How much should a good 3D printer cost?

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jonnybischof
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How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by jonnybischof » June 15th, 2017, 5:07 am

So, I've been working on my own 3D printer designs for a long time now (currently stalled out, but will continue final development asap), and I'll soon be at a point where I need to think about whether or not to manufacture and sell these printers.

Now, if you want to sell anything, you need to put a reasonable price tag on it. My designs are based largely on using top-notch quality Misumi linear products, and in general using the best possible materials. Somewhat an exception is electronics - nothing beats the simple reprap electronics in functionality and price. I could build a better platform, but would be selling the electronics alone for 500$. Better put that money into the linear hardware...

3D printers in all possible price ranges keep popping up. You can buy a 3D printer for less than 300$, or more than 4000$ (not counting the industrial printers, I don't really care about these...).

So, cutting it short:
Do you think that a printer priced around 2500 - 3000$ would be accepted in the market today? The main targets aren't home users (except the Swiss ones with deep pockets...) but mostly small business professionals which need great reliability and core functionality at a reduced price. For a professional, time is money, and if your printer saves you time (e.g. instead of having to clean nozzles you just swap the whole printhead together with the filament), it should imho be worth paying a few bucks more for the thing.

Does anyone know how well the Ultimaker 3 is selling? I guess this would be my main competitor to beat...
Best regards,
Jonny

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by Xeno » June 15th, 2017, 8:31 am

Getting into that $2000 - $3000 price range, then most will probably buy an Ultimaker,
building a good printer is not the biggest deal, but keeping it going day, after day, after day is more of a challenge :)
That is where Ultimaker excels.

You would need to make a printer that has something special, like size (or just long ?)
or focus on something that is not working with other sprinters and improve on that.

The one thing UM users probably want is bigger build plate, for the same price :)

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by LePaul » June 15th, 2017, 9:19 am

Yes, right now there are many printers that can do 8 x 8 x 8 (inch) out there.

That constrains a lot of people like me, thus why many are looking at the cheap ~$400 (Creality CR-10, Folgertech FT-5) and expensive ~$3200 (Raise3D N2 Plus, gcreate gmax 1.5xt+). Those top out around 16 x 16 x 21 inches (gmax).

It used to be if you bought a cheap printer, you got cheap results. But as I am seeing with the CR-10 series, they are getting Ultimaker 2+ level print quality.

In fairness, I do not see printers of this size worrying about or needing 0.06 layer heights. Smaller objects would, thus the popularity of the Form2 for small stuff

It looks like the market is looking for sub-$1500 3D printers to really perform with good quality and ease of use.

I don't have Ultimaker's marketing insight and what models are selling best. I imagine the dual material Ultimaker 3 is doing well but the 2+ is a great printer, too. I haven't been in an audience of experienced 3D printing patrons to see what price points work for them. $2499 now a days seems quite high, considering the impact of the cheaper printers. Josef Prusa really helped the price drop with his latest printer, which is STILL seeing long delays/backorders a year after being released! It's just amazingly popular.

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by jonnybischof » June 15th, 2017, 10:19 am

Okay, so for us home users an Ultimaker might be a good or even great machine. But that changes a lot when you're a business customer. I personally am quite happy with my UMO that I built myself from the kit. My printing results are rather bad (which is why I rarely show anything) but that's just due to the fact that the whole materials used cost less than a few hundred Euros. But the parts I print usually work, even if they look crappy. Were I an actual business customer wanting to print stuff that goes out to my customers, I would never even consider using that Ultimaker to print a thing.

My concept is targeted at small business customers (and enthusiast home users). I will be using actual linear components instead of the crap they put into Ultimakers and competitors. That alone will be quite the upgrade. And I wouldn't call an Ultimaker (any model) a reliable machine. There are so many quality control issues one keeps hearing about, that I wonder if they do any qc at all or if their assemblers even know how to read the assembly instructions. It might seem harsh, and I know most companies actually deal with the very same problems, but these are things I just wouldn't accept at all if I were buying a "business class" product. When you're at work, any time you use for anything costs money. Every little detail about the machine you're buying that makes you need less time to work with it, is worth a lot of money in the longer run. And if you're just an enthusiast with deep pockets, it's about the same thing - you don't want to waste any time messing around with a printer. You want to push a button and get a good result - every time you push that button.

