Simplify3D has let users know their next upgrade, 5.0, will be a paid upgrade.
This is quite different from their prior practice, where upgrades were free of charge. However, it is not out of line when compared with many other software products, where upgrades with the most significant digit of the version number changing are often available only for a charge.
But the situation is actually quite a bit more complex than just a matter of a paid upgrade. Simplify3D made its name years ago when it came upon the 3D print scene with a terrific product with vastly superior functionality than the rudimentary open source tools viable at that time. Not only did it provide advanced functions, but its interface was significantly better than pretty much anything else on the market serving desktop 3D printers.
Another significant benefit was that due to its independence from 3D printer manufacturers, you could use Simplify3D on many different equipment models, simplifying your training and software needs. Remember, at that time many equipment vendors would write their own software and it would function properly only on their equipment.
But quite a bit of time has passed, and the market situation is not nearly the same as those past years.
Today we see a number of powerful 3D printer management products on the scene, led by the open source Cura and Slic3r, whose adaptability has been leveraged by multiple 3D printer manufacturers to produce amazingly powerful software options for their equipment.
But these tools also are now easily usable on multiple machine types, just as Simplify3D was and is.
What has Simplify3D been doing in this period? They’ve been diligently providing a series of updates to their product, which currently lies at version 4.1. Their updates have added interesting functionality to keep it at or near the top of the 3D printer slicing pyramid, but the competition has been catching up swiftly.
Some of the competitors have also made significant steps into the production workflows of users by adding numerous easily accessed print profiles that make printing far faster and much more reliable.
Curiously, Simplify3D has been rather quiet over the past year, providing relatively minor updates to the product. This seems very strange considering the bounding competitors they are working to beat. But now we have a better idea of why this was so. In a recent email to Simplify3D users, they say:
“We have big plans for 2019! Our development team continues to incorporate many of your ideas into the future roadmap for Simplify3D. A new Version 4 update is already in progress to address many common requests. At the same time, we are investing heavily into the development of Version 5.0, which is set to be the biggest update in our company’s history. Version 5.0 will incorporate changes to almost every facet of the product, allowing us to make major improvements to the software.”
Aha! That explains their relative silence; they’ve been developing a new version, and it sounds like it will be quite radical. They must have been quietly working on this in lieu of upgrades to v4.1. This sounds good!
Then, they add:
“We also want to inform our users that Version 5.0 will be our first paid software upgrade. Stay tuned for more information about the exciting new features and upgrade pricing later in the year as we get closer to the release of Version 5.0.”
Oh. That’s a switch. Up to now, Simplify3D users have never had to pay for an upgrade beyond their initial purchase of around US$150.
The reaction of the 3D print community has been rather negative, as far as I can tell, largely because they are comparing the free competitive options as being comparable to Simplify3D.
This is perhaps a misguided analysis, because of several things:
First, you can’t measure a v5.0 upgrade against the value of their current v4.1 product. We don’t know what they have in store for v5.0 in any way whatsoever. Simplify3D has not released any roadmaps or other hints as to what 5.0 might feature. Don’t automatically assume that v5.0 will be a minor update from v4.1.
Secondly, we don’t know what the upgrade price might be. What if it is US$10? How would you feel about that upgrade? What if were priced at US$595? Would you feel differently?
This is an equation with two unknowns: we don’t know what we will get and what it will be priced at. The cost versus value equation CANNOT be solved at this time.
It’s entirely possible (and in my opinion, likely) that Simplify3D will introduce a radically new product that would position them at the top of the slicing pyramid once again, because of one critical reason: slicing software is their ONLY business. It MUST work or they are out of business.
What I don’t know is how they will price the product. It could be a hefty price, but then they’d need to provide a hefty functionality upgrade.
We’ll be watching closely over the next few months to see what develops.