As the technology continues its slow but inevitable crawl into the mainstream, 3D printer manufacturers are starting to finally address one of the hard truths about 3D printing. In comparison to other home or office appliances, desktop 3D printers break down. A lot. And while that isn’t totally unexpected for still-evolving emergent technology, the more popular 3D printing becomes, the bigger issue it is going to be.
The learning curve for owning a 3D printer has always been rather steep, especially in the days before plug-and-print models were affordable. 3D printing was a hobby for makers and the tech savvy, so minor breakdowns or broken parts weren’t really an enormous issue when the owner had the know-how to easily swap out the part. But 3D printer manufacturers have long abandoned the idea of selling printers exclusively to makers and have started aggressively courting more mainstream markets full of early adopters who may have no idea how to make repairs to things like broken or jammed extruders.
MakerBot and its parent company Stratasys, for all of the very public controversies and public relations missteps, is still a company that does a pretty good job of getting out in front of most of their competition. They are also the largest manufacturer of 3D printers and have more certified resellers than just about anyone else in the industry. So it isn’t a shock that they are putting those resellers to good use and localizing repairs and maintenance of their printers. At least over in Europe for now, although if successful I expect it to spread to North America at some point.
This week MakerBot Europe has introduced eight authorized ServiceCenters throughout Europe. The official MakerBot ServiceCenters will allow for customers to either bring their printers in for repairs locally, or at least have to deal with a lot less hassle when it comes to shipping defective or replacement parts back and forth. MakerBot will start forwarding all customer service calls using the new 12-month MakerBot Europe Guarantee as well as the new European MakerCare Protection Plan.
The European MakerBot MakerCare Protection Plan is a new 24-month service plan that offers an additional 12 months of free phone support and doubles the existing 12-month European manufacturer guarantee. The first eight MakerBot Authorized ServiceCenters selected to support the new plans are Schimautz Ges.m.b.H. in Austria, KD85 in Belgium, Machines-3D in France, CadXpert in Poland, 3WAY d.o.o. in Slovenia, Ultra-lab S.L. in Spain, Alltron AG in Switzerland, and 3bFab in Turkey.
“It is great to know that we have the MakerBot Authorized ServiceCenters set up now. We believe that the close collaboration between MakerBot Europe and the ServiceCenters will enable our customers to enjoy the best customer experience. I’m happy that we are now starting to set up a system that grants quick and easy support to customers all over Europe,” explained Valentin Storz, Vice President, Operations with MakerBot Europe, of the new program.
The eight resellers chosen to be official ServiceCenters were certified by MakerBot product specialists and needed to have their tech support personnel take a comprehensive certification training program at MakerBot Europe headquarters in Stuttgart. Their facilities also needed to be inspected and approved by MakerBot experts in person. All of the chosen centers have been official resellers for a significant amount of time, and MakerBot Europe says that they have all of the technical know-how, experienced manpower, and logistics to maintain existing servicing standards, even improving on them with faster response times and local support.
If the first eight ServiceCenters are successful, MakerBot says that they will be expanding the program throughout Europe. Are localized service centers a good thing, or will servicing standards go down as a result? Let us know how you feel over on our MakerBot Introduces Certified ServiceCenters in Europe forum at 3DPB.com.