Thought experiment - or maybe opinion I guess

If you could choose where the future of 3d printing moves in the immediate future which way would you prefer it to move?

  1. Making current technology more reliable? think out of the box toaster, Plug it in and it works. No tweaking no messing around just throw an STL file at it and it prints flawlessly. (like toast)

  2. Print with more exotic filaments, Technologies, ways or processes. You still get failures but you may be able to print a material that you can give to your dog as a chew toy as well as print a replacement tire for your car. But it will fail 25% of the time.

3, Keep current tech as it is and just make it faster, No major improvements or leaps in tech for say 5 years until everything can print at 200mm / sec

I know that my preference is just to make what we have now work. Figure out all the settings and speeds, filament is produced to a universal standard instead of everyone making their own vanilla cake. Make printers have certain standards of quality for cartesian or CoreXY, Home or office, however you split it. It’s frustrating from my perspective wanting to help people print but according to the videos they have seen 3D printing is so easy, and I have to be the A**Hole to tell them as they are about to buy one that sometimes you have to do maintenance on it. You may have to learn how to take apart your hot end and clean it, and sometimes a BLtouch is a good idea. Personally, I hold no punches when I sell anything, I tell customers the reality of 3D printing so at least they are making an educated purchase and they know what they are getting into. I just wish for me personally that what is perceived from watching youtube was closer to reality when you buy your first one.

Where would you all like to see the industry move if you could only choose one of the above for the next 5 years?

I think that for the industry reliable printers that just work with little fuss would be the biggest help. 3d printing has a reputation (deserved in many cases) for being unreliable and very tinkery. It is holding back uptake, which is limiting everything else. I hope the new Prusa XL is a move down that line. Perfect first layers every time would help a lot for first time users. If more people owned working 3D printers the rest would come on its own. It just isn’t there, it would be great if more companies embraced it.

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I think if the goal is to grow adoption of 3D Printing as a consumer-level tool then it absolutely needs to be as close to plug and play as possible. You see things slowly starting to head in that direction - for example the E3D Revo hotend with quick-change nozzles. A small change that makes things way more convenient. A little more engineering would need to go into making things more reliable by default, which could increase the price of components in the short term, but then economies of scale would kick in as more people jump in and buy machines that they are more confident they can use as tools rather than projects in and of themselves.


A combination of all three of the options you selected along with getting rid of the idea that it is a “hobby”. 3D printers will never become reliable/easy to use if it’s still seen as a hobby and not a commercial business.

The ultimate future (10 years) is that 3D printed parts are used for production instead of mouldings and castings. From what I’m seeing in aerospace, it’s starting to get there (3D printed rocket engines are becoming very common) but I would like to see it going into other markets in the same way.

I think it’s going to go the way of no longer having appliance parts place, They will sell you STL files online and you can print them yourself. Eventually, I think car manufacturers will start leaning that way as well. Design it once, Never spend money to produce it but sell it 1000s of times. It’s really a great business model.

  1. And most people won’t be able to afford them and buy the Creality or equivalent instead. Having only expensive “works out of the box” machines will keep many of the people that want to print away from it. Some people have to go cheap and deal with it. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a very good printer in the end.

There will always be some level of complexity that will need to be mastered, if not in setting up then in the learning curve to use it.

  1. Exotic filaments would be nice and will appeal to those that really need them but unless costs drop significantly most of us can’t use them much.

  2. Faster machines would be great but we still come back to what people can afford. I would love to drive a better more exotic car but I have a 10 year old ford instead. Same reasoning with printers. Cost matters.

Maintenance will always be a necessary evil as are other factors. That’s life.

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I’d disagree. I don’t think it would cost Creality or 3D technology co ltd that much to solve the woeful glitches they plague the market with.

Printers released with out thermal run away enabled. It isn’t that big a job to modify firmware. poor cable management isn’t a hard fix. modern glass is generally flat, the beds being shipped warped is likely calibration that is causing the warp not the glass before it is altered. Poor board assembly, electrical connections, bogus electrical certificates. It isn’t that hard to bring products to a reasonable standard that doesn’t require the consumer to reconstruct the printer after purchase.

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This might sound cynical, but I think part of most “name” 3D printer companies revenue plan is to sell replacement parts for their printers.

“Remember, when you have a problem, fix it with the parts that are designed for your printer!”

I agree that many companies can do a lot better to design and equip their printers right from the start without incurring a cost penalty."

