Reading Between the Lines of 3D Hubs’ Latest Trends Report

3D Hubs' most popular desktop 3D printers as of January 2017

3D Hubs' most popular desktop 3D printers as of January 2017

I found it interesting to see some long term patterns appearing in  3D Hubs’ monthly trends report. 

The company operates as a kind of “community 3D print service”, in which willing 3D printing operations, small or large, can participate and thus make up a powerful 3D printing option for those who don’t otherwise have access to a 3D printer. While there are several “in house” 3D print services, 3D Hubs offers a lot of variety, local access and the ability for anyone with a 3D printer to start their own small 3D print service business. 

The trends report is published each month and is based on 3D Hubs’ now extensive usage statistics collected from their massive cloud of 3D printers. The company says they now have over 6,900 participants in over 150 countries operating tens of thousands of machines. 

While the statistics are related to the type of 3D printing operations taking place on 3D Hubs alone, which might not be entirely representative of the “whole” market of 3D printing, it is still quite insightful. There’s no other place you can obtain such statistics publicly. 

As time has passed, the 3D Hubs Trends Report seems to have stabilized with typically few differences from month to month. However, this month I looked at the report with a different eye and had a number of random observations that I would like to talk about. 

The highest rated desktop printers, which are gauged based on the “print quality rating” specified by the actual print buyers, is as follows: 

  1. Original Prusa i3 MK2
  2. BCN3D SIGMA
  3. Form 2    1733
  4. PowerSpec 3D Pro
  5. ORD Bot Hadron
  6. Zortrax M200
  7. Kossel
  8. LulzBot Mini
  9. FlashForge Creator Pro
  10. CEL Robox

These are all very fine machines that I’ve heard anecdotally elsewhere are of good quality, so 3D Hubs’ report rings true. 3D Hubs notes that the Form 2 jumped up some steps, and this could be due to Formlabs’ ongoing improvement process with that particular machine. From discussions with Formlabs, their goal is to gradually improve the machine both in hardware and software throughout its lifetime. [We’ll have more on this with an in depth interview next week.]

The “Trending Printers” lists machines that I presume are most rapidly growing in frequency in 3D Hubs’ database. This suggests machines that are “recently popular”. 

  1. Original Prusa i3 MK2    
  2. Monoprice MP Select Mini    
  3. LulzBot TAZ 6
  4. Mark Two
  5. Tevo Tarantula    
  6. Wanhao Duplicator i3 V2
  7. Monoprice Maker Select
  8. Ultimaker 2 Extended+    
  9. Hephestos 2
  10. Form 2

There are three machines of interest on this report: the two Monoprice models, and the Wanhao Duplicator i3. Monoprice is notable for providing easily purchased, very low cost equipment online and they’ve been doing so very successfully with their Maker Select line of inexpensive 3D printers. By having two models on this list, Monoprice seems to confirm the notion that “price wins”, so long as the product is of at least reasonable quality, and that’s the case with their equipment. 

Now, the Wanhao Duplicator i3 is also interesting. Why? Because the Monoprice Maker Select is a rebranded version of that particular machine. It’s interesting to see it also appear on the list in practically the same position as the Monoprice version. Wanhao must be quite pleased with their relationship with Monoprice. 

In the “Printer Model Distribution” report, 3D Hubs lists the frequency of particular models. If we look at the first ten on that list, we find: 

  1. Prusa i3
  2. Ultimaker 2
  3. Makerbot Replicator 2
  4. Zortrax M200
  5. FlashForge Creator Pro
  6. Replicator 2x
  7. RepRap
  8. Form 1+
  9. Ultimaker Original Plus
  10. Printrbot Simple Metal

Wait, NONE of these machines is on the “Highest Rated” list nor the “Trending Printers” list. What does this mean? Let’s take a look at the list of “Trending Printers” from April 2014, almost 3 years ago: 

  1. Ultimaker 2
  2. Creator
  3. Printrbot
  4. Leapfrog Creatr
  5. Form 1
  6. Prusa i3
  7. MendelMax
  8. Replicator 2x
  9. Replicator 2
  10. Up! Mini

Note that several of the machines on the “popular” list of today were trending a few years ago. 

If you were to look at similar “Trending Printers” reports for the period of about two years ago, you’d see all of the currently “most popular” 3D printers appearing on the trending list at one point or another. 

What I think this means is that people, at least the 3D Hubs participants, tend to buy a trendy machine and stick with it. These machines seem to have a useful lifetime that’s measured in years, although it seems their quality has been outdone by more recent machines. 

If there were evidence that a desktop 3D printer should be upgraded, I think this could be it. If you are still using an older Replicator 2, PrintrBot or similar machine, you might consider looking at the market today where you’ll find some very powerful and high quality machines at relatively low prices. 

Via 3D Hubs

General Fabb

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has been writing Fabbaloo posts since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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