Prosumer 3D printers are creating a stir. These are the printers — priced from $1,800 – $3,000 — which offer larger build volumes, finer details, and increased print speeds compared to the lower-priced consumer personal 3D printers ($400-$1,200). As is inherent in the name, “prosumer,” the printers can serve the market for serious hobbyists and design firms alike.
In SmarTech’s opinion, prosumer printers are really the first low-cost 3D printers that can create a part for a home project, or print a model consistently enough to make it worth while for the home consumer.
But where does this leave the lower-cost consumer printers? The fact that a new 3D printer class has to be created to deliver on the promises originally made by personal 3D printers looks like an admission that current personal 3D printers don’t really get it done.
The truth is that many of current personal 3D printers are little more than toys: real-world applications are limited, even for the most creative hobbyist. And that’s a problem that the invention of a prosumer class of printer seems to highlight.
SmarTech believes that the limitations of current personal 3D printers could potential evoke blowback from consumers outside the maker community. Many consumers are generally unaware of the time and effort it takes to create some of the colorful objects so proudly displayed on 3D printer manufacturer’s websites. Or the skillsets that creating these objects require.
A customer that buys a 3D printer and has a negative experience will be less likely to invest in the next generations of personal 3D printers. And the existence of the prosumer sector – for all its commercial importance – cannot help but show up the inadequacies of the lower end printers.