Online printing service 3D Hubs has been under attack on Reddit with the accusation that a key plank of the startup’s business model has been removed by stealth.
The whole controversial mess started on Wednesday afternoon this week, when redditor 45sbvad posted a discussion to the /r/3Dprinting community with the headline 3DHubs is Dead. The post has 1213 upvotes, 309 comments and counting. The post says: “3DHubs has shut down the ‘Hub ‘portion of their business model and has become a clone of Shapeways/MakeXYZ.”
And the more contentious part says: “Customers upload a model and are automatically routed to a printer. Regardless of the longevity, quality, reviews, or services your Hub offers; most orders are sent to a single printer in North Dakota.”
It is easy to see why such statement became controversial. 3D Hubs is designed to place local makers in touch with local customers. Based from the said statements, the principle is no longer being followed when customers are being directed to a single service provider. It makes having “hub” in the company name to be misleading.
45sbvad also makes another serious claim- that 3d Hubs made all such huge changes without informing the Hub operators. He also runc Telemetry3D, a Hub of his own. He says his business used to get 10% of their revenue from 3dHubs, the past year has seen it decline to 4%; while the recent change has brought it all the way to a low of 1%. He describes it a “despicable and immoral business practice.”’
It also looked like he’s receiving a reprisal for his opinions. 45sbvad posted an update on the same thread. But his account and comments have since been deleted from the 3D Hubs platform.
The whole thing could be due to 3d Hubs having a “MakerBot moment”, the point where a 3D printing community turns on a company they supported because the behavior is seen as a betrayal of their original principles.
Still, the strong outrage on Reddit may not be so justifiable after all. For one, 3d Hubs is not shutting down their Hubs. They’re only experimenting with a feature for automatic hub selection, which is fully operational, based on a user’s location and material preferences.
Another point is that the feature implementation has been carefully considered, based on user feedback over the course of several weeks. It has not been rolled out by stealth.
Last point is that 3D Hubs explain they deleted 45sbvad’s account because he attempted several times to move users from 3D Hubs to competitive services. They insist he wasn’t deleted because of the negative criticism on Reddit or elsewhere.
The explanations are not getting a fair hearing given people’s rage on Reddit even as co-founder of 3d Hubs Brian Garret says the changes are meant to “benefit the community as a whole.”
Could 3D Hubs being unfairly subjected to a Reddit storm by an angry mob?