Apart from that, I do actually have a bunch of nice features that set my build apart from the competition. Sure - for now it's still a paper tiger, but one must have a goal for his project ;).
I've just been talking to a sales rep that makes high-grade aluminum linear rails (Swiss Made) which - if they come at a reasonable price - I will be integrating and again changing some major parameters in the design. And even if that doesn't work out, the Misumi linear rails I'm currently using are still worlds apart from anything you'd see in a comparable printer. Funny thing is, that sales rep called Misumi linear rails "chinese mass products". :)
Btw, the Misumi rails (got some laying around already) are in fact made in China / Taiwan, but to Misumi's specs and quality control - which is what matters after all.


The thing that most people don't understand is that if you have a large printer - say 300x300 mm, the banana shafts it's using and the wobbly, cheaply made frame introduce that much of an error that you just can't print at fine resolutions anymore without having a noticeably degraded result. If you go smaller (with the same quality "linear products") your error becomes smaller and you can print in finer detail. That wouldn't be an issue in the first place if your machine was built with an acceptable quality standard, using quality components and a good frame concept.

I suppose I really have to abandon the typical "reprap" market. There are many products around that will easily beat my concept while offering the same thing (on paper), and the typical home user won't recognize the difference between a cheap chinese clone and an actual high-grade product.
Best regards,
Jonny

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by LePaul » June 15th, 2017, 10:33 am

Just remember a few things...

Customers like knowing great care was taken to make their 3D printing experience easy.

I give high marks to Prusa for including a MANUAL with his printers. How hard was it for you to start learning your Ultimaker Original or Ulimaker 2/2+? For me, both were awkward. The Forum wound up providing most of the support. I would have preferred better tutorials, be it in print or YouTube videos (like Simplify 3D tries to do)

I'm not a fan of the Chinese knock offs and crap like that. However I am willing to buy one of their printers and see what they are all about.

It's hard for a customer to justify spending a lot more money on premium components when what is included works fine.

While YOU and I know the difference, part of your sales and marketing should be to explain the differences. That's how you pitch your product.

What may work for someone that prints a few times a week may not for someone who prints every day, relying on it for their business.

I've been in customer service all my life. From waiting tables, bartending, computer service/sales and appliance sales, I have been trained repeatedly on meeting customer's expectations. That is why certain things drive me crazy more than most. For example, Ultimaker's web forums performance issues or the FolgerTech FT-5 instructions being totally lacking. Sometimes people interpret my comments as someone who likes to complain a lot. No, rather I like to advise people how to make things easier for their customers!

When it comes to your product, what are you looking to offer that isn't already available?

What is unique about the product you are dreaming up?

Does it print big? Does it offer different nozzle sixes? Does it auto level? How fast can it print? Is it enclosed? Can I remotely monitor my prints?

Entice us :)

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by jonnybischof » June 16th, 2017, 4:18 am

I agree about the manual. Even if you know how 3D printers work in general, you still don't know about the specialties of the printer you just bought. And without a manual you might never find out about them...
What's also important is that the -whole- design is open source. For experienced users nothing is as good as being able to just look up ANY detail about the printer.

The problem about product marketing is that everyone advertises his stuff as the very best there is. How the *insert nice word* are you as a buyer supposed to differentiate between products if everyone claims the same? I will do my marketing by simply specifying everything about anything. Because most of the marketing liars will tell you "my product is the best" - but no details (because the details do not match the claims). The problem with that is, that many buyers won't actually take the time to read all those details - and understand them.


I'm hesitant to share too much about my printer before I actually have a working product. I mean I'm confident that it's going to be the best FDM 3D printer out there, but that remains to be seen. And before that, I don't want to stake any claims that might not be true in the end.
What I can say so far is that I'm designing it in multiple stages. The first one will be a simple, single hotend, ultimaker gantry style printer. Build volume is currently 180x120x200 mm. So it's a small printer, but I generally make small parts so this is what I need. I will probably make a bigger version some time, but so far I have just never needed it. The thing about small printers is that they can achieve higher precision and higher speeds than large printers. You can't have both, at least not within a reasonable price range. I will stick to the Swiss way of engineering - we make best-in-class, precision products instead of the rough and large-scale stuff that others do.
I might actually make a dedicated large-scale printer using an E3D volcano hotend, but that one will be inherently different from the small one and I will use a completely different concept. Imho, Ultimaker style gantry only works for small printers. But it performs exceptionally well for small printers if you use high quality linear components (which no one does so far, btw.).
Best regards,
Jonny

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by LePaul » June 16th, 2017, 8:52 am

Is there demand for small print volume printing?

