Prusa Research posted a long video and post about their current status. Let’s take a look.
The Czech company has long been very transparent on their activities and this most recent release continues that practice. They are quite unlike most 3D print companies, which tend to be very secretive.
The post by CEO Josef Prusa comes after a year of big changes for the company. They faced their first significant competition from Bambu Lab, and reacted with the release of their first new flagship device, the MK4, after five years.
What can we learn by reading through the release?
They say that the new MK4 has become their fastest-selling machine, ever. This is a significant statement from a company that has sold more than 100,000 units to date. However, sales rates are often limited by manufacturing ability, implying they may now have more production potential.
But they also mention they’ve been developing this capacity, which can be quite a challenging task in Europe. Most of Prusa Research’s significant competitors are predominantly based in China, where manufacturing costs can be considerably lower. Yet, Prusa Research appears to have achieved the required capacity, stating:
“In the second half of 2023, we escalated our production capacity to nearly 200%. This enables us to reduce lead times as much as possible. We’re nearly at the point where we will have MK4 in stock without any lead time.”
The company’s success, despite the competition, is evident in the maxed-out production capacity. Idle capacity, which would not be beneficial, is not an issue. It seems they have met the initial orders for their XL device, now offering upgrade kits instantaneously via their store.
Unlike typical 3D printer manufacturers, Prusa Research provides a continually updated delivery schedule. This allows customers to estimate when their order will arrive.
At the time of this report, the MK4 assembled units’ waiting period is around a week. This is possibly the shortest waiting time ever recorded by the company. While previously, customers had to wait for weeks or even months for earlier models. The waiting period for MK4 kits is slightly longer, suggesting that the company may be focusing more on the profitable assembled units.
As expected, the MK3S+ units are readily available. Most likely, the demand has transitioned towards the newer MK4.
An interesting sequence from Prusa relates to their relationship with customers:
“Many of you have “grown up” with us, and your first printer might have been the MK1 or MK2. We probably even met in person at various events, or maybe I personally helped you build a printer ten years ago. Since then, however, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge; the market has changed, and so has the mood in 3D printing communities. We’re evolving too, constantly seeking the right balance between remaining that enthusiastic group of garage-born inventors, while also being capable of shipping over a hundred thousand 3D printers a year.”
This illustrates a growing disconnect between many of their customers and the current business situation. It is actually extremely challenging to build quality products at scale and at a reasonable price, and Prusa Research has undertaken huge efforts to achieve that. However, most of their customers do not understand the challenges and Prusa Research is trying to explain to them why things happen the way they do.
This is an interesting development, because such challenges will only increase as the company grows, possibly stretching their relationship goals.
They have made certain changes to overcome the challenges of manufacturing, such as producing their own circuit boards. This reduces their reliance on third-party suppliers who can sometimes be unpredictable.
Complications arise due to the increasing number of models from the companies, coupled with their habit of offering updates on older systems. Many firms discard older products as they are too difficult and costly to maintain. Nevertheless, Prusa Research commits to this practice in spite of the required effort and cost.
A remarkable quote from Prusa is:
“I am making an effort to state the facts with minimum emotional context. Essentially, I aim to provide some insight into what manufacturing in the EU denotes. Naturally, when selecting between various brands, ‘morality’ or ‘the industry’s future’ are probably not even on your priority list. That’s understandable. As potentially the last western producer of desktop 3D printers, we have to resist. Because we firmly believe that eventually, our method will benefit both us and you.”
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But will the customer base understand and accept the explanations?
Via Prusa Research