The above video demonstrations the workings of a professional 3D printer. Think of all the millions of things you can do with such a wonderful device! But starting at $20k, usually $30k after adding the required 'extras', you'll quickly forget about purchasing your own all together.
You may also have heard of 'the 3D fab that fabricates itself.' But when you realize the amount of technical know-how required for it to 'fabricate itself,' and the lack of precision the machine offers, once again the dream dies.
So why are the professional 3D printers so expensive? Anyone who has been seriously in the market to purchase one can tell you its the market strategy of the big players. First, they don't actually publish prices. They don't. You have to contact them by phone, interview in person with a salesman, and just before you sign the contract they mention an additional ~$10k of equipment you need that doesn't come with it. Its like a cars salesmen who, at the end of reaching an agreement, then asks "would you like wheels for your car?"
For example, there is the $1k heater to melt the support wax away - but is actually not much different than a simple $30 toaster oven. Or the $1k trolley with wheels that you can otherwise hand make in 20 minutes for $20. And I kid you not, the salesmen even said to me, "its a special price just for you."
Their strategy is to see how much you are willing to pay for it.
Perhaps they understand the market more, but if they mass-manufactured the printers, dramatically dropping costs, and sell the units at a point where the masses could afford it, perhaps they could potentially make significantly higher profits with significantly higher sales.
Fortunately for us DIY dreamers, in a major turn of marketing strategy, it appears Stratasys has recently come upon the same conclusion.
Stratasys, a leading 3D printer manufacturer, has signed a definitive agreement with HP for Stratasys to manufacture an HP-branded 3D printer. With the reduced costs associated with mass-manufacturing, and potentially large new user base, both companies are set to take 3D printing to main-stream.
So how much will their new 3D printer set you back? What precision can we expect? How much would a refill cartridge cost? Well, nothing more concrete has been announced, yet.
Stratasys' most affordable unit begins at $15k, so given my own experience in mass manufacturing of electronics, I'd say we are looking at around $5k per unit with 'acceptable' precision. Units could potentially be sold below cost, perhaps as little as $3k, with the companies calculating they can make their main profit from 'specially patented' refill cartridges.
Perhaps still too expensive for a personal at-home printer, but definitely affordable for small and mid-sized companies. And its only time until more affordable printers from jealous competitors join in.