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by GrueMaster » June 16th, 2017, 9:54 am

For those of us printing 28mm miniatures and other such things, a small footprint with high quality detail is what we're looking for. Unfortunately, the small footprint FDM printers tend to also be very low quality (M3D comes to mind). While the thought of owning a large scale printer (or better, making my own) has certain appeal (it's a guy thing), I honestly don't know what I would need it for.

I am getting decent miniatures to print on my Hictop, but some of the detail is lost, and if it requires extensive support, forget it.

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by Anders Olsson » June 17th, 2017, 10:48 am

There might be a market for a really high quality printer, but I doubt that you can produce and sell such printer for the same money as an UM3.

Just have a look at E3D for example, the Bigbox printer was successfully developed and all their Kickstarter printers shipped and then they realized they just could not continue making them for that price and closed that part of their business: http://bigbox-3d.com
I imagine that E3D has a reasonable budget so if they fail, you really have to have a very clever design and minimize the costs to have any chance.

The main thing if you want to try it to come up with a design that requires a minimum of different components and that is as easy to assemble as possible. The Ultimaker machines really are not very optimized in this sense, just look at the huge number of screws for example, and how many different lengths of screws there are.
There is no way you are going to compete if your design is as complex and time consuming to build as the Ultimakers.
Every part is basically a potential issue and everything has to be sourced and kept in stock to build a single machine.

One has to keep in mind too that if you sell the printers through a network of distributors and resellers they all want their share.
To have any chance of making a profit you might want to aim at a finished printer costing you 50% of the sales price or so when all costs are paid.
If you think Chinese stuff is cheap for example you would be amazed how little money actually ends up at the factory in China.
The major part of what you pay disappears along the way, much of it in Europe/USA.

So, if you have some edge over the competitors and a really really clever and lean design you might be able to sell it.
But start thinking about and optimizing these things already at the prototype, that is my advice :-)

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by Neotko » June 17th, 2017, 11:29 am

I think there's an unexplored market that most companies, even china ones have just not even check.

And that's all the reprap, ultimakers original, 2, owners that have machines stuck in time with most parts that could be refurbished into a better machine.

For example, making good quality Frames for the printers, instead of the umo+ wood or um2 woobly alu and selling a corexy solution. Leaving the user to install their board and refurbish all at a low cost without having to go into the selling printers battle.

There's literally zero business doing that. And with some clever ideas, it could be done. For example to move a umo+ to um2, to corexy is as simple as changing a line in code on marlin. And you don't need to remove the bed, board, psu, hotend.

Imagine a 500€ kit that changes your frame to something really sturdy and give's you corexy system. Print some adapters for your hotend, and go. You keep the same bed, improve print quality and even allow for modders to change to a bigger bed.

When someone sells a printer is always at a lost, and to buy what? A product that's 200% overpriced?

That's my 2 cents

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by LePaul » June 17th, 2017, 4:43 pm

What's a corexy system?

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by Neotko » June 17th, 2017, 4:58 pm

LePaul wrote:
June 17th, 2017, 4:43 pm
What's a corexy system?

Something like this

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by GrueMaster » June 17th, 2017, 5:21 pm

I believe Ultimakers couldbe considered CoreXY. Not sure. See http://reprap.org/wiki/CoreXY for the definition.

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by LePaul » June 17th, 2017, 9:39 pm

Yeah the Folgertech FT-5 uses rails instead of the rods the Ultimaker and others have.

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Re: How much should a good 3D printer cost?

Post by Neotko » June 18th, 2017, 3:44 am

The main problem with the ultimaker gantry (Cartesian, not corexy) is that the shafts ain't designed to hold much weight, so if you put something like a um3 printhead or a zge, you add weight to the system that's already on the limit. Corexy, with strong enough rails, could keep the same speeds without the downsides of shafts bending under pressure (on a micro level).

Ofc for corexy to keep up with the speeds you need a much better frame structure. The um gantry is fine for what it is, but is very limited to how much it can evolve.

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