to compete with the lower cost of laser cut versions.

 

Andy

 

I'm not so sure, especially in smaller scales or for small buildings. The cost of printing these is much lower than the cost of purchasing a laser cut version. 

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10 hours ago, sem34090 said:

That really is such a pity.

 

I would be in the market to buy an awful lot of your stuff, but at Shapeways prices I cannot justify it. I cannot justify paying £30+ (plus postage) for a tank engine body in that horrible white nylon stuff when for £40 I could buy a litre of resin for the printer and print several of a similar size.

 

I would, however, be willing to buy the STL files for a reasonable sum (I can understand why some people don't like offering stuff for free), as I know I will likely be able to print them better than Shapeways. 

 

 

Exactly this - it's been a very long time since I've bought anything on Shapeways, mainly because I actually think I can get better quality prints on my Photon at home.

 

It therefore really rankles that the only way to get hold of designs by others is to pay quite high prices for a Shapeways print that is, in my opinion, inferior in quality to a home print.

 

Therefore I'd be very happy to pay for STLs to print at home! But I certainly see the disadvantages - once an STL is shared, you can't control what happens to it further.

 

That said, I'm not aware that that has been a problem for e.g. ScaleScenes - there is nothing technically stopping people who buy their PDFs from sharing them with others, but it doesn't seem like that's happening in any significant way. At least, it clearly seems viable for them to keep on with that business model and they keep developing new kits, so sales must be worthwhile.

 

I imagine the trick is that there is a price point where most people would regard it as "fair" and essentially choose to pay, whereas if the price is seen as "high", more would be tempted to dishonesty.

 

There seems to be a thriving scene in designing and sharing "minis" - figures for Games Workshop type gaming - to judge from the Photon users group on Facebook. Many designers seem to put their stuff on free STL sites like Thingiverse, but actively ask for donations on Patreon. There also seem to be some commercial STL marketplaces aimed mostly at this market, e.g. https://cults3d.com/en - this site has an "architecture" category that seems to have some scale models for aircraft as well as HO railroads. 

 

I get the impression from watching this community (via the Photon Facebook group etc) that this model does work - yes you do loose control of your STL, but at the end of the day if the price is fair, enough people will be honest and pay.

 

And of course, an STL is much less useful than the original design if anyone wants customisation, and there is definitely a commercial market in that kind of thing around Thingiverse etc - make a basic version available, and advertise the fact you can customise it for people for a fee.

 

I hope this helps - it would be great to get more railway bits available this way!

 

Justin

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I'd be first in the queue to buy a file and print it out myself on my home bought printer for all the reasons mentioned, but primarily because I have minimal computer skills and could never draw anything up myself.

I'm surprised there isn't some some of electronic lock which can be placed on a file to prevent it opening on a different computer to the one it was downloaded onto, most other things seem do-able in computer land?

 

Mike.

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There is that ability. But then what if people have mutiple devices, or change computer or anything like that. It's a bit of an old school mentality and not a very popular way to work these days. But yes, you could theoretically allow a one time, read-only download of a file.

 

What are the sort of sums people pay for an STL, or would pay? Looking through Cults3D the railway stuff seems to be dominated by Brio and the like (and I will definitely be printing off some 3-way points and a scissor crossing for mini-njee20!). I think the sort of thing you're printing would impact how much I'd sell things for. If it's the sort of thing that most people would want one of, maybe a building, or some lineside items then I'd be happier selling the STL than I would for a wagon, where people are going to perhaps want 20+. Or at least I'd want a 'potential volume factor' considered in the price of the STL.

 

As Justin says the FB groups are full of people buying "minis", but again I have no idea what they're paying, and they seem to be something that people have one of (once they've got it right at least, there may be a few trial prints of course).

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what I am looking for is a set up similar in many ways to Shapeways which can operate as a secure platform fo selling stl files. Nothing more. It is a different market to that which Shapeways have developed. The SW market is specialised and is dependent on selling a few good quality items whereas selling stl files would be more like selling a large quantity of lower cost items.

It is more like the small number of companies selling 2D print designs to build models, and those are mainly for model buildings. With those there is nothing to stop someone buying a copy, then passing it round to their friends or adapting the design to create something different themselves. Once something becomes digital it is virtually impossible to stop it being copied so it requires a different approach to selling.

FRom my own exerience in 3D design, I think there are essenually 2 different groups of design. One group is small and complex, the other is large and simple.  Small and complex tend to have bigger stl files, and would probably end up being split up by someone to create other designs, whereas the other is best printed in its complete state as its components are very basic, and it would be far easier to create them from scratch. The design I have been working on falls into the latter group. I think that these types of design are also probably easier to print  and would make good designs to less experienced people printing at home.

This is very much a project in development. I suspect there is no online patform to market stl files in the way I want at the moment, so best way might be to actually offer this totally separate range for free download. I actually enjoy doing the designs for buildings,but when it works out too expensive to get SW to print it is a big let down.

 

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That's exactly what Justin's linked to.


