As 3D fan or professional, we all know Thingiverse, the content-sharing platform owned by MakerBot Industries. But let’s go back and take a look into the history of Thingiverse and Pinshape.
What is Thingiverse?
Thingiverse is a website for digital file sharing. Any user can create files. The site mainly provides open source software under GNU General Public License or Creative Commons Licenses. Users can select the type of license they want for the files they share. Then, thanks to a 3D printer, a laser-cutting machine, milling machines and many other technologies, you can physically create the files shared by Thingiverse users.
Regarding the story of Thingiverse, the community website was launched in November 2008 by Zach Smith. At first, its goal was to support MakerBot Industries, a company that manufactures 3D printers. Thingiverse got an award that couldn’t be more gratifying in the ‘Digital Communities’ Category during the 2010 Prix Ars Electronica.
Ars Electronica, an institute based in Linz, Austria, has been promoting digital creation since 1979. It focuses on several activities such as the Prix Ars Electronica, which is a global media arts competition. Called ‘Golden Nica’, the prizes are awarded yearly in six different media arts categories that are:
- Computer animation / Visual Effects
- Interactive Art
- Digital Music & Sound Art
- Visionary Pioneers of Media Art
- Digital Communities
- u19 - create your world (Name bis 2010: freestyle computing)
- Art and Technology Grant
On Thingiverse there were 25,000 files downloaded in November 2014 and more than 100,000 in June 2013. The 400,000th file was uploaded on July 19, 2014.
But as we all know, Thingiverse isn’t the only existing community site. More and more websites try to make their own way through the 3D printing industry. Pinshape is one of them and is a good example.
What is Pinshape?
Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, Pinshape Inc. is an online 3D printing community where you can also sell your creations - if you think about it, this is a mix between the platforms of Shapeways and Thingiverse. Thus, the website enables creators to share and sell their 3D printable designs.
Pinshape was founded in 2013 by Lucas Matheson, Nick Schwinghamer and André Yanes. It displays the work of 3D digital designers from all over the world. They can price their creations and select the license they want. Then users that own a 3D printer can browse the selection of designs. They have two options:
- Either they can get the file for free and print it themselves
- Or they can simply pay the creator to access the file before they print it.
Therefore, you don’t have to pay a monthly fee (like with 3D shook) or pay for every file.
Pinshape was selected and went through the Accelerator Program offered by 500 Startups, an organization based in Silicon Valley, from April to July 2014. At the end of it, Pinshape was one of the 30 selected companies, out of the 1,400 that applied.
Lucas Matheson, CEO of Pinshape, shares his experience: “500 Startups was a guidance and an inspiration. It’s very hard to start a business and it was crucial for us to get assistance from experienced entrepreneurs and investors while we were growing. The program first helped us to build a genuine strategy, to put our efforts in priority order and to minimize the amount of wasted time and money. We got the chance to work and learn from tens of smart founders who have built big companies. We wouldn’t have achieved any of this without the help of the program. It’s as simple as that.”
What sets Pinshape apart:
- The contests: Contests are organized every month in order to promote the talents of Pinshape users. More than 12 contests have been organized so far with original and appealing topics for every one of them. Want some examples? Take the Low Poly Design Contest as an example, a contest related to low polygon designs that ended on July 31st.
- The 3D printing forum: It enables users to ask questions and to easily and quickly get answers thanks to a member of the Pinshape team member or another community member.
- The blog: The team can share moments, creations and advice with users or ask for their help through their fun and useful blog.
- The partnerships they’ve established with schools
- Close user relationships: Pinshape takes on ambassadors. Why that? They want to give the community the chance to take control of the platform. Learn more on Pinshape-blog
- The streaming feature: thanks to this feature, users can print directly from their 3D printer, thus the creators have more control on their intellectual property. To learn more about the subject: Pinshape-blog.
We can’t deny that Thingiverse remains more popular than Pinshape, but the company is slowly but surely catching up. The two charts below prove that trend (Pinshape first, Thingiverse second).
You’ll ask me “But in the end, what makes Pinshape different from Thingiverse?” Well, small details make all the difference! We can say that Thingiverse website is ‘crude’. Let me give you a couple of examples to make myself clear:
- Pinshape uses the whole width of the page so that we can have bigger pictures. We feel like there is more space which makes Pinshape website more pleasant to visit. If you looked at them both side by side, you will realize right away that our good old Thingiverse is outdated! The 3D market’s evolution is happening really fast. You have to evolve with it at the same time or else newcomers will crush you, even if you were the first on the market and you used to have a monopoly.
- The following point is about menus. You can waste a lot of time on Thingiverse’s site trying to find something if you don’t have a precise idea in mind! Why? Simply because you have to go through several submenus and subcategories to finally get to something that looks like what suits you. The difference with Pinshape is that you don’t have to look for menus for hours because they are directly on the homepage and they are, moreover, super easy to understand.
- When it comes to available files, most of them can be found pretty much everywhere on the Internet. But if you look deeper, you can find little wonders that are— for now— not available on many other community websites.
- Is Pinshape a fun website? YES! Or at least much more fun than Thingiverse’s. Why? Let’s take a very simple example: the search bar. If you type the name of any object in Thingiverse search bar, you’d barely have any result except a synonym – if you’re lucky. However if you type the same word in the Pinshape search bar you’d see below that bar pictures of the first results of your search. This is simple but efficient and makes you research faster and easier!
But well, let’s face it, there is still a significant drawback: we can notice a huge lack of technical parts on the site. Is this a new concept or is there a lack of technical minded users? Time will tell!
Not convinced yet? I could truly spend hours to tell you the differences between the two sites but I’d rather let you compare by yourself… And if you look for a more detailed study, please have a look at an article written by 3dprintingindustry.com.
We would like to sincerely thank the Pinshape team for the time they gave us; their availability and responses have both been a great help to write this article.