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  1. #1

    Consumer devices development of tech and cost

    Been glancing at 3d printing over the fence for 1-2 years now, but only very recently actually started with the activity. So still getting an overview where things are going.

    What I've found out/understood/concluded so far:

    -Major developments happen in the industrial/B2B space and the R&D money is not yet aimed at consumer devices. This trickles down to the consumer space when patents expire (eg. FDM -> Reprap).
    -Next major leap was expiration of SLA patents in/around 2014. However since we already had FDM printers this was more just an option for better print quality. (Is SLA slower than FDM? Is there more room to polish the tech for consumer devices?)
    -Other than that there is no advance in base technologies. There is incremental development in finding better materials to build the printers from, polishing design, improving quality and so on. Printers will become more reliable, easier to use and convenient.
    -Take a look at Ultimaker prototype/original -> Ultimaker 3. The features are much more beefy and offer various kinds of convenience, yet the basic specs are exactly the same as 5 years ago. Price tag is beefier. (No idea about printing speed, would assume only slight improvement but I'm new to the whole thing.)
    -New technologies are introduced in the B2B market, that promise an order of magnitude higher printing speed or even two orders of magnitude like Carbon. Expect these to trickle down to the consumer space in 20 (30?) years when the patents expire, unless "the suits" see a business case in low-cost licensing to the consumer market.
    -There is little price pressure on the market from new technology. In this respect it is very different in my view from the PC market as we've seen it. Most of the pressure is from dozens of new competitors entering the market, bringing dozens of slightly improved models. This does bring the prices down but I have little idea how aggressive this is. Is there a point to wait until the next quarter in hope of cheaper prices? (I recall 10-15 years ago the price erosion was quite severe on the PC markets, but nowadays this has stopped and there are price cuts/performance increases only at the major/medium technology jumps like new processor architectures)
    -Many of the new offerings are simply cheaper or "me too" devices with a lower total quality of the device than the already established brand names

    Anything you think is incorrect or incomplete? Or did I get it spot on? Any new patents going to expire in the say, next 5 years or so?

    In particular I'm writing this from the new printer's buyers point of view - what kind of price development can we expect and is there anything new behind the corner? Is it likely to be an investment that carries 10 years solid or will it be basically outdated because we see something new and better soon?
    Last edited by varis; 10-19-2016 at 09:29 AM.

  2. #2
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    well a 3d printer that can make things that work today - will still make the same things in 10 years time. So 3d printers, don't get obsolete.

    There is massive price pressure on the market - pries of desktop 3d printers have plummetted in the last 2 years. To the point that there are many kits and small printers available under 200.
    Kit's are even cheaper.

    As far as innovation goes - oh yeah, that's increasing.
    The materials side of things is where a lot of the improvements are, plus carbon aren't the only fast sla developers out there.
    Some of the new resins are very impressive, as are the plethora of new fdm filament types that appear every week.

    There's no doubt that it's a fast growing industry that's only going to be come an increasing part of everyday life.

    From the point of a new buyer - you are stuck for choice. The sub $500 market is just incredible. And the more you have to spend the wider your choice.
    You're right about ultimaker, they do seem to be stuck in 5 years ago. For the money now, there are so many amazing machines you can buy that knock the new ultimaker into a cocked hat.
    I think they're far more impressed with themselves than they should be. If you look at some of the companies in spain and italy, they're years ahead of ultimaker.

  3. #3
    Good to know. I guess the innovation is getting there - even if there are no major breakthrougs in the consumer space, everything around the technological basis continues to evolve - controllers becoming more advanced and so on. Would like to read a bit on these subjects.

    Is the price pressure in part because everybody and their dog wanted to jump the 3d printing bandwagon, but growth of the market wasn't as fierce as estimated earlier?

    Since prices are dropping and feature sets evolving, would it make most sense to keep in $500-$1000 range for the home user and prepare to upgrade in just a couple of years? Talking of a multiple 3d printer strategy, would it make sense? Basically if/when(?) you have multiple objects to print, you can use your older printer to make the prototypes or the stuff that doesn't need the best finish, while your #1 churns out the "production" level stuff.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    even if there are no major breakthrougs in the consumer space
    These are in the materials market and there have been some very impressive major breakthroughs recently.

