A few short weeks ago, 3D Systems announced the closure of their consumer 3D printing venture, Cubify. Afterwards, we think there may be significant effects on the market.
3D Systems’ approach to consumer 3D printing was as comprehensive as any we could imagine: they had significant marketing, a massive worldwide complement of resellers, centralized multiple sources of 3D content for printing and a spiffy product. Using the technology available, they went about as far as any company could do. But in the end it didn’t work.
Those who follow Cubify in the consumer and desktop markets will certainly observe things 3D Systems did to try and learn what works and what doesn’t in this difficult market.
One thing that Cubify insisted on (and still does in models surviving and moved to 3D Systems marketing) is use of proprietary materials. Cubify material cartridges were quite expensive compared to generic equivalents used by other desktop machines, but the idea was to ensure print reliability by controlling everything in the machine’s operations.
Unfortunately, the 3D printing workflow of plastic extrusion 3D printers is simply prone to problems, and Cubify machines suffered as almost all others do with operational problems.
As a result, it is likely that future desktop 3D printer ventures may shy away from use of proprietary material cartridges, or at least ones that are priced excessively. They may think that by doing the same thing, they’ll suffer the same fate.
This issue is exacerbated by the large, existing install base of Cubify machines. We’re told that educators purchased many thousands of the small Cube machines, only now to find they are no longer marketed. 3D Systems, however, will continue to supply the cartridges for a period of time, but that certainly won’t sit well with the hundreds of educators that sunk their money into a proprietary system.
You can bet they will be looking for generic options for their next purchases.