When is a cheap 3D Printer really not that cheap?
There was some news recently about a low cost, desktop 3D printer from a company called Solido closing their doors and laying off their entire staff. The Solido 3D printer has been around for many years under many names and companies. Despite its low price of $10,000 sales never met expectations. The latest company to attempt to sell this product spent millions attending trades, signing up resellers and improving the technology.
As the market continues to push for lower priced 3D printers the question arises when is cheap too cheap? Remember, you are not just paying for the 3D printer itself when you buy one, you are paying for marketing, research & development, support, training, distribution, profit and much more.
EMS has been selling Z Corp 3D Printers for over 10 years and knows this firsthand. Of course the technology must work but there must be a company backing it up that’s going to be around for a long time. When the profit margin is razor thin there just isn’t much interest for most resellers like EMS trying to run a profitable business.
You could make the argument that the printer was also being sold directly on-line therefore a reseller channel was not needed. However, how many people are willing to spend 10,000 or more (materials, training, service contract) etc based on a web video? Most companies today still want to see the product first hand, see some sample parts and know there is someone local to fix their 3D printer if it breaks.
So when is cheap too cheap? When you purchase something solely on price you almost never get what you need. Someone once told me quality only hurts once – when you purchase it, but something cheap hurts every time you try and use it.
The Solido 3D printer may resurrect itself under another name and another company but the problems probably won’t change. There are fixed costs to development, distribution, marketing and the like for 3D Printers. They are still somewhat complex equipment serving a niche market that requires service and support.