back to article If only 3D desktop printers could 3D print sales! Units crash in Q1

There was a lull after the 3D printer sales storm in 2017 as shipments of personal/desktop boxes declined in the first quarter of this year for the first time, according to distributor stats. There were 3 per cent fewer units of the desktop variety flung into distribution globally in the three months than was the case in Q1 …

  1. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    The main problem as I see it is that 3D printers can't print in a mixture of colours, or even multiple prime colours. That and the size of the finished articles.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      More printers are becoming available with multiple extruders (ie you can use multiple different materials and colours at the same time) these days. They're more expensive (unsurprisingly), but they often come as an optional kit that can be added to an existing machine.

      As for build volume, it's not a big* issue. There's not many parts that are too big for an average sized printer. The bigger* issue with large prints is the amount of material and therefore time that they take up, and it also increases the odds that something is going to fuck up before the print finishes.

      In my experience with consumer-grade 3D printers, a big chunk of your time is spent calibrating and tweaking instead of just waiting for a print to finish.

      * pun intended

      ** and this one

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "a big chunk of your time is spent calibrating and tweaking instead of just waiting for a print to finish."

        I dunno, my (Genuine) Prusa i3 mk3 chucks out flawless PLA prints time after time, without mucking around re-calibrating. It's definately a "domestic" level 3D printer (built from a kit).

        I could have bought at least 3 El-cheapo chinese knock-off kits for the same money, but didn't, due to not wanting to have to recalibrate the thing the whole time.

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          My printer is a very low-cost one (a Monoprice Maker Select), and I don't have to recalibrate all that often. If I'm doing heavy printing, I need to do it about once per week.

          1. Richard 12 Silver badge

            I find I only have to re-level the bed after a week "idle", when I bash the bed removing a print or when I've changed the nozzle.

            This is a really cheap one that doesn't have an automatic levelling/tramming sensor.

            There are a lot of multi-colour 3D printers, I've been looking at upgrading mine but haven't decided between chimera or hydra style.

        2. Casca

          Same here. The Mk3 is a great printer. Can't wait for the MMU add on. :)

    2. JohnFen Silver badge

      But they can. There are a number of printers that do just that. As to size, the most common build volume is about 200x200x200mm, which is quite large. If you need a larger size than that, there are also printers that can accommodate that.

      You won't find the larger print volumes or multiple filament printers in the extremely low cost printers, of course.

  2. steelpillow Silver badge

    convenience vs quality

    Something reasonably reliable and adequate for a quick, low-cost, if rather lumpy set of visuals has fallen in price from the pro range to the domestic, while something that cuts the high-end mustard still comes with an industrial-scale price tag and the smaller pro will outsource rather than buy.

    The "pro" sector in between is getting squeezed out.

  3. Milo Tsukroff

    They're Too Slow!!

    Simple reason for why the sales downturn: They're Too Slow!!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They're Too Slow!!

      ...and too shite!

  4. Justin Clift

    Printrbot now closed too

    Printrbot closed their doors a few days ago too. :(

  5. Ima Ballsy
    Paris Hilton

    Not Reeady for prime time ...

    Well, until they can print mixed materials and I can print my AI enable Sex bots, I'm not goin in on one any time soon!

  6. Wellyboot Silver badge

    Market saturation?

    I'm guessing that anyone who wants one probably already has one by now.

    20 years ago* 3D printers would have sold like flip phones but most widgets can be delivered v-fast these days from the big river which for me negates much of the reason to have one.

    *for our younger members 20 years ago Amazon was US based only and took 6 weeks to deliver a book to the UK. Finding widgets involved trawling around specialist hardware stores.

  7. DropBear

    Nonono. As long as we're talking about the personal / amateur / home / hobby / DIY / "maker" market (ie. anything that isn't industrial use) something around $200-300 is a "low cost 3D printer", $500-600 is "a 3D printer" and anything above $700 is "lighting your money on fire" a.k.a. "why aren't these clowns out of business yet well never mind they will be soon enough".

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge


      Agree 100%

      A 3d printer at that sort of price is not only in the hard to afford range for most people, but it's in the extremely hard to justify range.

      As in sensible wife/partner/child shrieking

      "You want to spend how much on this toy!? What can it possibly do that justifies £2000? "

      "Err well it can print really nice chess pieces. And key rings"

      "We don't need a £2000 key ring. And you don't play chess!"

