Taken from 3D Printing Industry
By Preet Jesrani
The desktop 3D printing market has grown substantially since the open source movement kicked off many low-cost machines a few years ago. Most people will probably assume that, while the pioneering trail-blazer manufacturers that kicked this all off were quality companies, the real winners are going to be the Second Movers that are now gaining a foothold in the market. Given the huge number of desktop 3D printers currently on the market, who will these Second Movers be? This is a question that’s relevant to anyone purchasing a 3D printer, as well as for manufacturers, and those looking to retail 3D printers.
Finding a quality 3D printer
When looking for desktop 3D printers, whether as a customer or a retailer, you will want to know that the 3D printer is reliable, represents quality, and is well built. Look for reviews, scour the blogs, Google it ,and then search the 3D Hubs forums to ensure that you are making the right choice. But, is that enough?
The best looking 3D printer could end up being less valuable than a paperweight, if it does not incorporate well-designed components or lacks quality support. Consider products where you have a good feel for the competency of the manufacturing and support team behind it – quality product, quality support, and continual innovation.
The pace at which new entrants are getting into the desktop 3D printer market on, at least, a weekly basis is still frantic. The direct effect of this on the market is that doubt and confusion are rampant. For even those that are familiar with the 3D printing industry, the decision of which printer to purchase and when continues to be a complex one.
What to consider when purchasing a 3D printer – choose a Second Mover Manufacturer
The first thing to consider is your intended use of the machine. If you are a product designer, small manufacturer, inventor, or offer prototyping services, just do your homework and purchase one now because the marketplace is continually evolving. If you are thinking of waiting for the best fit to arrive, you may be waiting forever. There are a number of great companies with well designed products that are already on the market and you would be well served choosing a 3D printer from one of these manufacturers.
Do you wait a week? Does one buy a well-built machine with a toy-like build volume or go large? Can it be purchased now or is there a lead time? Will it be suitable for its intended use? Will it print in the material range that one would like? Is it upgradeable? Is the company going to be around 6 months post-purchase?
These are all the things that a buyer now has to consider. We all know first hand that, usually, as soon as you make that large purchase, it is obsolete or something better comes along. No one can time that purchase perfectly. With a 3D printer, at least you know that, essentially, if you have done your homework, you will end up with one that checks off all the correct boxes, and, as long as it is upgradeable, your investment is safe.
What’s the Market Really Like?
With well over 200 manufacturers in the desktop 3D printer market (this number is growing much faster than it is shrinking), a majority of them are “me-too” products. Many are essentially using the same technology with varying flavors and design. There are a very select few manufacturers that have a stand-out product that makes their printers better and different from the majority of the clone-like printers on the market.
Manufacturers that aim to address the issues of multi-material capability, ease of use, robust build volume, speed, upgradability, quality support, with a constant desire to improve their product are the ones to watch.
Choose manufacturers that continue to support (through technical support and part upgrades) printers that were built during their first production run – believe it or not, there are a few standout examples that do this.
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