*Yes, there’s a catch. You must commit to buying 24 printing kits in the first two years. With SolidWorks co-founder Scott Harris on board, the Solido SD 300 PRO attracts new attention. We revisit our June 2009 report.
February 24, 20100–The first round in what may become the 3D desktop printer price war of 2010 was fired last month at SolidWorks World 2010. Israel-based Solido demonstrated its SD300 PRO printer and unveiled a new price of $2,950, far below last year’s introductory price of $10,000. But there’s
a gotcha: at $2,950 the buyer must commit to purchasing 24 printing kits in two years at a price that averages out to around $500 for each kit. The price is
$9,950 for the printer with only one kit and no commitment.
When Solido introduced the printer to the US market June 2009, our contributing analyst L. Stephen Wolfe, P.E. noted that the unit price was affordable but supplies were expensive at $300 each. Since then both Stratasys and 3D Systems have introduced new desktop 3D printers under $15,000 but with slightly lower material costs. Z Corp. also targets the 3D desktop printer space.
Scott Harris On Board
Of particular interest to SolidWorks World attendees was the presence of SolidWorks co-founder Scott Harris, who now sits on the Solido board of directors. Harris says the vision of 3D printing on the desktop drew him to the company. “The benefits of 3D printing are real, but still not widely used. The technology is not mainstream. Why? There should be an explosion of sales.”
Harris thinks adoption is low because current 3D printing processes are too “industrial” in nature. “To be mainstream it has to be like printing a document. It has to be clean and easy.” Competing 3D printing products are “too much like a science project” with their need for gloves, special rinses, or other processes not usually considered normal in the office. Solido offers a process that is “more like a craft project than a science project,” says Harris.
The process uses thin engineered plastic on a roll. A knife cuts the outlines of the object as the plastic is layered with glue and water-soluble anti-glue; the material does not undergo phase change with heat or chemistry. When finished, the part is separated from non-part by hand or with tweezers, as needed. The remaining material can be recycled. The results can be painted, drilled, or used as a mold in some situations. One printed item in the press kit was a ratchet-lock band, to show off the material’s flex strength. Walls can be as thin as 1mm.
Harris loves to compare Solido to the competition. “The powder-based competitors sit for a few hours in a bath, then get coated. It is lots of work. The ones that print harder materials go in an agitation bath. They can weep out for days afterwards.”
A recent Gartner Group study claims 3D printing for under $10,000 will be “a game changer.” Business Week estimates a current market of 300,000 units for 3D desktop printing, 100x larger than a similar market estimate from 2006. CNBC recently name 3D Printers as one of “50 Things That Will Change Your World in 2010.”
Solido plans to sell via the dealer channel, not direct, and is seeking new dealers in the US.
The Final Analysis
There is a three-stage adoption cycle for 3D desktop printing. In Stage 1 engineers and related professionals (such as architects) integrate 3D printing into their design work flow. In Stage 2, high-end hobbyists buy in. Stage 3 is where 3D desktop printing reaches a mass market, based on volume from Stage 1 and Stage 2 late-adopters and additional customers from new markets. If Solido can dance on the fine line of low printer cost and ramp up demand, they should be able to capture a good portion of the low-end market. But it won’t be stealing customers from Z Corp. or the others; all these vendors are seeking a piece of a fast-growing pie.
If you are in the market for a desktop 3D printer, initial price should be the least consideration. Look at materials, look at process, and look at your potential volume. If you are now using a larger additive fabrication machine for concept modeling, you can save money and time by deploying a few of these. Industry analyst Terry Wolhers notes that using large additive fabrication units for conceptual design models “has just about dried up” with the arrival of low-cost units. §