A very practical method of acquiring a high-power industrial 3D printer is to buy one on the used market.
There are two general classes of 3D printer these days: lower cost desktop models, of which there are many choices, and higher-priced industrial models that provide additional capabilities.
The “industrial” models are sometimes similar in technology and process to the lower cost models, but very frequently they are built quite differently, as they’re usually designed for extreme performance and/or very busy duty cycles. In other words, they tend to be workhorses, run nearly constantly.
If your business is thinking of getting a 3D printer and you require high-performance or expect to be using it very frequently, you might consider buying one of the many industrial models that match your materials needs and budget.
But that’s sometimes the problem: the budget required to purchase new industrial 3D printers is often quite high. In some cases, the finances required are too high and the business may have to compromise on their technical requirements.
But there is a solution: buy a used 3D industrial printer, and there are many advantages to doing so.
The primary advantage is the cost savings, as used machines often carry a huge discount over new equipment, sometimes half or even a quarter of the list price. Instead of paying USD$80,000 for a machine, you might be able to find one for US$20,000. The savings can be used to buy materials for the machine, which more than likely requires pricey proprietary cartridges or canisters. But you’re likely ahead financially.
One reservation you might think present in used machines is that they could be worn out and ready to break down. While this scenario could definitely occur in lower cost machines, it’s less likely in a commercial situation where the industrial 3D printer has been on continuous manufacturer maintenance programs, constantly kept up to date and in good repair. Sure, it may have some dents, but it’s probably going to work very well.
In fact, some larger companies may have purchased 3D printing equipment in error and have used them very lightly, and have put them on sale to get them off the books. These are the best targets for used purchases, as they will have the cost discount AND a lower risk of failure.
Where do you find such machines? Literally you look in your local Craigslist or Kijiji listings. Your first choice should be local to minimize shipping costs, but if you can’t find what you want locally, you can always look in other cities’ listings. Here’s a recent listing from Los Angeles, where you can pick up a ZPrint Z450 color 3D printer for as little as USD$13,500. As this listing shows, you often also get the supplies, tools and maintenance gear with your purchase.
Another possibility for purchase is to use a third-party equipment broker, who buys and sells 3D printers for arbitrage. One I’ve seen is Commonwealth Trading, who currently offer a number of machines, including a Fortus 250mc for only USD$19K, for example. There are no doubt other 3D printer brokers as well, each with different product selections and pricing.
Finally, there is one very big caution with this approach: support. If you’re buying an older machine, you’d best ensure that the manufacturer still supports it. If not, you may find yourself with a machine that you cannot get parts or service for. You might not even be able to purchase materials to print with! Check with the actual manufacturer before you proceed.
Like a used vehicle, used 3D printers are often a very good option.