Balancing Cost vs Features in 3D Printer Design

Balancing Cost vs Features in 3D Printer Design
How to design the right kind of 3D printer [Source: Fabbaloo]

When you see the final design of a 3D printer, there have been many decisions made to get it to that state.

These decisions, made by the machine’s manufacturers, attempt to balance a number of factors they must consider when placing a new product into the market. The problem is that sometimes the buying public doesn’t understand what’s really going on behind the scenes.

This was recently seen in a social media thread where many questioned the features on the upcoming 3DPrintMill from Creality. This machine is unique in that it uses a belt system instead of the more familiar static build plate.

Specifically, the pre-production 3DPrintMill machines were equipped with a particular material for the belt. Some of the early reviewers found issues with this belt, but I believe failed to understand what’s really going on here.

These were pre-production machines provided by Creality to specific reviewers, mostly to try and boost the awareness of the unusual 3D printer among the community. That part worked, but some seem to be treating the device as if it is the final design.

That’s not the case at all. I understand that the company is still fiddling with the belt material and has yet to come to a final decision.

This decision is one of many that must be made during device development. The problem is that these decisions are not always easy.

While buyers may simply be interested in getting a machine with the best components, there are far more factors involved from the company’s point of view. Basically they are trying to balance the eternal project triangle, shown here:

Balancing Cost vs Features in 3D Printer Design
The eternal project triangle dilemma [Source: Fabbaloo]

This triangle will be very familiar to anyone with formal project management, and represents the tradeoffs one must deal with during any venture. Basically, the triangle shows that if you favor one corner, you do so at the expense of the others.

For example, you can have a better quality output, but it will cost more and take more time to complete. Or you can save some money by dropping the quality, etc.

This is the dilemma facing Creality as they design the #3DPrintMill. What is the optimal balance between cost (of the product) and quality? How can they reach that level and still release the machine in a reasonable time?

I suspect that is the type of discussion taking place at Creality as they debate what kind of belt to use.

Should they use an expensive one that might work better? But if they do, the cost of the product might be too high. Or they may have to delay release while they rustle up enough components.

You see the problem here.

And the current reviewers are subjected to this state of the machine: it’s not quite final and very likely some things will change on the device before it is released to the public. There is no way one could make a “final” judgement on it at this point.

Now, if Creality had released version of the ACTUAL production design, and not a pre-production design, then things might be different. But in its current state the device is particularly subject to change.

One of the reasons to send out samples at this point is simply to get feedback on aspects they may not have considered themselves. From this feedback it’s likely changes will be made. That’s how products are improved before being sent to market.

If you want to see if something really works, then at least try the final machine.

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