Fabbaloo readers are highly likely to own a 3D printer they operate themselves, but why don’t other people have them, too?
There are plenty of reasons, but I saw a statement recently that sums up the whole scenario in a sentence.
Crystal Frasier, a game developer from Seattle, posted this last week on Twitter:
“Have you tried a 3D printer? It’s a cool little machine that turns money into crying”
This resonates strongly with me, and is very likely the exact experience many non-technical people would have should they decide to purchase an inexpensive desktop 3D printer.
Frasier is totally correct here on several counts:
- They ARE cool little machines
- They can cost money, more than the purchase cost
- They do make you cry
The cost aspect is totally true. Once you acquire a 3D printer, you’ll soon find you have extra expenses for materials, other materials, spare parts, software, services, tools, modifications, equipment, 3D models and more. Fortunately desktop 3D printing isn’t usually a large money pit, it’s a smaller money hole. But the financial commitment is usually far beyond the initial purchase.
But what about crying? Do 3D printers really make you cry?
I’d say they often can. They are fragile devices, with internal mechanisms exposed to the operator with limited or no outside support. Should they break for whatever reason — and they so often do — you’re almost always on your own.
Many DIY 3D printer operators are quite tech-savvy and can easily work through issues that arise from operations. However, most of the general population does NOT have such skills, and the mere thought of having to deal with them can be a frightening prospect.
Don’t believe me? I’ve heard many tales of desktop 3D printers being returned to retail stores as “broken”, only to find that they had a filament jam. Evidently there are plenty of people interested in using the technology but completely unable to handle an issue as minor as a filament jam. Anything worse than a filament jam would similarly stop machine usage.
Maybe you won’t cry, but I’m certain most of you, even technically adept readers, have experienced very angry moments with your machines.
That’s the barrier to more widespread use of desktop 3D printing. Crying and anger.
Machines have to be made not just lower in price, but also made to be more reliable, easier to operate and generally friendlier to the consumer. So far, no 3D printer manufacturer in recent years has attempted to produce machines with those characteristics.
There are more reliable desktop 3D printers, but they’re priced out of reach of the general public, where hobby activities can’t justify the purchase price.
It may be that when people say that the price of 3D printing has dropped, it has only done so for those with technical skills. The “real” price of 3D printing is still too high.