  5. #5
    I wonder if we will actually see a revolution from the SLA side. Take a look at Slash, which is going to be introduced Soon (tm):

    http://uniz3d.com/tech-specs

    Printing speed is radically increased, since they use a different sintering mechanism (UV matrix is blocked selectively by LCD). Quality is stated to be about (?) as good as existing SLA.

    If they can deliver, it would seem that FDM gets pushed out of the mid-tier of consumer market. They could still dominate the $500 device space, since Slash will initially cost $1500+ and might take a while before there is a credible competitor or the licensing begins.

  6. #6
    Staff Engineer
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    I don't see anything particularly revolutionary in the Slash printer, which doesn't actually exist yet as a product. I doubt it would be much faster than current machines you can already buy when you use fine layers; the claimed speed improvements seem to be due to using super-thick layers, which defeats the whole purpose of SLA printing: the ability to get good detail compared to FDM. Most of the time that the process takes is from exposing individual layers and then peeling them off the build plate; I don't think that this machine gets away from that basic requirement. The SLA process, by the way, doesn't involve sintering; it works by solidifying a photo-sensitive resin.

  7. #7
    Staff Engineer Davo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by varis View Post
    Other than that there is no advance in base technologies.
    Wow.

    Are you getting this from advertisements? Have you looked at small, innovative companies? My printer prints in PEEK, metal clay, RTV Silicon, Sugru, biologicals, two-part thermosets, UV-curables, elastomers... and the regular filaments like everyone else.

  8. #8
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    My bet is that "the suits" will realize they can make more money by selling to billions of customers instead of just a few thousand.

    There's always more money to be made in the consumer market as long as the demand is there and the price can be made affordable.

  9. #9
    So has anything significant happened since we last talked? I recently glanced at a few "best 3d printers for 2017" articles and the old names like Lulzbot and Ultimaker are still there, and while the other crowd seems to change a bit I didn't spot anything ground shaking. Are publications like Tom's Hardware and the various 3D printing sites just a little behind the curve? I recall people on these boards raving about the Wanhao budget printers but didn't see them featured in the reviews. And the Lulzbot Taz 6 which was still rated a best pick at $2,500 was released 2 years ago! Price doesn't seem to have come during that period.

    Here is (I guess) a partial overview of recently expired patents: https://caretdashcaret.com/2013/12/2...nting-patents/

    It talks of SLS and I've noticed some printers are trickling down towards the consumer market ($10,000 price tag). But Wikipedia tells us there are technical hurdles, such as the required high power lasers, which will likely keep the technology out of our homes for years, maybe more than a decade? So old patents is just one thing and the continuous innovation on a broad front is often the factor that brings the consumer technology forward.

    Would you say it's actually quite hard to estimate where and when the next big breakthrough might come?

    I take the materials innovation is a given; not an overnight breakthrough but something which will push 3D printing and make it more practical during several years to come. Printed items will be cheaper, more durable, better looking and so on.

    One of the critical pain points is printing speed however. If we suddenly get a 100x speed increase I would think that will obsolete a lot of printers that are currently in use. Quality from the better consumer devices is already at least passable, so I don't think many people would want to acquire a new device just for that reason. The necessity to run your device for several hours to get any sensible results has many practical consequences though. But is there even any credible hope for a rapid increase in printing speed during this decade?

  10. #10
    Super Moderator curious aardvark's Avatar
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    probably. But it won't come from companies like carbon.
    They're making money by NOT selling printers and Not licensing their technology, but by using the odd video of a clip machine working to hoover up grants and technology endowments.

    It's good work if you can get it :-)

    At some point in the materials development you're going to get a really rapid setting resin, couple that with a dlp printer setup and you could have extremely rapid printing indeed.

    Lasers are cheap and readily available - not sure where you got your info from.

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