Could this be the best time in history to seek a professional 3D printer? It certainly could be.
I think this way because there has been a bit of an explosion in competition, capabilities and price over the past year. A decade ago, you would have found only a small handful of companies offering 3D printers of any kind, and they would have been expensive and provided output with limited capabilities.
Today that is entirely changed. Consider things from a competitive standpoint:
There are more professional 3D printer vendors today then ever before. Yes, there have been a ridiculous number of desktop / consumer level startups, many of which had no right to be in business. However, some of the small companies have migrated to the larger, more affluent professional 3D printer market. They’ve made better machines that can carry higher price tags, making business feasible, as opposed to the bottom-price-striving consumer market.
Thus in the entry-level professional market there are literally dozens of choices of excellent machines, most of which can equal or better the performance of the machines of the past at far lower prices.
And these machines can do more: an increasing number of professional 3D printers offer high temperature capabilities, meaning they are able to print in a much wider variety of materials, materials that are sought by engineers and designers for prototyping and even production parts.
One advantage in general still held by the long-term vendors is that of production capability. This is the ability to run machines continuously for long periods without fear of failure. That’s accomplished by machine design tweaks long ago identified by the vendors and refined over the years to result in very reliable machines.
On the other hand, these production machines are frequently constrained to a smaller set of possible materials than those using open material designs.
It seems that there are choices to be made: do you need production capability or not? Do you need specific materials or not? Are you able to afford a higher priced machine or not?
Regardless of your answer, there are choices available for you to fill those needs. And the availability of that choice is why I think it is the best time to buy a professional 3D printer.