What do you mean by "secure"? If you mean unable to be used by anyone other than the downloader then you're right, without the restrictions that Enterprisingwestern mentioned that's really hard, and broadly reliant on people doing the right thing. Implementing those sorts of digital signatures or encryption isn't trivial either in order to get around people sharing via a cloud provider. There will almost certainly be loopholes too - someone who says the file is corrupt so they need it again or whatever.

 

As also said there's nothing to stop someone photocopying Scalescenes items, but that doesn't seem to go on, or at least people don't shout about it! It may be more obvious with STLs if you suddenly find a suspicious number of people have items of stock you've sold.

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One reason why people don't copy 2D print designs is that initial cost is low,so not worth the effort. It does happen but not enough to cause a problem.

There is no such thing as 'secure' when you are looking at digital. There is always a way to get round barriers. Remember that computers were originally designed to break codes. The only way to reduce risk of copying is to limit access to designs, which is in effect what happens with Shapeways. My design stl files are only on Shapeways so if anyone does copy a design then I can find out where it came from hopefully, or certainly have a better chance than if I was just selling through several platforms.

 

What is the practical maximum size for 3D printing at home, without adapting a design?

 

I am only considering  offering buildings as the way I design them is slightly different , and I will alter design more for different scales, whereas for locos and coaches I can usually use only one or 2 differences.

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One thing to bear in mind is the sea-change that has taken place in the digital world over the past ten to fifteen years: where programmers once laboured to produce saleable products, now much of it is given away for free. Did you have to pay for the Firefox/Chrome/Opera web browser you use to view these pages? No. The software has changed from being the marketable product to the medium by which you lead the consumers to the real product.

 

It's hard to see this clearly in the software market, but a couple of other ones do show precisely what is happening. The cost of inkjet printers plummeted, to the point where it was often as cheap to go and buy a new boxed inkjet printer as it was to replace the emptied cartridges. The real product on sale wasn't the printer, it was the ink. The cost of 3D-printers has come down and down, and again, what is the real product on sale? Spools of plastic filament and bottles of UV-curing resin.

 

I would suggest the best way to monetarise 3D designs is to make them so they require a specific plastic or resin to properly reproduce, then contact the manufacturers of those consumables and try to get them interested in hosting and giving away the design files, as a way of boosting sales of their products.

 

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4 hours ago, 55020 said:

 

I seem to be totally at odds with the world.  If I do something for pleasure, which is what this hobby is to me, why should I expect financial gain or reward for that enjoyment?  If I spend time developing something in CAD for the fun of it, I have no internal desire to find recompence from others for the time spent.  I would spend the time no matter what, so why would I "count my labour cost"?

As I stated, I do seem to be on my own with this viewpoint.  Obviously I'm the mug :-)

 

 

Financial reward is not the issue.

 

Once you start doing favours they seem to repeat, often getting more challenging.

Charging encourages people to try themselves, then they appreciate how much work is involved.

 

It takes time to learn how to do 3d design then use a printer. I would be more than happy to help someone learn but doing everything for them is another matter.

 

I don't mind sharing things but feel a little bad about just downloading other's work from Thingyverse.

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I am looking at offering a few sample designs for model buildings for free download. Only buildings and ones which I consider too expensive to get SW to print, but ones I have enjoyed desgning and would rather they were out there, even if that means they are free to download.

Often find free to download 2D print deigns, as test samples. My designs for 3D printing will be done partly for that reason.

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I think the barrier will always be what people are prepared to pay for the design, and how many of that design are actually bought. Too many people who aren't producing 'content'  themselves don't (or choose not to) understand that the designer needs to be paid if it is a comercial transaction. Some designers will be trying to make a living, and others will just be offering it as a sideline to their hobby.

 

For the shapeways the simplified cost is

 

Fixed cost of the printers/facilities/staff (ie shapeways own costs as the Manufacturer)

plus the actual cost of the part (in materials and machine time)  

plus Shapeways profit margin. (and tax).

plus shipping

plus the admin cost of taking and distributing money

plus what the designer decides he wants to be rewarded for his effort (and pay his tax bill(!) )

 

What rue_d_etropal is proposing is to replace the first 4 with a platform that can sell the STL. I think its likely that the platform would still want to take a cut because step 5 and all the IT/admin isn't zero. The problem is once the STL is out in the big wide world it is reproducible and shareable - you wouldn't buy a single use stl  - what happens if the printer messes up? (some sort of one-time use code? ).

 

I think in the case of buildings, it might be possible to build a front end software so that the customer could take pre-designed building components (windows, doors, dado's, whatever) and add them in a snap-to-grid style interface, to build  a bespoke building, that they can then press 'generate stl' and get their file. The designer(s) could offer a modest range of standard components, and then charge for access to a library of 'premium' designs, or have a 'quote me for a window that looks like this' type button?

 

Jon

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Now I've made a decent number of my designs available for free on the Thingiverse. Quite a few people have made money reselling them on ebay - I don't mind, I did it to promote 009 and 3d printing. 

 

Downside is there have been some very inferior versions done, which have probably done little to promote 3d printing, but overall I'm happy with the experience.

 

I did a little experiment last year selling stls of various things for a lowish price - 80% went fine but the other 20% of people needed too much hand holding - it's OK selling the STL for £10, but not when you need spend 2 hours trying to explain to people what they are doing wrong !

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