The 3D Printer Distribution Battle Heats Up

Has the battle between the key personal 3D printer manufacturers shifted from the lab to the storefront? We think it may have. 

The three biggest players in the personal 3D printing space, MakerBot, 3D Systems and Ultimaker seem to be taking a slightly different approach these days. It used to be that the companies would announce and release new equipment frequently, in a seeming battle of technologies.

But this has changed somewhat. Technology releases have become less frequent. MakerBot, for example, broke its long-standing tradition of announcing new machines at the Consumer Electronics Show each year by declining to do so this year. Thus, the most recent MakerBot machines were announced in early 2014, 15 months ago. Ultimaker recently announced a mini and maxi version of their Ultimaker 2, but these are variants of the existing machine. 3D Systems announced their Cube 3 last May, almost a year ago. 

If these companies are not releasing new equipment, what are they doing? 
We’ve observed a lot of dealmaking with a number of retail channels. The companies have been signing deals with major retail chains to put product on store shelves. They’ve made deals with distribution partners that supply products for huge numbers of retailers in different regions. They’ve all worked on variations of educational programs to introduce people to their technologies. 

It seems the challenge of today is to build up strong methods of delivering products to a much larger market. 

Methods that could handle a great deal more units. 

Methods that would be necessary, should incredible new machines be announced. 

We could be in a quiet period before a storm of 3D printing progress. 

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