Several data points suggest something strange is happening with M3D’s low cost 3D printer's price.
The Micro, M3D’s flagship 3D printer, is one of the lowest cost, fully-assembled units you can buy. It launched with a blockbuster Kickstarter campaign a couple of years ago, raising an incredible USD$3.4M. Since then the company has gone on to become one of the top manufacturers, at least in terms of units sold. Other 3D printer manufacturers pull in far more revenue than M3D, simply because M3D’s product is priced so low.
But what is the price of this low-cost machine? That’s where my current pricing tale leads. Their Kickstarter campaign sold the machine for USD$299, a steal of a price. Afterwards, the price was intended to be USD$350ish at that time.
I saw an interesting post in BoingBoing’s online store, which piqued my interest. It claimed:
So, now you can be an electronics trend-setter AND score it at a fantastic price by picking up a M3D Printer and four reels of filament for just $399, a 20% discount off its regular price.
[Note, this offer has apparently expired as of the publication of this post.]
Wait a second. How could an ultra-low cost manufacturer selling a product with almost no margin offer a 20% discount?
Also, USD$399 is more than the intended price of USD$350. BoingBoing claims the normal price is USD$505. What does the M3D actually sell for? I checked the M3D site and found this:
The base price is USD$349 for the non-warrantied, no-filament version, as expected, but the price is set to rise to a higher level soon. The warrantied, filament-equipped “retail” version is USD$100 more, and definitely not USD$505.
So what is the real price? I guess it depends where you buy it, and which version.
But here’s the thing: For manufacturers, low-cost 3D printers are very challenging to make money selling, since their margins are so incredibly thin. On a USD$350 machine, the margin is probably less than USD$50, maybe even lower than that. Their challenge is to sell a great many of them to make a decent profit. Discounts on such a machine would probably not be a good idea for M3D.
And the price variability seems to meet this requirement: all the price variants I observed were HIGHER than USD$349, creating more margin for the company.
My initial concern of M3D blowing away their margin turned out to be unfounded, and seems to indicate they’re managing their margin well. But for buyers the fluctuating price between sites seems to need some stabilization.
[UPDATE] A spokesperson represented M3D contacted us and clarified some of the confusion:
For $399 M3D is selling a package deal worth $505—customers are getting the retail version, which comes with the one-year warranty and a reel of filament, with an additional four reels of filament as well. The total price, with the additional filaments, is approximately worth $505 before taxes, and M3D is offering it for $399.