Prusa Research has launched their “club” feature on Printables.
Printables is Prusa Research’s online 3D model repository, where they’ve amassed a huge trove of interesting 3D models. The site has proven extremely popular in the past couple of years, gaining ground on long-time industry leader Thingiverse. They haven’t caught up to Thingiverse in terms of the number of models offered, but may do so at some point in the future.
However, Printables does seem to be vastly more advanced than Thingiverse in terms of features.
One of these advanced features is “Clubs”, announced some months ago, but now in production and available to all.
The concept is that Prusa Research wanted to find a way to enable contributors to monetize their works. Evidently a considerably deep analysis was performed, as there are multiple ways to do this. With all the failed 3D model repositories over the past few years, that was clearly a good idea.
They settled on a subscription model, where enthusiasts can subscribe to a designer’s club. The designer is able to set the subscription fee — in fact up to five different levels. These subscription levels can provide subscribers with benefits over the normal free access, such as exclusive 3D models.
Meanwhile, Prusa Research will take a ten percent cut of the fees in order to fund the operation, which seems like a reasonable amount.
If this sounds like Patreon, a popular subscription service for independent creators, it should. The features are quite similar, except that here Printables Clubs provides additional features specific to the 3D model environment, and in particular provides findability and direct linkage to the 3D model hosting environment. This allows designers to manage lists of content files and tag them for access levels, for example.
I’m impressed with the level of detail provided in Printables Clubs. They’ve considered many aspects, and include, for example, a badging system to help promote designers. Some other details:
- Signups can pay a proportional amount based on the day of the month
- Custom welcome emails can be created
- Analytics show the popularity of 3D models
- Broadcast messages can be sent to subscribers
These indicate that quite a bit of thought has gone into Printables Clubs, and because of that it will likely thrive in this growing market.
Can Thingiverse compete with this? That site has offered “Thingiverse Tips” for several years, where generous downloaders may — or may not — drop a small donation to the creator. This system hasn’t worked out very well for Thingiverse, as most creators report extremely limited revenue. It appears they mostly view Tips as a way to feel the gratitude of downloaders, rather than a way to make any money. Even worse, Thingiverse clips off a 30% fee for these tips, making them even smaller.
As you can see, Printables is far in advance of Thingiverse in terms of monetizing designers. It is likely Printables Clubs will attract many more designers, and perhaps even begin competing with MyMiniFactory, which offers a similar club-like environment.