Of late, there has been an emergence of “3D Marketplaces” on the internet. As more and more people get on the 3D printing bandwagon, there will continue to be more and more places that will claim to be “your one-stop for all your 3D printable files.” A business model that started with Shapeways and i.materialise now sees many small players vying for their piece of the pie.
Here is some advice if you are a designer or hobbyist looking to place your files on their markets.
1. Have a long and hard look at the contract you will be signing - Does the Marketplace get powers beyond what they should have? (And if they say they are “working on it”, only send them files after they have “worked on it”. Unless you really really trust them.)
2. Look at the marketing they will be doing or what they plan to do, they should at least be sharing some information with you. Or if it is an established marketplace, are you comfortable with what has been done so far?
3. In the contract for sharing and sale of your files, what are the licenses? Are you protected?
4. Do also look at what happens when they Marketplace is sold off or acquired, will you get a chance to pull your designs out? or are you subject to the whims and fancies of the Marketplace?
5. Think about how much they will be charging you for a “test print”? Do they make it mandatory for you to “test print” with them before your designs can be on sale? This rule comes off a bit weird for me, they can very easily just be making money off you and why would they care whether your products sell or not - they have got you to give them a design and buy the design from them. They are winning if you ask me.
As a designer, your intellectual property is pretty much your be all and end all. It is how you will make your living, so protect yourself. All in all, they need you more than you need them.