3D printing hits $500

The Solidoodle is the first fully assembled 3D printer to hit the magic $500 price point.

Nobody has reviewed one yet, and the device makes some significant compromises in order to get to that price point. Given that, I won’t be among the first to buy one. I’ll reserve that decision for a time when we know what it can and can’t do. But if we look at history, that $500 milestone is important.

I bought my first monochrome laser printer for around $500 in 1994. It wasn’t as fast as a $1,000 laser printer, but it gave print speed and quality comparable to an inkjet at a lower cost per page. Today, you can get a better laser printer for less than $75.  But in 1994, the days of laser printers that cost $5,000 and $10,000 wasn’t a distant memory.

Color laser printing followed a similar path. I remember gazing longingly at ads for $10,000 color lasers in 1997. I finally bought one in 2006 or so, and I think I paid around $400 for it. Today something comparable costs $150.

That’s one reason I’m reluctant to buy a 3D printer right now. A comparable device might sell for half as much in a couple of years, and in the meantime I’m not sure I’d get $250 worth of use out of it. I don’t know how much I’d design myself, and there isn’t a lot out there yet for me to download and print on it. I knew when I bought that first monochrome laser printer I’d use it a lot. And I’m on my second imaging unit on the color laser printer, so I’ve run about a case of paper through it.

Then again, I’m a writer, not a machinist. If I were a machinist, or a hobbyist in a field that has an active 3D printing community already, I’d probably have one on order now.

2 thoughts on “3D printing hits $500

  • May 16, 2012 at 8:19 am
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    Dude, with one of these I could finally replace all the missing parts to my favorite old G.I. Joe toys!

    • May 16, 2012 at 9:34 pm
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      Indeed you could. And that kind of specialty use is the appeal for most of the early adopters. And I expect in a few years, pretty much anyone will be able to buy one of these for a couple hundred bucks, and for a small fee, download and print all sorts of stuff like that.

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