3D Systems announced a surprise price drop on one of their high-end production machines.
The machine in question is the ProX SLS 500, a powder-laser machine that prints in a wide variety of engineering plastics, including nylon, high temperature and other materials. The machine is designed for production use, meaning it can not only run near continuously, it also integrates well with associated industrial software systems.
Previously, the price of this unit started at somewhere near USD$400,000, but now the company has suddenly announced it has reset the pricing to USD$270,000, a drop of over 30%. That is quite significant.
It’s unlikely the company has somehow changed their manufacturing process behind the scenes leading to a lower cost of building the ProX SLS 500, so the pricing change must be solely due to market effects. They would have described a manufacturing change if that was the case, but instead they say it is:
An aggressive move to increase market share and drive adoption of the technology as companies look to shift production to additive manufacturing.
The ProX SLS 500 is winning deals today because of its superior capabilities; the new price point makes it accessible to additional customers, which we believe will enable us to increase our installed base faster and be more competitive in the market.
This is quite intriguing. While we see a bit of a rush by manufacturers towards 3D metal printing equipment, particularly in aerospace and automotive segments, it seems that 3D Systems is predicting, or hoping for, a similar surge into a plastics production shift.
Is this a reasonable expectation? Perhaps, if manufacturers seek to duplicate the production success of 3D metal printing in other materials in their operations.
On the other hand, the price of 3D printed plastic items is still far too high, per unit. It cannot compete with traditional mass manufacturing, and is financially feasible only for ventures requiring either low volumes of units or unique, custom items on each run. And that has been the case in this space for many years, so I see no change there, unless 3D Systems knows something I don’t.
There is yet another possibility: perhaps 3D Systems is feeling pressure from lower cost competing 3D printer alternatives using SLS-like technology? There have been several such vendors appear in recent months, with pricing dramatically lower than even the USD$270,000 of 3D Systems’ latest price announcement. Of course, these lower-cost alternatives are certainly not production-ready like the ProX SLS 500, but they are no doubt useful to many operations, especially the ones seeking low cost alternatives.
Via 3D Systems