3D Printer Workshop Critique

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From an interesting FB discussion - https://www.facebook.com/OpenSourceEcology/posts/10153836167851562

Greg Colbourn Regarding 3D printers as a revenue model - as I've said before in a comment on a post on this page, I think that boat has well and truly sailed! This is speaking from experience, having sold RepRap kits for 3 years (Semi-Utilitronic Industries is my business), and now facing a continued (and likely terminal) slump in sales.

In essence the RepRap community is now a victim of it's own success! With Prusa i3s from China on ebay for <$400, and the Tiko on Kickstarter for $179, I think there's no longer much of a market for open-source printers that cost >$1000. I'd advise OSE to stick to projects where it has a comparative advantage (i.e. machines from the GVCS that very few other people are working on).

A more general point is that with this example, I'm reassessing the long-term viability of a business based on Open Source Hardware. It seems that replication is becoming quicker and quicker, resulting in a race to the bottom with prices, and a potential malthusian catastrophe for people trying to make a living from it. Of course this is beneficial for "consumers" (or "prosumers", aka people buying the machines), and for the economy as a whole, but the end game for producers is likely a few big winners, and many losers, as with all technologies. Although if we reach a post-scarcity (or zero-marginal cost) economy as a result, this wouldn't matter as the cost of living would be negligible (dependent on other reforms like LVT, particularly in places where land is expensive, like where I am in the UK).

Still, I'm hoping to further other goals, involving making lots of money to donate to Effective Altruist causes. Remaining competetive is going to be difficult! Like · Reply · April 30 at 11:11am · Edited


Open Source Ecology Greg Colbourn - Thanks for the comment, the Tiko on Kickstarter apears to be quite innovative if it works. Regarding our approach, the physical product is perhaps 1/2 the story. The more interesting part is the social element. So our 3 requirements are: (1) open source; (2) immersion education a la Build Yourself, Build Your World; (3) crowd prototyping ability through the people we train; (4) Social Process. Our package is the Extreme Manufacturing concept - essentially: (1) unparalleled rapid team build effort; (2) socially fun because we work as a team on a build challenge; (3) a test of Useful Documentation - perfecting documentation to a high state to make the build speed achievable; (4) empowerment of people as they do what they have never been done before, shattering their limits. In essence, the combination of excellence on the social front, rapid learning and on the technical front makes our Extreme Manufacturing concept compelling. We ship product, too. But the physical product is not the big part - we're really selling an experience.