      1. Rich Webb

        Make stuff!

        3D printers are like your garage wood shop. You make stuff that you could buy, but which it's more fun to make. Not to mention the time spent doing things on the printer to make things for the printer to make the printer print better, as compared to cutting a new rip fence or feather board for the saw.

        To really get use out of a 3D printer, it helps to be able to design one's own parts for those unique around-the-home (or office) gizmos which just aren't available over the counter (or, because it's just more fun to design and print one's own).

        I can't believe that nobody has yet included the obligatory link to Shitty Gifts (trigger warning: impolite language ;-)

        1. MonkeyCee

          Re: Make stuff!

          "3D printers are like your garage wood shop. You make stuff that you could buy"

          I'll disagree slightly with you. While I do make fun stuff in my wood shop (brio style railway tracks) that I could buy for roughly twice the price of the materials, the majority of stuff I make I couldn't just buy. I could pay someone to do it, but that is certainly not cheap.

          In the last year I've "made" a new kitchen counter*, banisters, a deck and more shelves than I can shake a stick at. With tools that, if you are crazy enough to buy them new, cost about the same as a mid level 3D printer.

          I'm not sure I'd want to trust any 3D printed part as being safe for heavy use. Anything that I'd expect someone to put their full weight on I make sure can handle having 125kg of sand piled on it and then given a firm kicking.

          So for a bunch of tools** in the shop, I'd say they were considerably more useful and valuable than any 3D printer, since they do many many things well. However, there are several ones that, for the amount of use they get, are pretty much "nice idea" that hardly gets used. Other than making track, I think I've used my fancy router half a dozen times, and being new that (plus bits) cost as much as the useful tools (which are pretty much all second hand).

          If you already have CAD skills, then a 3D printer sounds pretty good. If you've got to learn those on top of how to use a printer, it sounds a bit too much hassle.

          Personally I'd go for CNC over 3D printing.

          * the counter comes ready to go, just needed a chunk taken out to fit. Actual woodworking for making the supporting frame etc.

          ** specifically: 3 mode SDS drill, circular saw, jigsaw, electric screwdriver/baby drill, angle grinder, belt sander.

      2. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        "Err well it can print really nice chess pieces. And key rings"

        take a look to see what people are doing with them... I have seen quite a few very good , fully functional replicas of BB8, same with R2D2..

        I have seen some very well made RC cars, boats and planes... currently I am making a new drone. with a 3d printer producing quite a few components.

        In a small workshop, with your 2000 quid budget, you can build yourself a 3d printer, CNC mill and CNC lathe, then your limit is your imagination (and CAD skills)...and is very easy to make a few quid along the way to cover the costs of your hobby.

        I get its about justifying the cost. But I can bet that over the lifetime of a good 3d printer, it will cost less than what some people will spend on playing golf. I have seen people getting the kids involved in 3d printing, even to the point where they build their own printers, discovering that there's more to computers than playing games.

        1. MonkeyCee

          Golf is bad

          "But I can bet that over the lifetime of a good 3d printer, it will cost less than what some people will spend on playing golf."

          Golf is a terrible comparison hobby. You can justify the cost of a coke habit as being less than a golf habit, and you don't have to wear anything quite as daft :)

      3. Justin Clift

        > "We don't need a £2000 key ring. And you don't play chess!"

        That sounds familiar. :)

        I tried out the 3D printing thing, but wasn't impressed by the end result. Have since gotten into doing CNC stuff instead. Today's task was to make full height brackets for some cheapo 10GbE Mellanox cards picked up on Ebay.

        Turned out pretty well I reckon. Much more rugged than the 3D printed bracket version. :)

        Photo's here, in case it's interesting.

  8. JeffyPoooh

    Well obviously...

    Like - Duh. Of course sales would be down. Everybody with a 3D Printer is busy printing out additional 3D Printers. So if you want to make money, you need to be flogging cartridges of recursively-named '3D Printer 3D Printer Paste'.

    But even that is short term, because obviously the punters will start 3D printing out replica cartridges of your '3D Printer 3D Printer Paste', so you'd want to get ahead of the trend and start flogging cartridges of '3D Printer Cartridge of 3D Printer 3D Printer Paste'.


