In the 3D printing world, one name currently pops to mind when people talk about hosting their files for the public. That name is Thingiverse, owned by Makerbot. Ultimaker is hoping to carve its own place out in the market with YouMagine.
Anyone outside of this world might be asking, "So what?" So I interviewed Erik de Bruijn, one of the co-founders of Ultimaker, in person and via email to get some insight.
EE Times: Why did you guys decide to build a part repository?
Erik de Bruijn: Thingiverse was independent of Makerbot when I first contributed to it back in 2008, but it was put more and more under the control of Makerbot, which became especially noticeable over the years. I very much like the idea of a sharing repository. I even volunteered to do free web development work on Thingiverse back in the early days. Over time, I've developed lots of ideas about what this infrastructure could look like.
The most important ingredients aren't technical. What you really want people to do is inspire each other and contribute at various levels, whether it's publishing an idea, a design, or helping people find optimal print settings. With technology, you can make this process more convenient, but it's not something a generic wiki or forum couldn't do. Still, the technology has to be really good, because there are plenty of sites that offer this basic setting. You need things to set you apart from the rest.
EE Times: What features of YouMagine make it stand out? How is it different?
Erik de Bruijn: Sharing ideas, print settings and files (not just STLs, but also source files). We want a contribution to be the starting point for the next person. Ideas should inspire people to design. We have an idea section where people are starting to add things and find collaborators. Also, designs should be a starting point, so we help people to upload source files. Cura has a YouMagine upload feature (using the same API that any developer can use), which helps you upload that .scad file in addition to the STL file.
Wireless cloud 3D printing
We have instant, single click-printing working in conjunction with Doodle3D (it's in a prototype stage right now). This will be compatible with most 3D printers that have standardized protocols. Slicing will be done for you in the cloud, through the fast new CuraEngine.
We intend to put a lot of emphasis on collaboration. For this you first need people to share source files. On Thingiverse, each design is made by a single person, even if it inherits from other designs. On YouMagine, this is possible, but it will also be possible to create bigger projects with multiple collaborators. That way, it becomes easier to contribute. We want to allow both forking and multi-user contributions, similar to Github.
YouMagine understands the files that are being uploaded. It analyzes the printability in the cloud, even indicating how much time and material the prints will cost. It also understands and renders open standards such as AMF. AMF files can be multi-material files that you can load into Cura for printing, which is great for dual-extrusion 3D printers such as the Ultimaker.
In the image below, you see it analyzes the file. A simpler version (showing grams of material) is already online.
Files analyzed to show size, weight, and potential cost in material.
EE Times: At this early point, why do you think someone would choose YouMagine over the already mature Thingiverse?
Erik de Bruijn: If you're looking for something very specific, you may have a higher likelihood of finding it on Thingiverse. But if the overall quality of designs is high on YouMagine, it's a great resource to look for things to print. Also, we try to embrace the open culture to the fullest and respect people's rights when sharing creative content. If people care about open culture, YouMagine is a great place to share. Also, as long as it's much easier to print from YouMagine, easy to share and showcase what you've made, I think those features will cause people to favor YouMagine.
Also, a future version will include cool online editors. We're developing a combination of Scratch and OpenSCAD which is fully web-based, powerful, parametric, and child's play to use.