Friday, January 2, 2015

All for One or One for All: Streaming vs. Download Pricing on CGTrader


CGTrader is an online marketplace where designers of 3D printing models can sell their files as streaming or downloadable content. Comparing the designers price points for either option provides a unique look into this trade off. By comparing data on prices we can understand designers expectations about the files' usage. CGTrader was started in 2011 and currently lists 10,527 3D printing models, from 881 users, ranging from an Arduino case to earrings of these 1,329 models have priced download and stream options. In this post we will be looking at the ratio of the download price to the stream price for these models. The Download/Stream Ratio (DSR) is capturing expectations of:
  •  the number of times a download will be printed;
  • the expected value to consumers of modification;
  • security of the streaming option;
  • risk of downloaded file becoming widely circulated;
  • etc.
While these differences cannot be completely distinguished it is important to understand the DSR:

Rational Pricing (DSR> 1)


Basic economics predicts that the DSR should be greater than 1 because downloading the file encompasses streaming the file. We see that of the 1329 files 8.2% have a DSR less than 1. Additionally, those 1329 files were created by 193 designers of which 20.7 % have at least one incorrectly priced file. This points to designers misunderstanding the delivery system.

DSR by Category


The CGTraders files represent a wide variety of products and the pricing trends depend heavily on the type of file.



We see that Jewelry and Games & Toys are the categories that are most expensive to stream, while Hobby & DIY and House products are the least expensive to stream. This could be related to the level of complexity of the models.



The DSR provides insight into a more interesting trend. Miniatures and Art have the largest DSR, while Jewelry and Science have the lowest DSR. This could be driven by the fact that Jewelry and Science are more unique and users may not need as many versions.

At the other extreme Miniatures, Art and Hobby & DIY tend to be posted with more fear of proliferation to other sites and so the designers may be trying to capture more of the subsequent prints.

DSR decreasing in stream price





As the price of a single use increases we see that the DSR is decreasing (see the blue line above) with a 10% increase in the streaming price resulting in a 4% decline in the DSR. This could be driven by multiple factors relating to the various determinants of DSR:

  •  There is less demand for more expensive goods meaning that one user would need fewer prints
  • The value of customization is lower for more expensive products
  •  The designer has less faith in the security of the streaming option as the good becomes more valuable
  •  This relationship is most likely not driven by the risk of distribution because a higher priced good would be more likely to be circulated.

In total, this begins to sketch an interesting picture of the pricing process for digital content among 3D printing designers. This is a partial picture of the digital marketplace, but as 3D printing closes the gap between the digital and the tangible (private vs club goods) understanding the DSR (or similar measures) will become more important.

Technical note: While these results are presented as independent correlations, they all maintain a  similar interpretation when included simultaneously in a regression framework. These results are available upon request.

Acknowledgements: Thank you to Dalia Lasaite and the team at CGTrader.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Quick Update

I am still following the 3D printing industry closely, but time constraints have moved me to Twitter. So much is happening daily, so follow me @3Dprintonomics to get up to the minute news. I will try and get back to more extensive blogging when everything slows down.

Happy Holidays

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

3D Printing gets a Big Bang and more

So as a self-diagnosed nerd, I must admit I love CBS's "Big Bang Theory". If I already didn't love it enough this last weeks episode sealed the deal. Raj and Howard decided to buy a 3D printer! I would summarize all the great one-liners that ensued, but that would take away from your viewing experience. All I can say is that it is great to see the exposure that 3D printing is getting in Hollywood lately. (for the episode click here - Season 6 Episode14, for a link to a nice discussion of it on 3ders.org click here)

This incident follows on the heals of two other big moments for 3D printing in popular culture. The first was a cameo of 3D printing on CSI: Las Vegas (Season 13, Episode 9) when a criminal used a 3D printed gun  in a crime and the detectives had to figure out how to trace it. (Discussion on 3dprinter.net click here, for my other posts on 3D printed guns click here).

The other large scale exposure that 3D printing (and my favorite instance, before this past weeks "Big Bang") was a unnecessary cameo in will.i.am and Britany Spears' music video for their hit song "Scream & Shout" (below). (Discussion on on3dprinting.com, click here)

This does not mean that the technology is ready for the general public. But it does mean that when it is ready, everyone will know what we are talking about and no longer look at a 3D printing advocate like they are speaking a different language.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Embedded Electronics and Rubber: More is Better

One of the most limiting factors of 3D printing is the material. While designs and ideas can be freely transported on the internet, material will always have to be physically there. And of course not any material will work for any project, simple plastics can only go so far. That is why the true expansion opportunity of 3D printing lies in material development. In the past week there have been two announcements that may prove to be major in expanding the potential of 3D printing:
Source: The University of Warwick

1. Embedding sensors on the cheap
via 3der.org

Dr. Simon Leigh (right) out of the University of Warwick (MSL & AM Lab) has used conductive plastics to create sensors within 3D printed objects to create everything from simple game controllers to cups that can detect how full they are. The material is a relatively inexpensive plastic composite, dubbed 'carbomorph', that allows for electronic tracks and sensors to be added. The process is nice because it is simple and compatible with current 3D printers. While printing electronics is not new (see here for the press release for a joint project between Stratasys (SSYS) and Optomec Inc. from March this year) making it cheaper would greatly expand the potential it has to impact the 3D economy. Moving forward the project will try and print more elaborate electronics. (For a more comprehensive article on the details of the project, click here, For an interview with Dr. Leigh see here)


a) the CAD design of the printed interface device and the simple circuit used to detect inputs, b) a photograph of the printed device, c) a macro image of the printed sensor pads (scale bar 5 mm), d) the capacitance of each printed sensor pad plotted against time e) an enlarged portion of the graph from part d showing the cross-sensitivity of each sensor pad.  Source: The University of Warwick

2. Rubber to the Road

3D printing materials are rigid, that is until now. Objet announced earlier this week the release of 16 new materials. Bringing their industry leading materials count to 123 (press release). The new materials take the standard plastics that are on the market and manipulate their toughness and elasticity. This expansion allows for the realm of 3D printing to expand in ways that were not previously considered, such as "soft-touch coating, non-slip surfaces, knobs, grips, seals, hoses, and footwear" (See here for a gallery of other possibilities)  that can add that extra comfort and functionality to a your 3D printed dream. This announcement reinforces my point made in an earlier post that when/if the Stratasys-Objet merger goes through the new company will have a strong position in the material development sector of the 3D economy which promises to be huge!

Headphones printed in one session with padding
 around the ears and at the top of the head
Source: Objet