    1. joed

      Re: Well obviously...

      Not sure if you realize that this has already been "taken care of". Some "better" printers now require you to sign in to vendor's account so effectively manufacturer not only controls your source of consumables, but even that fancy printer (that you spent big $ for) may become a piece of fancy junk at a their whim or if your internet connection went down. Not exactly the premise under which the whole 3D print craze gained popularity.

      1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

        Re: Well obviously...

        Some "better" printers now require you to sign in to vendor's account so effectively manufacturer not only controls your source of consumables

        And in the 3d printing community, these machines get laughed. you buy a printer that can use any off the shelf 1.75mm PLA... and even then, with the number of failed prints, there are open source designs for a machine that grinds up failed prints, then re-extrudes it., you can then buy PLA granules and extrude all your own filament reducing costs....

  9. Alan Bourke

    but but but

    This is the biggest revolution since the microchip, it must be, the men on the internet said. Not clear whether it's before or after everyone is using touchscreens and the keyboard and mouse is dead, or after.

  10. DocJD

    The future

    I imagine very few people need their own printer but plenty could find occasional uses. I see the future as a 3D printer in most hardware stores (like key making, glass cutting etc.) where people can go to get a custom replacement for knobs, out of stock old auto parts, a family crest, personalized tie clips, self designed phone cases, or whatever.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Over here people are too busy figuring out how to 3d print guns, and stay off the radar, and make money. When they were told,pick two,they scrapped the guns part--tried 3d print $$ instead

    1. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

      figuring out how to 3d print guns....

      making replicas is not hard, I have seen some really good and realistic looking guns. but an actual gun that can fire a bullet is almost, but not quite an urban myth.

      the 3d printed guns are nothing more than a holder for a bullet and a firing pin. because there is no meaningful chamber for a build up of pressure, you would do more damage launching the bullet with a fishing catapult. they are more likely to take your own hand off.... there have been a few honourable mentions in the Darwin awards for these idiots.

    2. MonkeyCee

      3D printed guns

      Never understood the point.

      Well, maybe the philosophical one regarding "when is a gun a gun and not a collection of parts" but if you're going down that road you might as well build a lower receiver by hand or on a lathe.

      It's perfectly possible to make a better "gun" from your local DIY store. Even the crudest pipe rifle is probably safer and more effective than a printed gun.

      Or you could just take the money you spent on a 3D printer and buy an actual gun. An AR15 is what $500 or so?

  12. pɹɐʍoɔ snoɯʎuouɐ

    the issue with 3d printers is that at the budget end of the range, that most people would be comfortable dropping money on to have a play with are far from consumer products, no matter how much the manufacturers sales blurb tells you.

    The budget end (less than £500) 3D printers are perfect for the hobbyist who has time to play around, and it does not take them too long to go one of two routes. Throw it in the bin and rubbish the technology, or fiddle and tweak it until it works, then go on to design and build your own. It really is not that hard, so most hobbyists only ever buy the one.

    The problem is what peoples expectations are with the technology. I find mine very useful, but its taken about 2 years or more of work to get my printer to a point where I get perfect prints (most of the time) and my CAD skills good enough to produce items that function and work within the limitations that a 3d printer has.

    If you want or need a machine that just works day in and day out, a machine that you do not need to know exactly how it works to make work then you need to spend a lot of money, £2000+v The exception to that is a prusa mk2 (there are reports of some inconsistent layering issues with some of the mk3 ) if you buy a ready built machine. But I would recommend buying the kit to learn about how it works...

    1. Justin Clift

      > But I would recommend buying the kit to learn about how it works...

      Yeah. I bought a FlashForge Creator Pro. 2015 model from memory. When it started acting up, I had no clue at all how to fix it.

      Went and bought a Shapeoko 3 (CNC) instead, and made sure it was a kit so I learned how the bits all went together. As you mention, now I can build and upgrade stuff reasonably effectively. :)

  13. sawatts

    If only 3D Printers could print 3D Printers

    Would that count as reproduction?

    1. Justin Clift

      Re: If only 3D Printers could print 3D Printers

      > Would that count as reproduction?

      If it was automated, then probably yes.

      Extra bonus points if several printers "get together" to combine their features into the subsequently er... spawned ones.

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