18 Months ago the plastic parts for a Mendel where going for $700+, 12 Months ago the price settled down to $250-$400, 3 Months Ago Prusa Mendel dropped the price for the RP parts to $125-$150. Now the Clonedel cast RP parts are going for $50 (I personally know of 3 shops gearing up to start selling them).
What’s a Clonedel? It’s the latest craze sweeping the RepRap hobbyist market. The folks at Open3DP figured a way to print molds of the parts required to build a RepRap Prusa 3D printer, and there are many who are trying this approach. Why? Because if you’ve got a mold, you can cast the same parts much more quickly than 3D printing them. In other words, you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a mass-production operation.
RepRap blogger Neil Underwood recently examined some of these “cast parts” to see how well they stand up. His conclusion? The cast parts are better than those he could print himself, but not as good as custom-built equivalents available at higher cost. The cast parts are more fragile than normal ABS parts, but they’re still quite usable, assuming you have a drill press to punch through the necessary holes, which do not appear on the cast parts as delivered.
Here’s the really interesting part: this approach changes utterly the economics for RepRap parts. Underwood writes:
We’re looking forward to these inexpensive parts. That and watching Neil attempt to break more parts on live video.