Saturday, March 4, 2017

FAB Enlightenment?

iMakr STARTT 3D printing for under £100

"Every home will have a 3D printer" 

Was the bold claim in 2009 when the Stratsys patent on FDM expired and triggered a roller coaster Hype Cycle for 3D printing. The cost of 3D printing plummeted as 3D printing went Open Source and DIY with the Reprap and kits based on it like the Makerbot.

 "3D printers would become as common as microwaves" 

Was the claim from Makerbot but ... Microwaves are considerably cheaper than 3D printers and not many people can build a Microwave.
3D printing grew and became accessible but only among the more technical maker minded. The starting gun trigger was pulled and 3D printing dived into a niche ecosystem - a big fish in a small pond and it didn't cross over into any sort of mainstream.  

If anyone can manufacture cheap and easy for the large pond it's the Chinese and manufacturers such as Flashforge took existing ideas and drove the cost of 3D printing well under £1,000 - culminating in the wonderful Flashforge finder - a fun little printer at just under £400 in 2015.

But still 3D printing didn't live up to the early hype.

A big fish in a small pond was looking more like a damp squib - Makerbot was bought by Stratsys in 2013 and in 2016 MakerBot laid off 30% of its staff narrowed its focus on to education and the enterprise 

Enterprise 3D printing remained solid and use in education continued to grow but "a 3D printer in every home" was looking like a pipe dream but some still had this dream and continued.

XYZ Printing Nano 
Its been down to XYZ printing to almost single handedly try to cross 3D printing into the mainstream with the da Vinci miniMaker ($249) aimed at schools and the da Vinci Nano ($230) aimed at home use. 

And now 

iMakr STARTT 3D printing for under £100

The problems with 3D printing are that it is so slow to make anything and quite techie to do so but getting under £100 will put it into the reach of those that want to try and from a trusted supplier with a good reputation. The STARTT is aimed at complete novices, the curious and technology enthusiasts who love to see how things work. 

iMakr got the STARTT under £100 by passing assembly costs to the consumer - this is a good match for the curious and technology enthusiasts who love to see how things work but may not be such a good match for complete novices but with the price under £100 at least the financial risk for trying 3D printing is much smaller. 

Getting under £100 is a magic psychological price point that could put this on the radar of a lot of people and make the STARTT a small fish in a much bigger pond and help 3D printing get out of the trough of disillusionment and on the slope of enlightenment.

I can't help comparing the development of 3D printing with 2D printing. In a sense these low cost FDM 3D printers remind me of low cost impact dot matrix printers of the 1980s - they became cheap and useable - made printing and even a form of desktop publishing available to people but were limited. Breaking the £100 barrier marks a special point in the evolution of a long established 3D printing technology - what I am waiting for now is a revolution - the 3D equivalent of the ink jet printer - something that will not only cheap but fast and flexible as well. 

How long will it be before we see a 3D equivalent of the 2D inkjet printer for under £100?

More information about the STARTT
STARTT 3D Printer on the iMakr store

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