Can This Czech Company Revolutionize Desktop 3D Printing in America?

Jo Prusa, right, CEO of 3D printer maker Prusa Research, monitors assembly at its new Delaware… [+] factory.

The name Prusa is practically synonymous with 3D printers. Josef “Jo” Prusa is a well-known figure in the 3D printing community for more than a decade and founder and CEO of Prusa Research, which makes some of the most popular and widely used 3D printers in the world. The company develops and builds its printers at its headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, but now, they’ll also be made in the U.S.A.

Jo Prusa isn’t just expanding to meet customer demand, he plans to become the largest manufacturer of desktop 3D printers and filaments in America within a year, he says. Earning this title shouldn’t be too much of a hurdle for Prusa, which already sells 10,000 machines a month shipped worldwide.

Despite America being the birthplace of filament-based 3D printing, called fused deposition modeling (FDM), most desktop FDM 3D printers are made in China, by companies such as Creality, Anycubic, and Bambu Lab. In fact, 94% of entry-level desktop printers shipped in 2023 came from Chinese vendors, according to data from Context.

Only a handful of American companies making desktop FDM machines in the U.S. remain, including Markforged, LulzBot, Re:3D, and Airwolf.

“The 3D printing community in the U.S. is probably the largest in the world,” says Prusa. “We believe that establishing production and growing Prusa in the U.S. will allow more enthusiasts to join the industry, make a living from it, and contribute to innovations in 3D printing under the Prusa brand.”

All Prusa Research 3D printers are assembled by hand. The company’s Prague factory produces 10,000 units a month.

Part of the company’s loyal following among 3D printing enthusiasts and professional engineers alike comes from its meticulous printer and materials fabrication process. (I toured the company’s Prague factory myself in June.)

Prusa Research not only makes its own printers — with many parts 3D printed on other Prusa machines in a huge printer farm — it makes its own material filament on machines it designed, its own printed circuit boards, and its own testing equipment to ensure each printer passes strict quality checks.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic, … we started finding ways to get components locally and even produce them in-house,” says Prusa. “We’re also looking for more suppliers in the EU and U.S.A. – they usually provide higher quality parts.” This closed, controlled environment has given the company one of the best quality reputations in an industry dominated by lower-cost Asian 3D printers.

The newest Prusa factory is in Newark, Delaware, and is already bustling with staff. “There are new spaces for filament manufacturing lines, a print farm, a service area… and workstations for the assembly of our Original Prusa MK4,” says Prusa.

Matt Mensley, senior editor at 3D printing magazine All3DP at a recent tour of the Prusa Research factory in Prague where 3D printer are used to make parts for more 3D printers.

The MK4, launched in 2023, is the company’s fastest-selling machine, which was part of the impetus to expand production. The MK4’s popularity was a bit of a double-edged sword, as more demand drove up the lead times for customers.

Although Prusa doubled the capacity of its Prague factory in the second half of 2023, plans accelerated to set up production at the company’s American subsidiary, Printed Solid, which it acquired in 2022.

Printed Solid had been a 3D printer reseller and filament maker, but after becoming part of Prusa, it shifted to handle Prusa’s printer supply contracts with enterprises and the U.S. government.

“At this moment, we have around 30 American colleagues and we’re planning to create more job opportunities in the U.S. soon,” says Prusa.

Original Prusa MK4 3D printers will be assembled in Delaware with the same attention to detail as in Prague. “All the workbenches, testing tools, everything is the same,” says Prusa. “Whenever you buy one of the machines assembled in the U.S.A., you will get the exact same level of quality. And we’re looking for ways to include local American component suppliers.”

As desktop 3D printer use expands across professional sectors for a wide range of prototype uses and fabrication of spare parts and tools, the dominance of these Chinese machine manufacturers has raised some security concerns.

The Original Prusa MK4 is the company’s fastest selling 3D printers.

“By bringing production to the U.S., we will enhance product accessibility and increase trust in our brand,” says Prusa. “Customers will soon have the option to purchase U.S.-made filaments and U.S.-assembled, and later, U.S.-made printers. This move will significantly enhance peace of mind for both U.S. consumers and the government.”

“Ultimately, this will help the Western world stay competitive in manufacturing desktop 3D printers,” Prusa adds. This sentiment mirrors the growing adoption of 3D printers, especially industrial-level machines, to reshore manufacturing of all types of products back to the U.S., and become less reliant on overseas factories.

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