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I have four printers two are stock and aside from nozzles, a heat break, and one different bed they have been trouble free. (monoprice and Prusa) The other two have been massively altered the Tiko had just poor design choices, the sidewider looking at it I would agree it was designed to fail. There is now nothing that has not been changed. Software to every part has been replaced fixed or straightened. The replacement USB slot didn’t fit the old skirt so I needed to mess with it to fit them. The skirt was the last unmodified part. It is 100% changed now, nothing is as it left the factory in less than 18 months. The monoprice is 4 years old I think. Nozzles and a glass bed when I gave up on the odd vinyl stuff. The Prusa is a beast It prints most days and almost never needs anything. The sidewider is not over the price in parts and shipping than the Prusa XL and is by far the poorest quality printer I own, hmmm use, the Tiko might be slightly worse I almost never use it anymore.

Kite, the low end of the market printers are built down to a price, fixing everything that you mentioned would raise the price up to a point that they wouldn’t be available to many. So we fix them. As far as thermal runaway goes most printers in the early days didn’t have that, it wasn’t a “thing” then but as far as I know all newer Creality printers come equipped. I don’t see the so called problem with cable management and the cable assembly was easy on my E3V2. My MB & PW work fine.

Beds tend to be warped because they are sheared plate which tends to bend some and unless the manufacturer is going to have them milled and ground (they can still warp again after the fact, metal is a heartless bitch) which would drive the cost way up that won’t change. I agree that glass is usually good and that is my bed of choice.

You make it sound as if every cheap printer is waiting to fall apart as soon as you turn it on. I have had no trouble with mine. Yes I have modded it with an ABL, fans and dual z axis (not really necessary but it does make printing easier) but it assemble quit easily and ran right the first time. I have never had any of the problems you mentioned. For the price it works great and I get very good prints. Even with the additional costs of the mods the cost of my printer is still far below that of a Prusa or other “better” printer. Most of us would love to have an expensive high end printer but the price is out of the question so we use what we have. That doesn’t men we don’t drool over a better printer.

In the future cost will always be a driving factor with 3D printers as it is with everything else. If the low end printers fixed all the woes you mentioned, driving the price up, then many of us would be out of 3D printing. If the price of filament was to skyrocket for some reason, as an example, then many of us would be out of 3D printing. What we want and what we can get will always be a problem.

Tronxy 3d technology co ltd in 2019 caused a fatal fire from thermal runaway not enabled. Even thought it was pointed out months before it was sold. My heat bed came warped, 2 replacements as well, one was so bad I could tell by looking at it. 4 mm lower in the center than the edges, two quarters stacked slid through. It is a QC issue. I am saying a very small outlay would massively increase reliability. The connections were ridiculous, dangerous really, a JST and Dupont connector jammed together with glue to hold it together? No company should ship garbage like that.

My monoprice is one of the lower cost printers around and It is aside from the glass bed stock. If monoprice can do it surely 3d technology can. It would increase reliability and up take and the industry IMO would grow faster.

There are 3 basic industries. Education, Home and Industrial. I think in the Industrial field they are already improving and getting into the exotic materials. Leave them be. The educational side is a good introduction to the field it would help the educators if process was more streamlined. But the educators should know how to clean repair and adjust their machines. For the home the buyer should commit the the idea the printers are not toasters and they have to commit to the tweeks maintenance etc on their machines. But I do agree there should be a standard set of parameters the manufacturers should adhere to. But it is all about the cost. If you want to buy a machine that works like a toaster be willing to pay for it but toasters brake down eventually. You don’t buy a car and just drive it do you.
My opinion only.


Not arguing that BUT the margins on the low end printers has to be somewhere between gasp and eeeekkkk so a couple of bucks to fix things probably won’t get spent. Ford Pintos used to blow up and burn people to death because the company didn’t/wouldn’t put a $10 shield to protect the gas tank on the car. Why MONEY. That’s what it comes down to every time. Those of us that can’t afford Prusa’s or other “better” machines have to fix things and live with it. Can’t say that it will change in the future, it would be nice but don’t bet on it. If the Tronxy is so bad then maybe it will get really bad reviews and disappear.

P.S. considering the number of low end printers out there now the number of fires that we here about is very very small.

All excellent valid points, My personal pref is speed, I have in my production farm 100% creality printers.

I know them well, I Can fix them quickly, and parts are cheap. However, I’m a nerd, and a bigger tinkerer than my wife would like me to be.

I knew out of the gate that these printers would need maintenance, in my environment I check the thermistors before I assemble them and if it’s +/- 1% I yank it and replace it with one closer to spec, I know not everyone will do this but I expect it.

