While it is certainly true that 3D printing has brought a high level of making capability into a lower price range than ever before, it is still not a ‘cheap’ way to create. As the technology is hailed as a method for democratizing making, it is important that it not simply make it easier for those with money while continuing to forget about the vast number of us who have, shall we say, less than elastic budgets.

DSC_0274If we are truly interested in expanding access to the ability to 3D print things that are more than just cool pieces of plastic junk, the amount of funds required to invest in the machines that will do this either have to drop or public access to machines has to be greatly expanded. In some places in the world, one could expect a massive government investment in 3D printing machines to be integrated as simply another investment in public services. However, in the United States, investment in public services just isn’t a predominant trait of the ruling culture.

So, without something like a 3D printing public library, what hope is there for those looking at least for an inexpensive way to get their foot into 3D space? Some places are lucky enough to have maker spaces and 3D printing hubs. There are also a number of you design/we print services available on the web. And now, Monoprice is announcing a pair of very low priced 3D printers to be available to the public. A spokesperson for the company explained their new offerings, as noted at PC Perspective:

“Monoprice continues its crusade to bring the maker movement to the masses with the debut of three 3D printers boasting solid constructions, exceptional print quality, and easy assembly at prices far below the industry standard. New products include a $199.99 ready-to-print Maker Spark 3D Printer featuring preloaded designs, a $299.99 Maker DLP 3D Printer offering laser printing precision, and a $999.99 Maker CNC Mill for printing hard materials like wood and metal.”

DSC_0281How do they do it?

Well, actually, that’s not quite clear yet. Their press thus far is, to be generous, light on details and the announcement is drawing some responses that seem less than buoyantly hopeful about the product.

One way that companies are able to offer less expensively priced items is by relying on volume to compensate (the Wal-Mart business philosophy), another way is to reduce their expenses when creating (this is a mixed bag in terms of the ability to create a quality product). Sometimes the reduction in their costs comes as a result of innovative new processes or shifts in materials (i.e., hey, maybe we don’t need to use rubies when we could use plastic!), sometimes it comes from outsourcing labor to places that aren’t so stringent about things like minimum wage, health and safety regulations, and child labor, and sometimes it’s just a result of plain stinginess.DSC_0278

Unfortunately, Monoprice hasn’t revealed anything about how they have approached creating such an inexpensive piece of machinery and while on one hand I’m always on the lookout for ways to save money, I’m inherently suspicious of anything ‘magically’ less expensive than the norm. It will be up to Monoprice to explain themselves to visitors to CES 2016 in Las Vegas where they are displaying their new offerings at their booth…and then up to users to report their experiences once they have the machines before a decision can be made as to whether these new printers are low price or, more simply, just cheap.  Discuss these deals in the Monoprice 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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