CowFab: A crowdsourced 3D printing service, with a freelancer twist

cowfab 3d printingIndividuals and businesses alike have been using 3D printing services more and more, so much that Shapeways can barely keep up with all the orders. Most print services are a warehouse filled with commercial grade 3D printers operated by a team of professionals. A complex queue is managed for weeks of orders, which are printed, finished, and shipped directly to customers. Such queues could be alleviated by a presence of more local 3D print services, which is exactly why makexyz launched. It won’t be the last crowdsourced 3D printing service to arise though, evidenced by CowFab.

One of makexyz’s selling points is it allows people that need something printed to have it printed locally, eliminating the cost and time of shipping. CowFab has a different approach. Instead of having customers seek quotes from those with printers, the process is reversed; customers create projects and those with printers send bids to fulfill those projects. This creates a more competitive environment as whichever printer operators offer the lowest bids will win the most projects.

CowFab takes only 5% of each sale, which is half of the makexyz take. The service was founded by Brennon Williams and Chris Atkeson, the former of which was a software engineer for Bespoke Innovations before it was acquired by 3D Systems. If you’d like to post a project, just make sure it doesn’t violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation; relate to transactions involving copyrighted material or designs; or relate to transactions involving material or designs that may be used as weapons. Simple enough.

Cowfab projects

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  • CornGolem

    Apparently the creators are using the site themselves to post projects and bid on others (not only to test the site). They are judges and judges – huge conflict of interest.

    • Tom Trabert

      I sent them an email. They responded fairly quickly. Those are test projects. It looks like one of the founders also used to work at IDEO. I suspect their printer partner list will be growing pretty soon….

    • http://cowfab.com Brennon Williams

      Yup, test posts. I do have a 3D printer at home but it’s currently broken. We couldn’t bid against our printers even if we wanted to.
      We’re still debugging much of our site, we had to launch a bit prematurely because a competitor cropped up while I was still building the thing.
      - Brennon @CowFab

      • CornGolem

        At least “Print Us a Cow ” is a real project by the team.
        I also spotted a bid (it must have been removed) by the team on a real project.
        Disputes are common on crowd-sourcing sites, I wouldn’t want to have a job involving the site owner, that’s what I meant.

  • Tom Trabert

    Love CowFab. Great idea to reverse the deal and have the vendors bid. Totally cool. This is like eLance, only for 3D printing.
    Thanks for the article and will send them a small project (and report back). Tom