Why has Autodesk abruptly ceased manufacturing their open source resin 3D printer, the Ember?
If you recall, Autodesk introduced the Ember high resolution resin-based desktop 3D printer in 2014, much to the surprise of everyone. You don’t expect a hardware product from a software company.
With all the kerfuffle going on at Autodesk these days it isn’t surprising the Ember has been caught up in the large cleanup operation. Previously, the company has shifted, shuffled and dropped a number of software products, presumably to focus more fully on their core products.
But what exactly happened? In a note to Ember owners and prospective buyers dated April 7th, Autodesk revealed:
We wanted you to know that we are no longer manufacturing Ember printers. However, our commitment to customer support and consumables for your printers will continue, and we encourage all Ember customers to continue pushing the boundaries of DLP printing using Ember's open-source platform.
They’ve also transferred control of consumable supplies to a third party for those still using the machine. As of now, it seems that neither of their two resellers have machines available for purchase.
Is this the end of Ember? They explain further:
The Ember team is still here… in fact, we are now focused more than ever on new research to advance the 3D printing industry. We hope you will join the new Ember Research Hub where we will continue to provide support and drive conversations across the community relating to SLA technology.
While the open source nature of the Ember will ensure its design is forever available, it seems that Autodesk’s involvement has been reduced to that of a discussion forum. So it’s basically dead, leaving the field open to countless other more active projects.
Why have they done this? I suspect a lot might have to do with the greatly increased competition in this area since the introduction in 2014. Not only have a great many inexpensive and powerful resin 3D printers entered the market, but those on the market have become far more refined, making the Ember much less attractive to buyers. Autodesk’s curious distribution scheme involving only two lesser known resellers likely constrained sales as well.
But I think there is another reason for the discontinuance, driven by recent regime change at Autodesk: software companies make software, not hardware, as everyone knew all along.