What started out as a network of individual 3D printer owners has since morphed into a network of industrial manufacturing services and, now, Dutch startup 3D Hubs has raised $18 million in funding to grow larger and more complex.
The funds were raised in a Series C round led by Endeit Capital and included participation from Hearst Ventures, EQT Ventures, Balderton Capital, Booking.com founder Arthur Kosten, and Ultimaker founder Erik de Bruijn. With the money, 3D Hubs aims to expand its presence globally and further automate its online manufacturing platform.
If you haven’t been to the 3D Hubs website in awhile, you might be surprised by some interesting new features. The site is now able to detect potential errors in your part for a variety of manufacturing options, including CNC machining and injection molding, as well as a variety of materials, from stainless steel (for CNC) to PEEK. You can also get an instant quote and bulk pricing. Smart order routing also sends your file to the most logical supplier in the firm’s network.
3D Hubs’ software uses machine learning based on datasets from millions of parts to determine manufacturability and price. According to 3D Hubs cofounder and CEO Bram de Zwart, “Thanks to our algorithms, 93% of manufacturing orders are fully automated, allowing us to get parts into our customers’ hands twice as fast on average. This latest funding round will give us the power to make manufacturing outsourcing even smarter and simpler, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
In addition to expanding these AI capabilities, the startup will be using the funding to open another office in the U.S. (in addition to its New York City location). 3D Hubs also aims to “integrate [its platform] more deeply into both customer and supplier workflows.”
James Wise, partner at Balderton Capital, suggests that “3D Hubs is tackling one of the biggest challenges we face as a planet—how we continue to manufacture things in a global marketplace, but in a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable way.” This may be due in part to the fact that 3D Hubs attempts to produce parts as close to the point of delivery as possible.
If this approach can be achieved on a large enough scale, greenhouse gas emissions from the shipping industry (currently responsible for about 4 percent of emissions globally) could be reduced. But 3D Hubs will only have a significant impact if the company can make local production a cornerstone of its strategy.