Until now the principal consumers of 3D printing were commercial industries who had the resources as well as the finances. Since the machines have a hefty price, these machines were used by large scale manufacturers for prototyping and production in small scale. The markets were dominated by 2-3 companies like Stratasys, 3D Systems etc. But the expiry of some key patents opened up the world of consumer level 3D printers. Pioneers like the rep rap movement, ultimaker etc play a vital role in this development, but the role of the big companies with their consumer level printers – Cube and Makerbot cannot be underestimated.
The launch of two smaller form of 3D printers with prices as low as $1,000, by the two companies, means that they are very serious about this space and are willing to indulge into price war to expand the 3D printing eco system. So, now the phase that is being faced in the 3D printing industry can be termed as 3D printing price war. The level of competition is very high on the low end 3D printers: Makerbot announced that it would be shipping its MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D printer to customers and in less than 24 hours another pioneer company in 3D printing 3D systems announced that it will begin shipping its Cube 3 and CubePro 3D printers in the second half of June 2014, with pre-orders available now. The prices of both the printers are highly competitive as well. 3D’s Cube 3 and CubePro home and desktop 3D printers are priced as follows: Cube 3 starts at $999 and the CubePro starts at $2,799 on the other hand MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer which allows users to find more than 300, 0000 free downloadable digital 3D printable items and is priced at $1,375. This is just a case study of two giants of the 3D printing industry there are many other companies that are fighting to survive in the highly competitive world of 3D printing. Other well-known companies like Hewlett-Packard Co. are still skeptical about entering the 3D market.
Apart from the obvious reason to expand their sales of 3D printers, the big companies also want to create a perpetual flow of income by locking the customers with cheaper printers but weighing them with costlier filaments, by restricting the users to use only the filaments produced by them. You can safely compare this to the Gillette strategy, where the razors are sold cheap, but the blades are sold at a very high rate. Hence, though the price war means good news for consumers, they have to calculate their overall costs carefully and take a call whether to go for these printers. Looking at the brighter side of all this, with the recent advancements it seems that the day when 3D printing will reach critical masses in homes, schools and other commonplace setting isn’t far off. This technology will become as revolutionary as computers and mobiles.