An increasing number of manufacturers offer longer-term maintenance plans, but do you need one?
In the early days 3D printer manufacturers provided, well, nothing as far as guarantees. You got your parts in kit form and built it yourself. At best you could have expected a community forum where you could troll for solutions along with other owners of broken gear.
But as the number of machines in the field increased, manufacturers began to offer longer warranty periods, starting from 90 days to a year, and then even more sophisticated programs.
One of the first was MakerBot’s MakerCare program, which enabled you to get parts and service for a flat fee. More recently, Type A Machines has released a tiered program of services that offer levels that should fit anyone’s budget.
Should you opt for one of these plans? There are several considerations to make:
Budget: What budget do you have on hand to purchase a service plan? Can you afford ANY service plan? If not, then move on. But if you have budget, you must decide based on the next evaluation factors.
Skill: How good are you or your staff at machine repair? Can they assemble a machine? Can they diagnose a problem? Are they competent to search out a solution from online sources? Are they able to talk with the manufacturer’s engineers to get hints on what to do next? Are you able to afford to buy the required parts if you’re doing your own repairs? If you don’t have the skills to do your own maintenance work
Usage: How frequently is the machine (or machines) used? Are they used constantly, daily or infrequently. If a machine is infrequently used, it may not deserve a service package. On the other hand, a busy machine will wear out faster and perhaps better deserve some attention.
Commitment: Are you actually doing the recommended user maintenance on the equipment? Are you lubricating it as per the manufacturer’s instructions? Or are you “lazy” and simply waiting for the machine to break? If the latter, then a service plan is probably best for you.
Criticality: How important is the availability of the machine? What happens if it is down for a day? A week? A month? Are you able to withstand those circumstances? If the machine is critical for some reason, strongly consider a service plan.
Quantity: How many identical machines do you operate? If only one, then all your eggs are in one basket and a failure means you are down. On the other hand, if you have two or more machines it is unlikely they will all be broken at the same time (unless you chose some really bad 3D printers!) The more machines you have, the more impregnable you are to individual failures. Match this against the criticality and volume of 3D printing activity.
Level: What service plan levels are available from your manufacturer? Some are quite comprehensive – but expensive, while others are more rudimentary and less expensive.
If you walk through these factors you should be in a very good position to make decision on whether you need and can afford a specific service level package from your 3D printer manufacturer.
Not everyone needs s service plan, but some most certainly do. Are you one of them?