How 3-D Printing Startups Are Shaping the Future

A service that lets consumers buy 3-D printable files from designers and output them through a network of producers.

In an increasingly digital world, CDs have turned into MP3s, DVDs have become digital downloads, and now objects are available as files. And just like the music and videos needed for online marketplaces to thrive, Cincinnati-based 3DLT is building a marketplace where consumers can purchase files from designers to get access to printable goods.

The company was in stealth mode until officially launching in April 2013 at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York City. "We connect those designers, consumers and producers together via an online marketplace, and allow them to produce as efficiently and close to the point of need as possible," says John Hauer, a 3DLT co-founder and the company's chief marketing officer.

To date, the company has a partner network with more than 500 3-D printers worldwide, offering a wide selection of materials for users to output in. The company has a partnership with Makexyz, a service that locates local 3-D printers in a user's area, and as it continues to recruit top 3-D printers, it pitches a service that allows owners to monetize their output devices.

But fundamentally, 3DLT is a content company, Hauer says. As of May 1, the company began curating a catalog of designs, which totaled more than 450 3-D objects. "As the 3-D ecosystem builds out at home and at retail and online, and capacity continues to grow, the need for content will continue to grow with it," he says. "And we'll be there to supply it."

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Based in Portland, Ore., John Patrick Pullen covers travel, business and tech for Men's Journal, Fortune and others.

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