Updated 21 September

CubeForme Offers 3D Printed Items In Surprise Boxes


Would you subscribe to a 3D printing loot crate? We’re not so sure. New Kickstarter from CubeForme promises exclusive designs each month.

Based in Los Angeles, new company CubeForme is pitching a new type of 3D printing subscription service, to surprise you in the mail with unique 3D prints from a featured artist every month. The crowdfunding campaign has just launched on Kickstarter, and they’re seeking $5,000.

The Los Angeles based company is following the already proven concept of loot crates, where surprise boxes filled with geek treats like comics, candy and toys are sent to loyal subscribers every month. Some of these crates feature rare collectibles, which can be flipped on eBay for hundreds of dollars.

For CubeForme, Kickstarter backers are asked to pay $9.99 per month plus shipping costs. A CubeForme box will then land on their doormat, each month spotlighting the work of a different designer. Whether you receive 3D printed crafts that are entertaining, aesthetic, or functional is totally unclear until you open the box.

These Are The CubeForme Designers

cubeforme designer
Designer Jim Rodda, which is the featured designer in September, made great 3D printed enhancements to Barbie (image: Kickstarter)

The first featured designer is Jim Rodda, whose designs you can find at Thingiverse. He’s famous for designing some great plate armor accessories for Barbie, recently featured on All3DP. Other creations include Seej, a tabletop wargame, and a fully operational penny ballista.

Steven Dakh, also known as Slavikk, is next in line. His specialism is low polygon models of animals and skulls. Also, we really like his Bender pen holder.

Third is mechanical engineer Luis Picarzo, who is based in Spain. His Thingiverse page features mainly household items which are improved in a very, very cool way. Like the angle pot, which lets you enjoy your tea without bags or waste.

CubeForme has secured the participation of each designer by sharing 10 percent of the subscription fees.

Our Take: You REALLY Have To Like Surprises

To benefit from this kind of service, you really have to be a fan of the loot crate concept. The mystery element makes them intriguing, but with this Kickstarter campaign there are several potential deal-breakers.

  1. While backers/subscribers know the designer, they won’t have a clue what the delivered item will be. It could be something you really need. Or maybe it’s the 15th bottle opener in your collection, disappearing in your kitchen drawer.
  2. The first three designers are great — but who will follow?
  3. The campaign page tells us the prints are done on a Rostock Max v2, which is fast enough to undertake the monthly prints. So far, so good, but there’s no option to upgrade materials. Everything you receive will be printed in plastic.
  4. Shipping prefabricated 3D printed items seems to miss the point of 3D printing. Why not send exclusive 3D printing files, that the subscriber can arrange to 3D print by themselves? That saves money on postage, wasteful packaging, and gives greater flexibility for choice of material and size.

All in all, it seems like a dubious proposition for crowdsourcing. But maybe we’re just cynical. What’s your take on CubeForme? Feel free to add your comments.

UPDATE 21/09: We’ve had a statement from one of the CubeForme co-founders, Kyle Pham, posted in the comments thread. He’s answered our questions honestly and fairly, we think, and for the sake of balance we’re reposting them here in the main article.

Hi! This is Kyle Pham, one of CubeForme’s co-founders alongside Nick Nguyen. I really appreciate this article and perspective! I think it’s very important to examine the pros and cons of everything in life. In response, I would like to address the four points at the end to hopefully clarify them.

First off, while the element of surprise may be off putting to some, I think that by looking at the designer feature and learning more about that designer – it’s quite easy to get a very clear sense of what general kind of objects you’ll receive. As Anatol’s summaries illustrate, it’s clear that Jim holds very entertaining designs, Steve’s designs are very artistic in nature, and Luis’ work is on the functional end. Of course, there’s always the further caveat that at the end of it all, one’s order goes toward benefiting the designer that’s featured, through commission and publicity.

Second, the first three designers are indeed great! We’re so lucky to have them on board. The question of “who will follow” is an important one that we’re excited to answer for ourselves. Considering that we got all three of our first designers within one month and the fact that there are so many more waiting, I think I can guarantee that we’ll have more featured designers with just as much heart and creative brilliance, albeit in a different way.

The Rostock MAX v2 is our first 3D printer, and we’re very happy to have picked that to be our first one! Given that we are a bootstrapped start-up that has just launched, we’re starting off a bit simple. It took a long time before the iPhone was offered in different colors and sizes… everyone have to start somewhere. Of course, with a bit of time and resources, there’s no reason that we can’t or won’t offer material upgrades. Nick and I will be listening closely to our audience to see what kind of additional color and material options they want (We’re fans of ColorFabb’s bronzeFill ourselves).

Finally, the fourth point is something we’ve heard multiple times before. We want to clarify that CubeForme’s subscription box is aimed primarily toward people without 3D printers. Through a surprise subscription box model, we’re attempting to build a mainstream understanding and appreciation of 3D printing. The idea is to utilize the compelling components of surprise, uniqueness, and innovation to appeal to a broader audience. Of course, we cannot and do not ignore the demographic of people who do have 3D printers. And understandably, the appeal of our box’s product and supporting 3D designers might not be substantial enough to some of those people. Selling 3D files, however, would not make that much sense since most 3D files are already uploaded for free online.

That being said, Nick and I would like to explore creating a “DIY” experience for those with 3D printers, with the input of our Kickstarter backers. Perhaps in the future, we could look to offer a box that contains STL files to print, but with filament, instructions, and extra pieces to complete the printed model as well. Take one of Luis’ 3D printed clocks, for instance. We could include the file for the clock, filament of the right color, a guide on how to print and assemble it successfully, and a motor for the clock to actually work. We’d love to get some input on this!

If anyone else has further questions, please feel free to contact me and Nick at info@cubeforme.com. If you haven’t already, check out our Kickstarter campaign and let us know what you think!