I agree with all of you though that it’s all about price, If I had the Ender 3 V2 here and could sell it for $400, informing the customer its a tinkerer machine I am ok with it, however, if we could ever get to the $500 little to no maintenance printer I know which one people would buy. Only a very specific customer will buy the $1000 little maintenance printer when you see next to it a $400 entry level.

I would 100% hands down take speed over maintenance, I want my parts fast as I can :slight_smile:

A big improvement for the future would be better organized instruction of some kind so buyers can learn how to use and maintain their printers. Another area of instruction would be on how to upgrade and make the low end printers better. There is some on the web but it is scattered all about and can be hard to find. That is sorely lacking right now.

That is a more clear description on what I meant by standardization.

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My $0.02 on where the conversation is going.

If I were to rank what I’m looking for in a 3D printer, it would be:

  1. Reliability. There’s nothing I can’t stand more than a 12+ hour print failing after 8+ hours, which is usually at night so a whole day is lost.
  2. Workflow. Before I made my spare parts printer, my workflow was design on my Linux system, slice on a PC and copy onto an SD Card/USB Thumb Drive and then on to the printer. I’ve been playing around with Mainsail and Octoprint and I think I’m getting to the point where it’s a lot simpler.
  3. Accuracy. I mainly do structural parts so having something accurate without supports that require sanding/grinding to remove is important to me.
  4. Flexibility. I would like A printer that can do PLA, ABS, TPU and I’d love to be able to experiment with nylon and other materials. This is why I’m building the Voron 2.4.
  5. Speed. It’s a nice to have, but I’m not making money from my printer (and I don’t have a bunch of them) so if I have a failed print or if the print doesn’t meet my requirements then it’s wasted time and money. I’d rather sacrifice speed for reliability and accuracy.

Right now I have two printers running; one for PLA (the one I built) and one for ABS (my Zortrax M200). If I could reduce that to one, everybody would be happy (me probably the most). I’d also like to reduce the number of spare parts on hand, which reached the point where I could build my own printer out of them.

I hate when people bring up the Pinto example because it’s really an overall cost optimization issue, not the individual part cost reduction issue which we see in cheap 3D printers. The Pinto performed to specification (with the specification noting that the settlement cost for dealing with an expected number of people burning to death was less than the cost of adding the gas tank shield) - and the number of people who died was actually less than predicted and the overall monetary cost of the product/program was less than had been expected. It only became an issue when a whistleblower made the analysis public and Ford had to defend why it placed a dollar value on people’s lives and misery.

The 3D printer issue is somebody being offered low cost components without any kind of analysis done to see if the product performance will be affected. Chances are, if an analysis was done, then the manufacturers could use the lower cost parts and, in many cases, the performance and perceived quality wouldn’t suffer.

well said Myke, and I do agree with you.
(sadly I also had a pinto… No shield was installed, but I was very careful not to get rear-ended:))

I think as time goes on as with any technology it will get better with time, and cheaper as well. Who here paid over $500 for their first DVD player, I did. Last I saw them at wall-mart they were $29.99 including a remote. Let’s be honest, it’s about the same quality as the original ones.

I think eventually 3D printers will get to the point where Computers are now, You can get a google Chromebook for under $300 and it will get you on the web, but if you want windows processing power you gonna get the real deal, starting at sub $1000. If you want graphics power you are going to an iMac, 2K plus.

Different products for different consumers. I see so many customers come in that want to buy a sub $500 3D printer for their son or daughter and they look at me quite shocked when I tell them that they will require maintenance on a regular basis. For my personal usage 100% speed, For the general public, I would vote ease of use. I think the material can wait or at least slow down until the printers become even more mainstream.

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I pre-ordered a PRusa XL and then backed the Bambu X1 because I am so. freaking. tired. of having to screw around with my Ender-5 just to get it to work. Having to faff about with the bed going out of level or the thermistor breaking or the nozzle not being seated properly is exhausting. I haven’t kept records but I’m pretty sure I’ve spent as much on upgrades and repairs as I did to buy the thing in the first place. The nozzle situation is the worst, which is why I think all these new nozzle-and-throat-are-one-piece designs are the bee’s knees.

I’ve had my X1C in-hand for five days. Thus far, I’ve had exactly two problems.

I had a failure to load filament that turned out to be needing a touch more slack on where the filament came out of my dry box plus me misunderstanding which button to push to manually extrude - I was backing the filament out rather than pushing it in.

I also had a long skinny print fall over, which is not the printer’s fault, my ender-5 had the same problem with that model, and then the spaghetti detection didn’t work. But I’d also turned off the internal light and was using filament that is almost exactly the same colour as the print bed. So I’m 90% certain the printer just couldn’t see the spaghetti!

