3D Printers Under $500; is the revolution here?

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As those of you who read Global Toy News regularly know, I have been cautioning for some time about the impact that an under $500 3D printer will have on the toy industry.  As I put it in a December 2011 article, “Consumer 3D Printing; Manufacturing’s Big Bang?

No longer would you have to make an action figure in China, put it on a container ship, ship it to the US, transship it to a warehouse, ship it again to a retail outlet and hope a consumer finds and buys it.  Instead, you would be able to sell a download right to a consumer who would in turn print it out in the comfort of his or her own bed or living room.  It would be our industry’s version of the iPod or Netflix.

I wrote that paragraph in 2011.  Here we are in 2014 we are about to find out exactly what impact an affordable 3D printer is going to have on not just the toy industry but all industries that manufacture consumer products.  According to author Agam Sham in a CIO magazine article, “3D Printer Price Drops Could Lure Home Users.”  “A handful of 3D printers priced at less than US$500 were shown at the Inside 3D Printing trade show…They can print small objects in limited colors, but prices of more advanced home 3D printers are dropping as well, opening up the market to a wider audience.”

According to the article, the value of 3D printers and materials sold in 2013 was a surprising, at least to me, US$2.5 billion.  Sales are projected to grow to US$3.8 billion this year and hit US$16.2 billion in 2018.  That last figure is getting pretty close to US annual toy sales.

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Here are some of the systems mentioned as selling for under $500:

 

And if you want a 3D printer with a little more horse power, the X Objects' Up Plus system has dropped in price from $4,000 last year to a current price of $1500. 

It’s going to get interesting.

 

2 thoughts

  1. Here is my personal experience as happy owner of a 3D printer – Solidoodle 2 – and proud parent. My kids aren’t clamoring for me to 3D print toys for them.
    I only had one daughter of a friend request a mustache-shaped ring.
    I see a real opportunity for brand names to put up .stl files in the thingiverse (or elsewhere). That could really kickstart the interest, even if the finished item looks far different from a nice smooth toy.
    But for now they can only rely on my 3D designing abilities, which aren’t close to action figure realism. And I haven’t yet managed to get them excited about designing their own objects.
    So, yes, there are kinks to work out pretty much everywhere, but intriguing opportunities too.

  2. Thanks for posting this! I was waiting for you to write something about 3D printing! It IS going to get interesting indeed. I went to a 3D printing seminar last weekend here in HK and the speed at which this technology is moving forward is insane. Honestly speaking, today’s 3D printers for home use (i.e. USD 500,- price point) are not very advanced yet. From the materials used, the lack of the establishment of a few key market leading brands, and the fact that many “back yard barn companies” are still trying to concur a place in this market, we can tell that the market has not yet matured. It is like those matrix printers in the 1980’s. But the technology is moving fast and even food, soft plastics, and metals can be printed now! A Harvard professor found a way to print material that can transfer electricity! Technically, you could print an iPhone. This technology will impact business massively, without any doubt and starting very soon.

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