I’m reading an unusual press release from Cubee where they announce the first “Record Label” for 3D Designers.
If you’re confused, so was I: a “record label”? What does that even mean?
Let’s back up a bit. Who and what is Cubee? We first wrote about them last year, when the service launched to the public. At the time, I wrote this:
“Cubee is a new manufacturing network that hopes to pick up the demand for makers to produce 3D objects.
Cubee’s concept is to create a vast network of local 3D printing operations that connect together to receive requests for part production. They describe it as a “smart, online printshop”. The service provides automatic price quotes, and allows designers to open online stores in the ‘CubeeMart’.”
A look at the company’s current offerings revealed they’ve been busy developing different services. Currently they offer a variety of different services, including:
- 3D print services, where one can upload 3D models and have someone in the Cubee network produce them
- A marketplace, where 3D printed products are sold to the public, similar to what Shapeways used to be
These are done through “3D Printshops” (for printer operators) and “Design Studios” (for 3D designers), respectively. There are currently 2,384 printshops around the world according to a statistic on the site.
If this sounds familiar, it should. This is similar to other systems we’ve seen in the past from companies like Shapeways, MyMiniFactory and 3D Hubs. However, there are some differences. Cubee writes:
“Every Printshop is equipped with a rich licensed 3D model catalog, made by designers from all over the world. They’re yours to sell.”
This is one key difference: the printshops have limited access to premium designs from participating designers. This is based on the printshop plan selected.
The free level simply opens up an online shop for the printshop, and provides basic ordering and payments services. However, if the operators pays a monthly fee they gain increasing access to premium designs that can be posted on their printshop for users to purchase.
The highest printshop plan is US$99 per month, which provides access to “all premium catalogs”, whereas the entry level is US$15 per month for up to 35 premium designs.
While all this is going on, Cubee takes a 15% cut of all sales (20% if on the free printshop plan).
This is an interesting twist on the “we print it for you” business model that I haven’t seen previously. Many business models have been attempted in this space, but most have failed miserably. For example, eight years ago 3D Shook attempted a monthly subscription fee service for delivery of new 3D models. It didn’t really work, but surprisingly I now see 3D Shook appearing on Cubee’s pages as one of the designers.
Let’s get back to the Record Label idea.
The idea here is that Cubee can act as an intermediary between the designer and the printshop network to whom the designs might be provided, with a goal to promote the designs much like a record label might do.
“CubeeRecords goes beyond simply providing licensees with commercial access to STL files. They also include business-enabling services and solutions, such as ready to use marketing assets, technical support, business advisory and a global peer-community of business owners.”
For those wondering about the technical aspects of this business model, considering that STL files don’t offer any protection and can be easily copied, let’s explain how this works.
In the Cubee world, the designs are held centrally, but apparently provided only to the printshops that have subscription levels allowing access. I suspect that the print jobs are prepared centrally and then dispatched to the printshop for production, rather than sending the STL files to them. This approach could provide some assurance of security for the designers.
The system set up by Cubee is quite unique in the 3D world, even though it may superficially seem to be just another print-on-demand service.