So you’ve decided to buy a desktop 3D printer, but when is the best time to do so?
The answer, as you might suspect, is “it depends”.
One of the primary determining factors is your budget. If it’s tight, then perhaps you may want to optimize the purchase price by timing your buy.
On the other hand, maybe you have a specific need to 3D print objects now or at a specific point in the future. Then it may make more sense to buy immediately.
Let’s look at these possibilities in a bit more detail, as there is more to see than meets the eye.
For the budget conscious, the obvious thing to do would be to wait for machines to be on sale. That’s easy to do, as there are predictable times when sales occur: Black Friday, pre-Christmas, etc. Those periods are when you’ll find many machines on sale, but there’s only a couple of those dates per year.
Some 3D printer manufacturers have impromptu sales at any time during the year. I’ve seen sales campaigns erupt over basically any calendar event, like “Halloween”, “Easter”, “Chinese New Year”, etc. It’s just that not every provider undertakes these, and you won’t see larger choice of discounted machines.
One big challenge that awaits those looking for sales is that the devices placed at discount are very often the older models. Manufacturers frequently try to move out old stock to clear the way for newer models that may not have even been announced.
This is a pernicious issue in 3D printing, because the capabilities of desktop 3D printers are increasing rapidly. A model announced six months ago will have fewer features than today’s model. Last year’s model probably shouldn’t be even considered as current models will be noticeably superior.
Timing a purchase has to take into account whether the devices on sale are really what you need. Sometimes older models are sufficient, but in my experience new capabilities tend to make 3D printing easier, faster and more reliable with better print results. Who wouldn’t want that?
Another factor is that the pricing of desktop 3D printers continues to drop. In the old days when machines cost US$1,500, waiting for a sale to save US$500 was quite a big deal. Meanwhile, today’s US$250 printers might be on sale to save only US$50. Is that worth waiting for?
For those less concerned with discount pricing and sales, you might think it’s reasonable to just go and buy whatever models are offered.
That’s not always the best choice. 3D printer models do change from time to time. New models are announced, and sometimes internal components are improved even without announcements.
The problem scenario is this: buying a device that you think is suitable, but then finding out it’s been replaced two weeks later with a far better device by the manufacturer.
Some manufacturers might provide some credit or allow an upgrade, but many do not. Therefore it’s important to buy a machine that is unlikely to be replaced for at least several months.
The best practice for that is to buy machines shortly after they are announced. That way you can be sure the manufacturer is less likely to replace it with something better in the short term. You can never know when a machine is being replaced, but you can know exactly when new machines emerge.
Note that some manufacturers tend to change products quite frequently, even several times per year. Meanwhile there are others that don’t change their products for several years. That approach doesn’t work in the long term, however, as their products get out of date quite rapidly.
Buying a 3D printer is today as easy as it’s ever been. There are more choices than ever, and many machines have terrific pricing and performance. After selecting a machine type, the only things to decide are how much you want to pay, and when you want to buy one.