What are the most important factors to consider when purchasing a desktop 3D printer?
Our 2022 annual survey is complete, and one of the questions asked for your thoughts on the most important factors to consider when purchasing a desktop 3D printer.
This year the survey was focused on desktop equipment, and so the results are related to that market. For industrial, professional and educational devices the evaluation factors are likely somewhat different. Nevertheless, there are some interesting findings here.
Our survey proposed some 23 different potential factors that might be investigated during a purchase scenario. Responders were asked to rate each of them as:
- I Don’t Care About This Factor
- This Is An Important Factor to Me
- This Factor Is Critical to My Purchases
While true evaluation factors would have quite a wide spectrum of possible results, we decided to simply focus on three levels: It is absolutely required, absolutely not required, and something in-between. This made the survey easy to fill out, and helped attract a record number of respondents.
We ranked the results on a 0-1-2 point scale, and gauged the total as a percentage of the maximum possible points available.
There was only one factor over 80%: Price / Performance Ratio at 81.9%.
This is not surprising, as there have been many devices placed on sale at rock bottom prices, gathering huge sales figures even though the machine might not be the greatest. Evidently price is more important than function.
The second and third most important factors are related:
- 79.5% Ability to easily obtain spare parts
- 79.2% Machine reputation
These relate to the fear of the machine breaking down, something that happens all too often, and particularly on lower-cost machines. Apparently if you’re buying a cheap machine, you are also concerned about whether it’s going to break, and how you can fix it.
With three factors ahead of it, “Product Configuration Meets Needs” lands in the fourth ranking at 77.3%. This is quite surprising, because you would think that the most important consideration is whether the machine does what you need it to do. Only then should you consider getting it at the lowest price. However, it seems that some folks would prefer a cheaper machine over one that actually works for them. I don’t understand this.
“Ability to easily obtain accessories” came in at this 68.4%, and it’s somewhat related the second and third items. Here it’s ability to modify the machine with add-ons that provide more or better capabilities. The rather high ranking of this factor suggests that many buyers are already considering modifying the machine. Perhaps that’s why they care less about function and more about price: they intend on changing the machine anyway.
“Company Reputation” came in at 66.6% for sixth place. This is partly a proxy for machine reliability and partly for the perceived ethics of the manufacturer. Evidently this is quite important, and must affect sales greatly. If a company has a well-known good reputation they are likely to gather more sales. On the other hand, sales would be reduced with a poor reputation. This suggests companies had better behave nicely in public or they will suffer the consequences. Note also that new entrants that have no reputation could also suffer, perhaps without merit.
“Operating System Compatibility” was in eighth place at 59.6%. I find this unusual because this should be a critical requirement. For example, if you are running a Linux box, then you MUST have a machine that supports Linux, and many do not. Perhaps many respondents run Windows and simply assume all 3D printers must work with Windows.
Support services were next in line, with these results:
- 59.8% Professional, fast support
- 59.4% After-sales service quality
- 57.9% Web-based support (forums)
- 53.9% Customer enquiry response time
Evidently the ability to obtain proper support from the manufacturer is reasonably important for many buyers. This likely goes along with the repair factors above, as it seems everyone expects equipment to break. Maybe manufacturers should make products that don’t break?
“Machine is open source” garnered only 49.4% importance, suggesting that it is not nearly as critical as some would suggest.
Some 45.8% felt “Shipment time / Backorder” delays were important. This is interesting, as it suggests people are willing to suffer longer delays when ordering equipment. They apparently are willing to wait for machines with the right price and reputation.
“Warranty length” was important by only 45.7%, as it seems many people expect to be fixing their own equipment.
“Social media reviews” was only at 39.8% importance. This suggests that a majority of buyers discount reviews, perhaps because they don’t trust the reviewers or publications. Here we try our best to do unbiased, honest hands on reviews of equipment.
“Recommendation by friends” was only of 39.5% importance. This is extremely interesting, because it would appear that the majority of folks don’t trust others’ opinions of equipment. Perhaps that is because most people have different needs and situations, making friend recommendations often off the mark.
“Company social / environmental responsibility” came in quite low at only 34.3% importance. While many companies are starting to develop in this area, it is still not a critical item for many. I suspect this will gradually increase as the climate emergency progresses.
Finally, no one seems to believe “Celebrity recommendation” is important, as it came in at only 4.4% importance, the last item on our list. I have to agree with this, as there are virtually no celebrities that know much about the technology.
However, there were an astonishing 17 respondents that actually thought it critical to have a celeb on board their choice.
Whether you use these evaluation factors in your 3D printer purchases or not, I have a suspicion that 3D printer manufacturers certainly should do so.