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3D printer price drops could lure home users

Agam Shah | April 7, 2014
3D printer prices are dropping into a range that could appeal to home users.

Advanced 3D printers supporting larger objects and more filaments are also dropping in price. The price of the X Objects' Up Plus has dropped to $1,500, compared to $4,000 when it was introduced three years ago, said Brian Quan, president of X Objects.

The Up Mini, which sells for $880 on Amazon is the least expensive X Objects 3D printer.

"I wouldn't be surprised if it goes down even further in the next three months," Quan said.

BotObjects introduced ProDesk3D, priced higher at $3,249, but it is full color. It has five color cartridges that allow users to blend colors when printing plastic objects.

The ProDesk3D is a "prosumer" device, for home or office use, said Mike Duma, chief technology officer and co-founder of BotObjects.

"We continue — as with all the other 3D printer manufacturers — on the path to improve the product and the design, and making the ... assembly more efficient," Duma said.

Some 3D printers suitable for home use so far have been used chiefly by hobbyists and early technology adopters. Inventors or entrepreneurs have been among the buyers of the $1,299 3D Systems Cube Easy Plug sold by 3D Heights. Company President Jerry Castanos is skeptical about 3D printers for everyday home use.

"I see it in the business side. Entrepreneurs, small business, a guy with his own storefront," Castanos said. "We actually had a few people in our neighborhood buy them to resell items on Amazon."

Castanos views 3D printers as more like copiers, with people going to the nearest store to have 3D objects printed, rather than doing that at home.

Home users of 3D printers have largely been hobbyists and early technology adopters, said Canalys analyst Shepherd, noting that there is a learning curve involved.

"These will really become 'products for home use' when not only the devices themselves become more affordable and easy to set up and use, but when greater numbers of consumers have been educated — whether adults or children — to use computer-aided design software to produce designs to print," Shepherd said.

Service and maintenance issues also add to the costs of 3D printers, and support packages are necessary, said Quan of X Objects. The filament is inexpensive, costing about $50 or less for a kilogram, which is good enough to 3D print 350 chess pieces.

"You're going to see the technology dropping a lot, but it's never going to be as simple as a printer, because the printer has gone through years of development," Quan said.


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