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3Distributed Automates Order-to-Print Solution Using BotQueue

Featured Company: 3Distributed
Article Date: August 2013

3Distributed Workshop - Hugh
Hugh Halford-Thompson

3Distributed Workshop - Neil
Neil Gordon

Hugh Halford-Thompson and Neil Gordon of 3Distributed recently invited 3DPrint3 to their London premises to view first hand their brand new automated order-to-print set up in action, this is the first we've come across in the maker community so how could we refuse!

Armed with our own film crew (thank you visionCreator!) we ventured into the heart of Paddington, West London, where among the backstreets we found the 3Distributed workshop and were greeted by a fleet of 5 fully functional 3D Printers and a further two at the assembly stage. 3Distributed are primarily a 3D Print factory, manufacturing RepRap 3D Printer components for the maker community, they are kept very busy by demand, which has in part fuelled this next step.

Hugh and Neil explained their current setup and then demonstrated the main reason for our visit - their new automated 3D Printing set up. They have written some clever code which connects the dots between their webshop and 3D Printers, this means as soon as a customer places an order through the 3Distributed website the 3D file is automatically sent to BotQueue which in turn automatically allocates the order to 3Distributed's next available 3D Printer. This means they can be more productive with with current set up and fulfill customer orders even faster. Hugh gives us a quick overview.

BotQueue, a completely separate entity to 3Distributed, is run by Zach Hoeken who according to the BotQueue website "His other work includes co-founding MakerBot Industries, building, designing the Sanguino, co-founding NYC Resistor and lately helping startups at HAXLR8R"** - impressive credentials we're sure you'll agree. BotQueue is open source distributed fabrication software which "lets you control multiple 3D printers via the Internet and turn them into your own manufacturing center."** This is a valuable tool for the 3D Printing community and makers everywhere.

What 3Distributed have done is to automate their order-to-print process, it's not rocket science (more computer science ;) but this is the future of large scale manufacturing. One day, and probably only a few years from now, there will be vast warehouses of 3D Printers, continuously printing all manner of products, on demand. The advantages are obvious:

  • Optimised efficiency - no waiting for a humans to manually configure and initiate 3D Print jobs, automation of the process will mean minimal lag between order, print, and distribution. Higher product turnaround which may mean higher sales for companies and faster delivery of goods for customers.
  • Improved customisation - of course you can already customise 3D Prints now however retailers will be able to very easily offer customers a far greater range of customisation options for their products at point of sale / website, parameters such as colour, quality, scale, dimensions, material, etc.
  • Reduced storage - as products are printed on demand there is no need to store items waiting to be purchased, just the raw materials and temporary storage while waiting to be dispatched... one day this step too will also be removed when there is a 3D Printer in every home...
  • Reduced waste - as products are printed on demand there is little waste, if a product doesn't sell it's never printed and so never discarded. Great for the environment.

Hives of 3D Print nozzles buzzing away with little human intervention required, great news all round right? Well yes for the most part, however there is one big loser - that of the low skilled human work force. The world is rapidly becoming more and more automated, take a trip to your local supermarket or airport to see the visible impact, the need for humans in low skilled roles is rapidly evaporating and 3D Printing and 3D Print factories are just part of that inevitable 'natural' evolution. What becomes of all these workers and how will they support themselves in the future is a huge time bomb that no-one seems to be particularly concerned about currently, we'll clearly see the impact of this in the next 10-15 years... anyway, humans arn't the focus of this article so swiftly moving on ;) ***

3Distributed are among the first to automate the order-to-print process (thanks for sharing this with us first guys! :), many more firms and elements of maker community will follow suit and very swiftly we believe. This automation is a welcome and important key step in the 3D Printing arena, BotQueue is a great facilitator of this, we predict this kind of practice will be fairly normal in the next year or two.

If interested to see what products 3Distributed currently offer check out their website at

BONUS: 3Distributed were kind enough to share their technical bits with us and you:

  • Printers = 4x mendel 90s (customised), 1x prusa i3 (customised)
  • Online Shop = Shopify
  • Method of Automation = when an order is placed a webhook calls 3Distributed's custom code which uses BotQueue's API to upload the relevant gcode to BotQueue

If you enjoyed reading this article check out our exclusive interview with 3Distributed from May 2013.

If you are in the 3D Printing inustry and have any news you would like us to share or would like us to come and visit you please drop us an email at

** Source:
*** 3Distributed would like to point out that they are in no way responsible for the future rise in global unemployment and mechanisation of society - they just wanted to show us their new system :)


3Distributed - Contact Details:
Contact: Hugh Halford-Thompson
Tel: 07789231917

video created by visionCreator - Contact Details:







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