DAO-like Open3D Club lets you trade 3D printable content for bitcoins

Dec 30, 2016 | By Benedict

Open3D Club, a new platform for uploading 3D printable models, is hoping to transform the way that 3D content is created, shared, and used. The service, which uses bitcoins as currency, will be almost entirely decentralized, and will use an automatic payment system to provide royalties.

Earlier this year, a mysterious online entity called The DAO became the subject of the largest crowdfunding campaign in history. Between April and May, the equivalent of around $160 million was raised from backers all over the world, making the campaign approximately 47 times more valuable than the most successful crowdfunding campaign in 3D printing history: the $3.4 million raised by Maryland company M3D in 2014 to fund its Micro 3D printer.

The DAO was a decentralized autonomous organization and venture capital system that promised to offer users an entirely digital, transparent, autonomous, and decentralized form of investment. The idea was that investors could put up funds in the form of bitcoins, vote on investment decisions, and generally sidestep the murky and biased processes involved in traditional investment procedures. But despite drumming up such a large amount of interest (and money), The DAO fell at the first hurdle, with a cyber attack threatening to eradicate a large portion of the invested money. In the end, members voted on a “hard fork” to return all money to users.

The DAO, in the end, was a failure, and most of that original $160 million has now been returned to initial investors. Many, however, still firmly believe in the idea of a decentralized autonomous organization for financing projects. (The downfall of The DAO was, after all, largely due to technical and operational problems, rather than theoretical ones.) Cue the unveiling of Open3D Club, a kind of DAO for 3D printing that could revolutionize the way 3D content is distributed around the web. The proof-of-concept platform is currently in the very early stages of development, but its founder, Bicba, believes that the autonomous platform could replace current content platforms and service bureaus like Thingiverse and 3D Hubs.

Potential transparent governance model of Open3D Club

“Open3D Club is a platform in the early stage of development, envisioned to connect designers of 3D models, 3D printer owners, and end users in a decentralized way,” Bicba said in a recent interview. “Since our team doesn’t have a software developing background, the first iteration of the website is designed as a showcase to explain how it should function and look like. The goal is to hide all the complexity of the new emerging technologies used on the platform and to enable people without any experience in additive manufacturing to have access to the library of 3D printable models.”

True to its name, Open3D Club aspires to be completely open source, and will eventually evolve towards a set of protocols that will be decided upon by users. The makers of the platform believe that this will help to improve trust between parties, while special bounties will be offered to developers who are able to solve software challenges within the system itself. It is hoped that this incentive scheme will encourage talented software developers to contribute their expertise to the project, turning Open3D Club into an almost entirely autonomous entity.

Despite being in its infancy, Open3D Club has a plan for expansion, beginning with developing the web platform for hosting 3D models. These models should, according to the project’s manifesto, be easily searchable and sortable. However, to avoid an “oversupply” of mixed-quality 3D models, the team behind the platform with attempt to direct users towards the “3D Prize” area of the website, where users can debate the best ways to develop the platform. The current team claims to have a background in digital manufacturing, project management, and presentation, but is seeking volunteers with expertise in “3D modeling, software development, web design, structural design, production, and all other necessary fields” to make the system functional.

Map showing how revenue could be distributed between content creators

In addition to hosting 3D models on the platform and giving 3D modelers a chance to distribute their creations, Open3D Club is also planning to integrate a 3D printing store and hub directory into the platform, giving makers a chance to find local 3D printers if they do not have their own. However, the participation of stores and hubs will be regulated by user reviews and feedback: “3D printing stores should be able to get involved in the platform without any barriers to entry, but their reputation over time should become reflective of users’ satisfaction with their service, similar to any other selling platform on the web,” the manifesto states.

Unlike many 3D printing content platforms, Open3D Club does plan to monetize the platform—though in unconventional ways. The platform will not invite uploaders to set a price for their submissions, but will instead generate revenue through 3D printing related advertisements and voluntary contributions from downloaders. The division of revenue will be subject to algorithms and procedures decided upon by the Open3D Club community: “Each group working on Open 3D platform (software developers, artists and possible others) will have to come up with a set of rules for measuring contribution and payments to people in their field,” the manifesto states. “Anyone should be able to participate in this project and to get paid automatically through their earned reputation.”

Open3D Club is still in its very early stages, but users can see how the platform might look via the proof-of-concept website. While the difficulties inherent in such a project—brought to light by the failure of The DAO—may deter many members of the 3D printing community, the idea is certainly interesting. After all, current 3D platforms make plenty of revenue from advertising, none of which ends up in the pockets of those producing content. Furthermore, many will find the prospect of a bitcoin-driven marketplace highly suitable for a futuristic technology like 3D printing. The challenge for Open3D Club now is generating sufficient interest in the project to get it off the ground. $160 million might be unrealistic, but we’ve certainly heard worse ideas.

Posted in 3D Design

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