Customizer will Always be Free -- Your Imported Needed on Subscriptions


Models @ MakeWithTech continues to expand with new features and models in the local directory.

The “Search MakeWithTech” model directory has 118 unique and customizable models. Each model on Models @ MakeWithTech is like 5 or 10 models on any other platform because of your ability to customize the model and generate a unique STL file. This capability will be enhanced in the next few days to support saving rendered models in 3mf, SVG, and DXF formats, in addition to STL. In addition, more OpenSCAD features are planned for the next couple of months to revolutionize the potential of OpenSCAD for model creators.

Almost 1,800 people have already created free accounts on the site.

While the customizer will always be free, some new features will be limited to subscribers. This is because subscriptions are necessary to support this project’s development, management, operational and hosting costs. Here is a list of potential free and subscriber-only features. As always, I am very interested in your thoughts.


All the best. Irv

This seems reasonable, but I have a few thoughts:

  1. “Select Pre-Release OpenSCAD builds”: If a developer posts a model that requires a newer OpenSCAD release, does a user need to pay for a subscription to use that model? I guess if they don’t want to pay, they can download the .scad file and create an STL file themselves using the needed OpenSCAD release. Is that the thinking?

  2. “Post Comments on Models”: I have mixed feelings about not allowing people who don’t have a paid account to post comments on models. I can see where you want to limit spam, or abusive comments, etc. On the other hand, I would like more people to be able to participate in 3D printing community, to get their feet wet with participation, even if it’s just adding a comment that says, “I like it.” or “this is ok, but there’s a much better design on printables”, or even the occasional, “why post this? There are a ton of better battery dispenser designs already. You’re wasting your time”. These can be helpful to the developer, even if they feel a bit mean :smiley:

  3. “Share Models with external modules, …” : Forcing developers who have models with external dependencies to pay extra to share them seems like a “negative feedback” for growing your site. Those fancier models can help the site become more useful, and thereby accelerate the membership income. What’s your thinking on this one?

Regarding posting comments:

I have been a moderator on a few forums myself. I also participated on many forums. I always lurk around a while before I post on one these days. Having trolls post comments is always a problem. Having moderators with long toes or an alternative agenda is a problem. Having an overly popular site is also an issue, on many levels.

This forum is nice. But I have no idea how to carry that over to the models. Having input can improve models on one hand. Having all comments moderated before publication can feel like censorship. Difficult balance to handle. I wonder if a simple decision tree would be the safest way? Starting with offering a choice of like-not like, with options linked to that choice.

That said, the negative input might be linked to user error. How do you exclude that? The horrible and incomprehensible things I have seen people do to a printer are mindboggling, since I started looking on social media last year. Plus, I am amazed on how many people buy a printer without having a clue on how it works, excepting it to be as easy as printing ink on paper.

@CoreyPDX Thanks for the thoughtful questions.

Unfortunately, any options that encourage sufficient users to subscribe, which is necessary for this system to remain viable, will probably impose some limitations on users. Here are my thoughts about your comments:

  1. “Select Pre-Release OpenSCAD builds”: First, the publically available release of OpenSCAD will always be free. Prerelease versions of OpenSCAD will probably also have bugs that could frustrate users. By limiting access to prerelease versions of OpenSCAD to subscribers, I am hoping to limit access to users that are more active OpenSCAD users. You are also correct. If the model is free, or the author allows free downloads of the SCAD file, then a knowledgeable user can download the model and render it locally.

  2. “Post Comments on Models”: I fully hear you. I need to think about this one. Now sure how to address it yet.

  3. “Share Models with external modules, …”: My thinking is that external modules, which in this implementation will consist of ZIP files, take up a lot more storage and are more likely to require extensive support, so they should be limited to subscribers. Of course, any creator can always embed external modules with their script, which people used to do on Thingiverse. On the other hand, I agree more complex models will often use modules, and we want to grow the number of models. Once again, I appreciate your comments and will give this some more thought.

My challenge is that I have now hired additional developers and designers to help with the site. This project will exhaust my resources without a significant revenue stream between development costs and hosting. MakeWithTech has also become a full-time job, and I need to make it profitable for it to make sense. Some folks may think it is wrong to try and make money from a community using Open Source software. However, I am ambitious enough to believe I can both help the community grow, provide free resources for folks who do have the ability to pay, and still make some money for my family.

I will always be completely transparent and open with my community of over 60,000 people watching my videos and thousands more using Models @ MakeWithTech and

I recognize this post will be around forever, and I am completed comfortably with continuing to publically state that the customizer, using the publically released version of OpenSCAD, will always remain free as long as I can afford to pay the AWS hosting fees.

I am also comfortable with saying that people should be charged for storage, advanced features (such as storing parameters), and the ability to monetize their models. With the community’s help, I hope to get the balance right.

Thanks again. Your thoughtful comments are very helpful to me.

I was under the impression that most scad files are rather small. I just had a look at the zip file for BSOL-2, and it’s only 757kB (and that includes docs and examples), so I’m not clear that storage is really an issue. If it gets to be a problem, perhaps you could figure out a way to discard all of the .scad files that aren’t in the transitive closure of the “use” and “include” statements of the main .scad file.

I definitely get the need for funding, even though it’s open source. Nearly all cloud service providers provide open source packages to layer upon, but they charge for all but the most basic services. As a consumer of a cloud service, staying in the free tier isn’t easy.

@CoreyPDX You are correct SCAD files are very small. They are just text. However, saved STL files can be quite large. Most of the storage on the system is for the image files associated with models and the STL files from members’ (users) customizations.

So when you mentioned “external modules” which would be in zip files, those are indeed not very big. On the other hand, zip is compressed format, so unless you uncompress dynamically each time a model is used, you have to consider the decompressed size which could be about 5x larger.

One thought would be to require 3mf format to store models, and then convert on the fly for those users who want STL. And one step further would be to compress the 3mf file, since it’s just an XML derivative, which should give at least 3:1 compression.