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The $20k Difference: Understanding 3D Printer Value

Charles Lu is an Application Engineer based out of Markforged HQ in Watertown, MA. When he isn't investigating new uses for additive manufacturing or diving deep into the weeds of material properties, you can usually find him hiking, biking, and/or searching for his next meal.

Hobbyist 3D printers have improved rapidly in the last decade, and market offerings are the best they’ve ever been. Today’s budget systems pack more capability per dollar than the founding fathers of extrusion-based 3D printing (think Scott Crump, Bre Pettis, and Adrian Bowyer) could have collectively imagined in an AIM chatroom, during the formative years of RepRap. The value of the hardware itself is so compelling today that the line between professional and hobbyist 3D printers might start to seem a bit blurry.

The low cost of a budget system from the likes of Prusa or Creality makes it easy for a mid-level manager to purchase on a credit card. Interns or co-ops are able to keep the thing running, so it seems like a manageable expense. More expensive systems require budgetary approval, and there’s always someone in management or finance who asks whether you really need a new tool if what you currently use isn’t broken.

So what exactly makes a Mark Two twenty times more expensive than a Prusa i3 Mk3S+? Or nearly one hundred times more expensive than a Creality Ender 3? You can’t answer these questions by comparing brochures.

I’ll give you a hint: it’s not just the hardware.

Take a minute to think back about your past experiences with 3D printing. Maybe you tried the MakerBot Replicator at the peak of 3D printing hype. Maybe you’ve been using a Lulzbot, made by a fun, humble business in Colorado whose revenue stream was devoured overnight by overseas competitors. Perhaps you’ve been busy with Stratasys for the better part of the last decade at work. You might even be a Markforged customer, and wondering if you should try something else. You could be totally new to 3D printing, but think it might solve a problem or scratch a creative itch.

But here we are in the present. It’s 2021, and despite the good value and good times in the industry, you’re finding limitations to the capabilities of your 3D printer, and looking for something more with Markforged.

  • Maybe the promise of 10x stronger materials brought you here.
  • Maybe you saw an Onyx part at a tradeshow once, and you still think about it sometimes...
  • Maybe you’re working from home and tired of simultaneously watching your kids, the stove, and the printer the company sent home with you, and you are looking for a more reliable system so you can take regular lunch breaks.
  • Maybe you are like Tom Sandladerer and love the aluminum unibody design.

But golly gee whiz, $20k to print carbon fiber? What gives? Is it worth it? (There’s an easy way to find out)

How risk and business impact changes as you improve materials and printer precision

There’s never been a better time to buy a budget system, and despite unlimited access to our own machines and materials, plenty of Markforged engineers would agree. We’re not here to tell you that Markforged is the solution for every problem; frankly, it’s not. But if it could be the solution for your problem. If it is, we’d love to help.

If you prefer the video format, check out the recording of our latest webinar on The $20k Difference: Strategies for Maximizing 3D Printer Value for a guided decision-making session on choosing your next 3D printer. It is a fun webinar - kind of like group fitness, a Ted Talk, and guided meditation, rolled into one. You’ll hear from a number of [Markforged] engineers who rock Mark Twos AND Creality or Prusa machines at home who can give you the pros and cons of each.

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