Exploring The Mess of Mass Market Retail 3D Printer Sales

By on September 8th, 2022 in Ideas, news

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“Top Rated” 2014-era 3D printer sold at an outrageous price in 2022 [Source: Fabbaloo]

If you intend on buying a 3D printer, maybe you should not consider buying one from a “normal” retailer.

By “normal” retailer, I mean that hardware chain store down the street, a major department store or similar. Why? Because the products offered are typically quite old and carry unbelievable pricing.

Let’s do some exploring.

I reviewed the state of 3D printer availability at several online stores in Canada, where I’m located. The findings were pretty crazy.

One model that seems to be found frequently at these stores is the Dremel 3D20 Idea Builder, a device first introduced way back in 2014! At the time it was a somewhat reasonable device, but essentially a MakerBot Replicator-style device that’s now far surpassed by several generations of FFF 3D printing technology.

Look at the pricing I found for this device:

Those prices are extraordinarily high for any desktop 3D printer these days, let alone a model that’s eight years old — and based on a technology that’s even older.

It gets even stranger. If you go to Dremel’s official website, they don’t even seem to sell this device anymore. Evidently you must go to several Canadian major retailers to find this prehistoric 3D printer.

What’s going on here?

I think I know what’s happening. The Dremel device happened to obtain CSA (Canadian Standards Association) approval long ago. Devices passing this set of standards get the “CSA mark of approval”. The problem is that CSA doesn’t approve any device — the manufacturer must pay them to do the testing and thus obtain the certification mark.

The Canadian Standards Association certification mark

It turns out that many (maybe almost all) 3D printer manufacturers choose not to obtain this particular certification for their products. Why would they? Canada is a relatively small market, and there are lots of small markets. Why spend money certifying 3D printer models in many regions that will be obsolete in a year anyway?

Meanwhile, these major retailers more than likely have a policy that requires them to sell only CSA approved products to limit their liability.

So if a retailer wants to sell a 3D printer, they get the only one that seems to have CSA approval: the Dremel 3D20.

This is a very curious retail “trap” that has clearly prevented sales of 3D printers in Canada and likely in some other jurisdictions as well.

There are certainly ways to buy 3D printers in Canada and everywhere: you just order them online from any number of resellers or manufacturers. It’s just that you may not have the certifications for these devices, and therefore the buyer takes on the risk, should there be an incident.

What do we change here? Not much, as the standards agencies work they way they work, and they won’t change. You can’t convince 3D printer manufacturers to seek certifications for their inexpensive devices — they’re already trying to keep the prices as low as possible.

The only possible outcome here is to make 3D printer buyers aware that the inexpensive devices they purchase may not have the same safety certifications that other appliances might have.

As always, buyer beware.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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