Tobold's Blog
Friday, October 25, 2019
The most useless 3D printing service

I don't know if it is the same everywhere, but the big-box electronic stores I visited this year had on offer every electronic device known to man, except for 3D printers. The idea that a 3D printer is a plug-and-play device for regular consumers seems to be pretty much dead. The technology is too fiddly, and the usefulness too limited. I love my 3D printer, but I recognize it is a niche hobby, for my niche application of printing miniatures and terrain for tabletop role-playing games.

Now for people who don't have a 3D printer, there are 3D printing services like Shapeways, or for those of you wanting tabletop miniatures, Hero Forge. For people who do own a 3D printer, there are both free sites like Thingiverse and various "premium" marketplaces for .STL files. I also got a lot of files for my hobby via various Kickstarter campaigns. So I wasn't really surprised when I saw an offer on the World of Tanks launcher for a 3D printing service offering 3D printed model tanks. That might be interesting! At least I should check it out ...

The result *was* interesting in as far as I came across the most useless 3D printing service ever, called Wippit. They don't sell you a file you can print. They don't sell you a finished print. They let you pay for a model, and then send data to your 3D printer to create a print via an app. Once, with some option to try a second time if the first print failed. Now first of all that only works for a limited number of 3D printers supported, so even if I wanted to use this offer, I couldn't, because my printer isn't supported. But I certainly wouldn't want to pay for this service, because it takes all the disadvantages of the other services, with none of the advantages. You still need your own printer, your own filament, with your own risk of print failures, so you don't get the advantages of a service like Shapeways. But you also only get a single copy of your print, with no options to modify it, so you don't get the advantages of a downloaded .STL file. If your print doesn't work in two tries, you basically spent your money for nothing, and wasted your material to boot. Who thought that this was a good idea?

Oh, and by the way, there are tons of free .STL files for tanks on Thingiverse.

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