Can 3D Print Services Serve Global Markets? Yes!
After an interesting discussion with Objectify, my thoughts on 3D print service regionality have changed.
For many years myself and, well, everyone, has assumed that 3D print services for larger parts are for all practical purposes regional operations, aside from specialty services. This is due to the cost of shipping from distant locations.
That’s because the cost of 3D printing is pretty much the same everywhere, right? The same machines from the same vendors are used, with the same types of materials, often bought from the same vendors at the same prices. How could there be any significant differences aside from shipping?
It turns out there are.
After a discussion with Ankit Sahu, CEO of Objectify Technologies of New Dehli, India, my mind is changed. Objectify seems to have figured out a way to change the price equation on 3D prints.
Objectify is a relatively young operation, having been founded in 2013 as a thermoplastic 3D printing service operating out of a startup incubation center. That’s perhaps a generous description, as Sahu explained they started with a tiny 200-square-foot office and a MakerBot-like 3D printer, little different from a hobbyist in a basement.
However, they operated the company successfully and gradually expanded by adding new equipment to provide additional services. In 2015 they added an SLS 3D printing capability for industrial requests, automotive parts and electrical components. In 2016 they added their first metal 3D printer, with machines from EOS, 3D Systems and Shining 3D. They added CNC finishing capabilities later.
This year they’ve instituted a new “360 approach” that has changed how they perform end-to-end production. This allows them to very precisely optimize each stage of the process to obtain the optimal pricing.
Inexpensive Metal 3D Printing Services
The result is quite shocking. This part above might be expected to go for perhaps US$3-5K. However, Objectify can produce it for you at a cost of only US$1200. That’s a substantial difference. We observed several other sample prints with similarly lowball pricing.
One factor involved in the price reduction is that some of the labor required to operate the equipment is at Indian rates, which are lower than those in the West. But that’s not the whole savings story, however, as Sahu insisted their direct focus on automation and efficiency of processes has been the major source of cost savings.
He says that typically they are able to produce complex 3D prints at a cost 50-60% cheaper than the typical competition.
This is where my mind began changing, as the cost of the US$1200 part, including shipping all the way from India, would obviously be a lot less than obtaining it from a local provider. This is how the current pricing regime may be tipped over.
Those seeking parts printed might consider using an overseas service like Objectify as they can now offer parts at very competitive prices.
The days of 3D print services pricing prints at simply 5X the cost of the materials are going to go away very soon.