It’s no secret that Asia wants to rule the world of 3D printing. Countries like China and Singapore have been sinking millions into research and development in hopes of leapfrogging competitors in the U.S.
A prime example is XYZprinting, a sub-division of Taiwanese electronics giant Kinpo Group. XYZprinting revealed its first 3D printer at CES this year: a $499 desktop machine known as the da Vinci. Now it is releasing two more desktop printers priced at $649 and $849. That’s still far cheaper than most U.S. printers; MakerBot, for example, sells its three printers for $1,375, $2,899 and $6,499.
“That aggressiveness is due to trying to bring 3D printing into people’s lives by bringing down the entry to barrier for most of the users who are hesitating on getting into 3D printing,” XYZprinting spokesperson Phair Tsai said in an interview.
The two new printers, known as the da Vinci 2.0 Duo and 2.1 Duo Plus, don’t have particularly outstanding features. Their build volume is actually slightly smaller than that of the da Vinci 1.0 and they print at the same 100-400 micron resolution. But they do contain two printing nozzles, which allows them to print in two colors. That’s a highly unusual feature for a sub-$1,000 printer. The 2.1 also offers printing over Wi-Fi or from a tablet, plus camera monitoring.
Part of XYZprinting’s secret to offering such low-cost printers is the proprietary filament cartridges da Vinci owners will be required to buy directly from the company. Each cartridge costs $28 and contains 600 grams of filament, which means you are paying more than $45 for the equivalent of a 1 kg spool that usually costs between $30 and $35.
Tsai said that profit in part motivated XYZprinting’s inclusion of proprietary cartridges. But it also came down to making the printers easier to use.
“Even if you are using ABS or PLA…inside, the actual chemical content of the ABS is different from brand to brand, from supplier to supplier,” Tsai said. “Advanced users know how to use trial and error to hit on the right settings to use different types of filament. But not all users know how to do that. For most common users, we are just trying to make their life a little bit easier.”
Tsai added that much about the consumer 3D printing industry is still unknown, and the da Vinci line will help test current preferences in the U.S. Based on what it finds, XYZprinting plans to continue to move aggressively.
Tsai said that within a year, it will likely release a printer that costs less than $499. And the company is thinking about debuting a stereolithographic printer in the next year — an alternative technology that uses a laser to cure liquid resin layer by layer. The team is also looking at printing food and other plastics, and is working to improve 3D printing software and cloud integration.
This post was updated on April 4 to state that cartridges cost $28 and the 2.1 prints from a tablet, not a mobile phone.