CES brought quite a few surprises for the 3D printing industry this week, including a slew of new printers from 3D Systems and MakerBot. Both companies began testing the waters in the low-cost 3D printer market by offering relatively affordable printers: the $1,000 Cube 3 and $1,375 Replicator Mini, respectively.
One thing that wasn’t a surprise was how many 3D printer companies dedicated to the sub-$1,000 printer space showed up. Solidoodle, RoBo 3D and 3Doodler were all there. But they were also joined by a few new players, all of which have something unique to offer with their low-cost machine options.
OK, the Buccaneer isn’t exactly new. It was funded on Kickstarter last year with a lot of fanfare due to its $400 price tag and Apple-like design. But since then, it’s gone through a bout of controversy as backers began to question its creators at Singapore-based Pirate3D could deliver on their promises.
CES was Pirate3D’s first U.S. debut of the Buccaneer, and it seems to have calmed a lot of backer nerves. The printer does have a heated bed plate and auto-leveling. It is indeed a beautiful machine and capable of turning out decent-looking prints at an 85 micron resolution.
The printers are now available for preorder for $497, but marketing and management engineer Evgeny Lazarenko filled me in that the actual retail price is expected to be $897.
“It turns out that reducing retail prices for 3D printers lower than $900 is almost not feasible for most regions if you have a middleman,” Evgeny said. “But if we don’t have the middleman and sell at $497, there are still additional costs for the customer, because import taxes and shipping costs are not included in that price.”
While understandable, that price will dull the initial excitement surrounding the Buccaneer. It might have been a no-brainer purchase at $400, but now I’m not so sure. I’m scheduled to test the machine in the next few months, so maybe that will change my mind.
The true low-cost printer introduced at CES is the XYZprinting da Vinci, which retails for $499.
The printer isn’t too different from the other low-cost options we’ve seen at this point. It can build objects in ABS plastic up to about 8 x 8 x 8 inches in 100 micron resolution. It’s meant to be easy to set up and XYZprinting is making an online database of printable designs available.
The more interesting aspect of the da Vinci is it prints with cartridges–spools of filament sealed into a canister. 3D Systems’ Cube 3 also has this feature, which up until this point was limited to professional printers. Each cartridge costs $25. Considering they each contain 600 grams of filament, that means you are paying more than $40 for the equivalent of a 1 kg spool that usually costs $30-35. So that’s how you offer a competitive printer for $499 (unless you’re MakerBot, and just sell 1 kg spools for $48 anyway).
The ChocaByte may be the first $100 printer to appear at CES, but it didn’t come in the form anyone expected: It prints chocolate. The printer, which was supposedly designed in just a few days leading up to CES, works with chocolate-filled cartridges that sell for $2.50 each. The cartridge is heated up in the microwave or in hot water, after which it can be popped into the printer. Chocolates measure 2 x 2 x 1 inches and print in 10 minutes. There will be a website where users can download designs to print or upload their own originals.
The ChocaByte is meant to blend in with existing kitchen appliances, meaning it looks somewhat different from the average 3D printer. It definitely fits into that familiar category of appliances no one actually needs, but it’s a neat novelty and somewhat amazing given 3D Systems is marketing its chocolate-compatible printers for $5,000 and $10,000. Only 500 are being sold and they will ship in 1 to 3 months.