Prusa Research is nearing release of their critical Original Prusa XL 3D printer, and it’s a critical step for the Czech company.
In a recent post, the company revealed they’ve sent out beta test units for “final” testing. They said in a recent Facebook post:
“We sent over thirty pieces to our external beta testers for the last round of testing. We are working hard to be able to ship the final XLs to you as soon as possible.”
The Original Prusa XL is the long-awaited new model to add to the Prusa line, announced way back in 2021. While many desktop 3D printer operators have awaited an upgrade to the Prusa MK3S+, the mythical “MK4” device.
The Prusa MK3 was first released in 2017, going on six years ago. Since then the device has undergone a series of upgrades, culminating in the company’s flagship device, the current MK3S+.
However, that machine has not been upgraded for quite a long time, over two years and counting.
Because of that machine’s incredible versatility, reliability, support, upgradeability and low pricing, it has been amazingly popular. That has generated huge interest in the Prusa community for a further upgrade, the hypothetical MK4. Interest has been so high that we wrote a speculative piece on what might be in a Prusa MK4. However, our speculation was published 2.5 years ago, which tells you something. Prusa Research even changed their website’s 404 page to “MK404” as a joke about the elevated interest.
Instead Prusa Research announced the XL model, which is very different from prior models and is most definitely not the successor to the MK3S+. The XL has an enormously larger build volume, advanced extruder & build platform, and the ability to use a five-extruder tool changing system, among other advanced features.
The key, however, is the price of the XL: US$1999.
That price is more than double the price of the MK3S+, and perhaps 8X the price of inexpensive Asian 3D printers.
The Original Prusa XL is targeted at a different market than what those looking for a MK4 have been expecting. The XL is a professional machine, intended for prosumers and even low volume production.
While Prusa Research still markets the MK3S+ and the Original Prusa MINI, they haven’t announced any replacements for that market segment yet.
It’s a bit worrying, as there are a number of Asian manufacturers of desktop 3D printers that, frankly, are slowly catching up to Prusa Research’s desktop line. And they’re available at lower price points.
Having tested quite a number of these machines over the past few years, there has been a very clear trend: these “cheap” machines are getting a lot better. They now by default usually include convenience features like automated leveling, power failure recovered, etc. Their print plates have significantly improved as well, and using them is gradually becoming similar to that of Prusa Research’s equipment.
Prusa Research certainly is aware of this growing competition, and I believe that’s why they have focused their development efforts on the XL model. It opens up a brand new market for the company, and one that could be quite profitable. Along with complementary products like the company’s automated print farm software, it’s pretty clear they’re making a move into professional and low volume production markets.
Perhaps this is because they foresee competing with the Asian companies for the lower-cost machines challenging in the near future? That could be the case, or it could be that they believe they could make more money by focusing on the manufacturing market, as is the case with countless other 3D printer manufacturers. Prusa Research’s outstanding reputation would greatly assist their entry into that market.
We can’t know what will happen in the future, at least until things play out. It may be that Prusa Research is indeed working on a low cost “MK4” machine in their secret labs. With that announcement, they’d secure their place in the desktop market for a lot longer. On the other hand, if they don’t announce an upgraded desktop model, they are certainly going to be overtaken by other competitors at some point.
Via Prusa Research