Well I pulled the trigger and bought another resin 3D printer machine, but it wasn’t a Formlabs.
As much as I enjoy using my Form 3, it has become more apparent to me as time went by, that there are more cost-effective ways of getting your concepts/prototypes in your hands prior to committing to their engineering grade resins and their specific resin tanks, without breaking the bank.
To get to the point. What I would like to see from Formlabs an entry level machine that is the same size as the Form 2 but uses a 2k - 4k monochromatic LCD display to cure the resin. A machine in the $500 - $600 dollar range.
For the longest time Formlabs was the leader in desktop resin printers, but was always out of reach of so many people due to their cost. Building a machine in the $500 - $600 dollar range would prevent current customers, like myself, looking at different alternatives and maybe even bring new customers in.
I want to stay in the Formlabs ecosystem, but the price of their resin and resin tanks makes one think that there has to be a better way.
So is an entry level machine too much to ask for?
When they came out with the Form 1 it was definitely entry level, at least in terms of price, compared to the more expensive machines on the market up to that point.
Once the Asian companies began flooding the market with entry-level SLA printers, I got the sense Formlabs shifted their focus to professional customers. Definitely less of a “hobby” vibe, and they’ve put a lot of effort into specific industries like Dentistry where margins are higher. Absolute cost of newer consumables has slowly drifted up in their latest generations of printers (Form 2 LT tank, Form 3 tank, etc).
I can’t envision Formlabs trying to compete at the low end of the market these days. One of their big value propositions is customer support and it might be harder to do that with lower margins on machines. If anything, their latest products (3L, Fuse) are geared toward the high-end of the market (at least in terms of price).
That said I’m sure they’re looking at mono LCD technology… and also wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve put some consideration into some kind of PolyJet competitor.
In any case it’s great that you’re sharing this request with them - if they thought there was enough interest in a low-end machine to make it viable, who knows, they might sell one closer to breakeven to make money on consumables and resin. But it’s a crowded corner of the market especially with the cheaper resins everywhere else.
Unfortunately, I don’t think FL will move to make $500-600 low-end printers. The current low-end market is flooded with so many brands and the margin is extremely low already. I talked to one of the owners before and the truth is whoever owns a metal milling business and has the access to cheap material has the profit. If you just out-source parts and try to build your machine (Yes, you literally can. The motherboard is sold by Chitu and the light-unit is sold online. All you need is to put them together.) you won’t have the margin if you try to match price and you will out of the game. Look at the printers sold on Amazon, they really are competing with each other by offering cheaper prices. When you sell something cheap, consumers count every penny as a win!
You think FL will jump into such a red sea? hell no!
FL’s strength is its local service and kinda of affordable price range. When you buy that cheap amazon machine or material, do you really care about the customer service? even it doesn’t work that well, you will go to Facebook groups to ask questions since there are huge user groups there already. You don’t treat that seriously since it is cheap. However, what’s your expectation towards a Formlabs machine?
Formlabs is moving up. Some clients will be left behind and that’s how a business model works.
The F1 was a prosumer product. Higher-end hobbyists and lower end professionals. With the F2 they pretty much jettisoned all but the highest-end consumer demographic in favor of professional. All vestiges of the F1 past were abandoned with the F3.
I’m guessing there’s a lot more money to be made with a product that targets the low to mid-range pro use cases vs. consumers/hobbyists. Not to mention the service contracts that businesses almost always want to buy for a machine that’s part of their revenue stream. They’re also focusing on specialized resins that are all targeted at the pro demographic. Low end doesn’t fit the business model anymore.
The Fuse1 propels them even further down the same trajectory.
It’s so funny that you posted this, just sold my last formlabs machine and as it got taped up I looked at it and said damn this is a gorgeous piece of machinery that operates so smooth and is so good looking just sitting, and then I wondered if I would ever have the need for another one day. I’ve truly enjoyed the less expensive resin machines that have hit the market. They may jot be as push button but man are they cheap to use and the outcome products are damn good!
My Epax machine literally prints full sized resin helmets saving me so much post processing time. I don’t know if there will ever be a need to go back to FL. I do believe their materials library is second to none. But I’m nit sure that will always be the case.
Glad I got involved with resin with FL they did me well.