Makeshaper now offers “third party” filament cartridges for Cube 3D printers, the first we’ve seen.
Many 3D printers use the “open materials” concept, in which you can feed literally any filament you can buy into the 3D printer. This leads to a contest of pricing and quality among filament manufacturers that can be quite good for consumers.
However, other 3D printers choose a “closed materials” approach, in which you must purchase filament only from the manufacturer. Typically this is done via chipped cartridges that ensure the correct materials are used. The reason for this approach is that the chipped cartridge can be “smart”. It can “know” what kind of plastic is in the cartridge, as well as keeping track of how much material has been used. As well, the chemistry of the plastic can be tuned to match the machine’s requirements precisely, leading to more reliable and accurate printing.
However, these benefits often come a quite a cost premium. Currently, cartridges for 3D Systems’ Cube run USD$49 and for the CubePro USD$99. Their site doesn’t say explicitly, but our understanding is that the Cube cartridges contain approximately 320 grams of material, and the CubePro cartridges are something over 600 grams. Thus, the pricing of the material in these cartridge is well beyond the going rate of USD$20-30 per kg.
Enter MakeShaper, who have released alternative cartridges for both the Cube and CubePro. The pricing is somewhat less than 3D Systems’ pricing, but still more than generic materials. For a Cube cartridge, they are selling for only USD$30, a 38% discount over 3D Systems. Alternative cartridges for the CubeX and CubePro run only USD$68, a 31% discount.
These cartridges are available now in ABS or PLA formats, with a limited selection of colors: Black, Green, Blue, Red and White.
Is there a catch? Probably – it’s unclear whether you would violate your 3D Systems warranty, if it’s still in force. Secondly, the Cube cartridges only work on the Cube version 2, and not the current version 3 printer.