Beyond that, thus far the printer just works and I’m so incredibly happy with it.

So, that’s my answer to the original question. I’m not interested in building a printer and I hate the way needing to constantly fiddle and maintain the Ender sucks all the fun out of my hobbies, because instead of producing parts I’m once again diverting time and money into trying to make the parts. For me, a super reliable it-just-works printer is the future.

And yes, there will be some need for maintenance down the line. I used to fix HPs and Lexmarks, anything with moving parts needs maintenance. But there isn’t a constant need to screw around with this machine, and even fresh out of the box the Ender-5 was not all that reliable.

I think the X1 is a great first-timer printer because the number of things you have to learn about are so much fewer. I think that’s where 3d printers need to go if we want to see widespread adoption.

I do think that grumbling about “this isn’t a hobby there are industrial machines” is missing the point, because what we’re talking about here aren’t industrial level machines. That’s a whole different beast.

As for cost - yeah, okay, the X1 is about a grand. (Shipped, my X1C cost me 1,600$ CAD, but I wanted the high-temp options. If all a person wanted was a PLA/PETG machine, the regualr X1 could be in hand in Canada for about a grand, CAD.) Prusa’s are even more expensive. But consider this: in 1974 my parents’ house cost 30,000$ and in 1981 our first VCR cost about 300$, or about 1% of a house. Today, in YEG, a house costs around 500,000$. That 1,000$ X1 is only 0.2% of a house.

Reliable, easy-to-use printers will come down in relative price. I suspect that wages will go up faster than princes come down at this point, but still. In a couple years, a theoretical 150x150mm X1-mini might only cost a week’s ages instead of two weeks.

Yes, there will always be the super cheap, super unreliable crap; and yes, there will be the occasional cheap-but-reliable gem. But it’s my guess that “fire and forget” is the direction hobby/personal use printers are going, and I think that’s a good thing.


Looking over my previous post, I realize that I didn’t put “cost” as a criteria and it’s very important to me but I’m not sure how to best articulate it and how I think the industry should adapt to providing high quality, low cost 3D printers.

Cost to me is a combination of

  1. Initial cost of the 3D printer
  2. Lost prints (time and money)
  3. Filament/Nozzle/Build Surface (consumables cost)
  4. Maintenance (time as well as parts)
  5. Infrastructure

Over the years, I’ve had three printers that cost over $2,000 CAD (Cubify, Zortrax M200 & Zortrax Inventure) and with the exception of the M200, none of them have been worth the money. Actually in the case of the Cubify and the Inventure, they’re basically tied for being the worst printers that I’ve ever owned as well as being the most costly to operate and the most difficult to work on with what I would consider exceptionally poor support. I really can’t say enough bad things about these two companies.

However, the M200 is completely different; it’s like a Mack truck - it just soldiers on despite having a fair slicer and terrible workflow. It is miserable to work on, but over the years I’ve owned it I’ve only had to replace the heated bed cable (which turned into a 12 hour job) but I can see if anything else goes, I’ll probably put it out to pasture because it really doesn’t owe me anything at this point and I can see that any kind of mechanical repairs will take days. It’s interesting to me to see how many people online have original M200s like I do and say exactly the same things about them.

I’ve had two sub $500 printers, a (genuine) Prusa i3 from about ten years ago and a Two Trees Sapphire Pro. Both ran well for about a year and then wore out because of poor quality parts and terrible cable management.

You mentioned Chromebooks - I’ve had quite a few (for my business) and, despite their low cost, they are truly excellent and great values for the money. One of the the things that people don’t realize is that they can perform basically all the same tasks on a Chromebook as they would on a much more expensive system but the applications are web based rather than installed which is a hard paradigm for most people to move to/accept. I’ve moved my (86 year old) father and wife to Chromebooks from Windows PCs and they couldn’t be happier.

A Chromebook like 3D printer is really a model that should be adopted by 3D printer companies. They are low cost but use common parts, have an excellent (common) user experience and really maximize the capabilities of their hardware.

The primary problem with bringing the model to 3D printers is that there really isn’t a guiding company providing standard software with user interface and a hardware reference (like Google does with ChromeOS). A secondary problem is that 3D printing is something that people interact with virtually and not in person and not in real time.

Regardless, if there was something like a Chromebook model for 3D printers, I think that we would see real improvements in reliability and workflow as well as very low costs, but I don’t think existing 3D printer companies have the infrastructure and technical capabilities that could take advantage of it (maybe Makerbot could).