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Monday, November 12, 2012

A little healthy competition

A little competition is good. I mean, I love Makerbot, but they're not perfect. That's why I love hearing about other promising business selling 3D printers.

Let me lay this down right now. I think the perfect 3D printer will go straight from STL to print, no slicing on a laptop, and be as cheap as possible. Ideally $300 but preferably <$1000. Makerbot quality or higher and I absolutely won't stand for any draconian DRM or overpriced custom filament (you know how I feel about that). I'm just too used to having control over those things. So clearly we're not where I foresee we need to be and won't be there for a while, but any step in that direction is a good thing in my mind.

So, Lulzbot is pretty much just a Mendle Max. But it's a fully assembled, calibrated, easy to use, well supported high quality Mendle Max for $2500. I'd give that a "not bad". And it remains very open. Not bad at all.

The Series 1 by Type A is a Makerbot look-alike, but looks is where the the comparison ends. For $1400 you get a fully assembled printer with a HUGE print area. Purportedly reliable and high definition and excellent customer support with a cutting edge sexy new extruder and new features on the horizion, Type A is showing some serious promise.

I would not mind testing out all of these machines, tho I hardly have the resources for that. When I need to buy a second printer to increase my output (because business will be going so well) will I choose one of these? I don't know. We'll see what's hot then. As far as 3D printing goes it's still the wild west, much like the early days of personal computing. In the end not everyone will survive, but in the meanwhile it's going to be a wild ride. Neither of these companies seem to yet have the marketing muscle of Makerbot or others, but don't rule them out. After all, everyone thought IBM was entering the game too late to be a contender. It's too early to rule anyone out yet.

What are your favorite 3D printer projects? Discuss and feel free to post links in the comments below.


  1. this is going to be a really interesting. I think companies that make commercial machines(like objet or 3d stratasys) will not jump in for comsumer machines that soon, for that may infringe the sales of their big boys. It seems that we can only rely on those new comers to make advances through competition that will soon achieve our expections. Makagazine is issueing a special report on those printers, I think that well marks the beginning of the race.

  2. The Cube is made by 3D Systems, the biggest and fastest growing publicly traded 3D printer manufacturer. They're the ones with the draconian DRM I was talking about. You can read more here:

    The big guys are trying, and they're going to use every dirty underhanded trick to do it. Thing is Makerbot seems to be outselling them hand over fist... whatever that means.

  3. Joe: have you seen this thing? It's different tech - "stereolithography" - it seems to lift the model out of a bath of liquid. The first round of kickstarter backers will have paid $2300 for one, so it ain't cheap, but I think that's way less than other stereolithography printers. It seems to have a pretty small print volume, but dramatically higher precision than additive extrusion printers.

  4. The FormLabs unit is cool, and I'd like to get my hands on one for one of my super secret never-gonna-get-to-it projects. The problem is the material is expensive, but the process is fast and really high resolution.

    I also failed to mention the SolidDoodle. Cheap, $500, fully assembled.

  5. Yes, a fully calibrated MendelMax from LulzBot is a quality piece. When I first got my MakerBot Replicator I love it and never cared about all the troubleshooting. After 8 months though I'm more interested in 95% printing successes than troubleshooting heating/cooling issues, baby-sitting initial printing, etc.

    The future is coming though and my fully qualified MendelMax is an improvement over the MakerBot Replicator. In 6 months a better machine will be born I can imagine.



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