Prices of almost everything are rising, but how can you tell if 3D printer prices are rising?
The combination of a pandemic, a European war and the ongoing climate emergency have generated much grief for everyone, but they’re also causing prices to rise.
Some of the price rises are due to shipping. Shipping rates have significantly increased due to a shortage of containers, in turn caused by shifts in demands that left containers in all the wrong places. This is a scenario that will take years to work out, and in the meantime anyone shipping anything pays a higher price to use the remaining shipping capacity. This affects not only the 3D printers and associated equipment being shipped to customers, but also the components used to build that equipment.
More price increases result from shortages of electronic chips used in equipment like 3D printers. Again, shifts in demand and lack of factory capacity have led to a scramble by manufacturers to obtain suitable chips for their products. This has been most visible in the automotive industry where some vehicle production has been slowed by chip shortages. Tesla even re-wrote their firmware so that it could be used on alternative chips that were available.
The chip shortage is also hitting 3D printer manufacturers, whose equipment certainly uses multiple chips in each unit.
All of this should say that 3D printer prices must be rising.
Or are they?
A check of Prusa Research’s online shop showed pricing that seems to be similar to prices over a year ago. The current MK3S+ in assembled form sells for US$999, the same price as when the MK3 was introduced in 2017.
But hold on a second. The current machine is the MK3S+, and the original device was the MK3. They are actually different machines. They use many different components and therefore the pricing should be different, but it isn’t.
In fact, Prusa Research released the MK3, then the MK3S, and most recently the MK3S+.
This frequent changing of machine models can make it difficult to understand changes in pricing, or in Prusa Research’s case, the lack of changes. While Prusa Research has done an admirable job of keeping the price of their flagship device consistent for buyers for several years, what’s going on behind the scenes?
The company expanded dramatically and along the way improved their production processes. Have they lowered the cost of production so much that they are able to keep their costs the same even though their component and shipping costs have surely risen? Perhaps their expanded sales have allowed for more volume discounts. It’s hard to say, but their pricing has been consistent.
Other desktop 3D printer manufacturers may have an easier time hiding price increases. Creality, for example, is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of desktop devices, and seems to introduce new models every few months. In fact, as of this writing they currently offer no less than eleven different variations of the popular Ender series. Is it possible to see price increases on this rapidly evolving product line? If a new model comes out with a slightly higher price, is it because of chip shortages or is it because the machine has new features that cause the price to rise? Or both?
Some manufacturers have more openly raised the pricing. For example, Mosaic Manufacturing, producers of the popular Palette series of filament color changing devices, posted new pricing for their equipment. They said:
“We wanted to send out a note to let you know about an upcoming change in our pricing structure. Costs have been rising across a number of areas in our supply chain, including shipping and materials. We’ve done what we can to be creative in reducing and absorbing these costs; however, starting on April 15th, we will be increasing prices of Palette 3 and Palette 3 Pro by $100.”
In the end prices of all 3D printers will have to rise, as workarounds and efficiency steps will be exhausted. The question is by how much and when.