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Two Routes to Low Cost

Fluid Forms poses an interesting question: how to obtain an inexpensive 3D printer. They correctly point out the two possible courses of action for obtaining inexpensive 3D printing solutions:
  • Commercial units, such as the Desktop Factory and MCOR printers.
  • Open Source hardware solutions such as RepRap, Fab@Home and the recently announced MakerBot

The problem, of course, is that the commercial options are not really options yet. In fact, Desktop Factory is currently undergoing financial difficulties and it is unclear that their offering will ever appear, as much as all of us would like it to.

There's a third option not mentioned by Fluid Forms, being use of a 3D print service such as Shapeways, Ponoko and others. While they have large communities and are easily usable, they may not be exactly inexpensive. The popular 3D print services all seem to use the expensive commercial 3D printers (Z Corp, Dimension, Objet, etc) and the costs of those devices (and their associated consumables) is inevitably passed on to the print user.

Fluid Forms' solution was to opt for an Open Source offering, either MakerBot or RepRap. While this might seem depressing if you've been hoping for an inexpensive commercial offering, we're not so certain. If MakerBot and RepRap gain vast legions of users, it's likely that improved products could emerge from their space. These could be commercial offerings based on the inexpensive Open Source hardware.

Software companies do this all the time, so why not hardware companies?

Via Fluid Forms

ZCorp's Good, Bad and Ugly