Is there still a market for 3D printer kits?
They are slowly getting harder to find, but there are definitely 3D printer kits for sale. But will this change over time? We think so.
Most of the first wave of personal 3D printer companies began their existence by providing (relatively) inexpensive kits for a DIY audience to have fun building and using. But things seem to change as these companies grow.
Consider MakerBot, who stopped selling kits years ago. 3D Systems stopped selling personal 3D printer kits almost as soon as they acquired Bits From Bytes. Ultimaker still sells kits (simply continuing sales of their first device), but their new device, the Ultimaker 2, is pre-assembled. More recently Solidoodle seems to have dropped kits as well.
New entrants to the personal 3D printing market sometimes do offer kits, but more often than not they are increasingly pre-assembled.
Why is this happening?
It’s simply market economics. The DIY audience is only a slim portion of the population, whereas the larger companies and some new entrants want to address the much larger general consumer market.
In fact, the larger companies MUST do this, because they simply cannot expand their operations to the degree demanded by their investors if they stayed within the DIY market. Even better, successfully selling to a larger market could imply lower prices due to economies of scale. That’s good for everyone.
But if you do want a 3D printer kit, don’t fear. There will always be options. The RepRap project and its derivatives will never die because there will always be curious experimenters driving progress.