The 3d printing industry has a problem, a really big problem and it's one that almost nobody knows or talks about.
Let’s rant here for just a moment about this situation. Slant 3d operates one of the largest 3d printing farms in the world. We purchase thousands of pounds of filament every month from a number of different suppliers. Over the entire history of the company, there has been one problem that has continuously been an issue with every single supplier that we have worked with, it's color.
this is the exact same product, these are multiple spools of the same product with supposedly the same color but anybody can see this is not the same color. This is a giant problem if we are producing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of products. Our clients expect them to all be the same color and we expect all the spools to be the same color. Filament manufacturers are not generally driven to make the same color.
Here's the reason for this and we kind of half understand it. The vast majority of filament on spools that are purchased in the industry is purchased by individual consumers who have a printer in the garage. Someone in the garage who's making a few items for Etsy or just hobby items for the around the house. They will not notice that one spool of green is slightly different from another spool of green. Since those people do not notice and they are the fundamental industry driver for buying spools of filament, the manufacturers of filament are not incentivized to really create high levels of consistency across their material. Some manufacturers do just implicitly or at least say they do.
For example like Prusa or Color Fab, those kind of guys works very hard to make sure that color is consistent across the process, using lean principles and a colorimeter at the end of the extrusion line. This is to make sure that colors are consistent. Most anybody else is eyeballing it and these are people ranging from somebody who started by making just cord and is now making filament to professional filament makers who are consistently producing colors but know that no one's going to notice that it's a variation. Up into even very large multi-billion dollar companies produce inconsistent colors because it just doesn't matter in general. somebody buying one or two spools will not notice or will not care. We understand at slant 3d that we're in the minority of clients. We buy huge amounts of filament we're not necessarily the highest margin customer or even the highest component of market share for many of these suppliers but here's the thing the industry in order to continue to grow and in order to legitimize itself against other manufacturing processes like injection molding or machining those manufacturing processes have exceptionally tight quality control. They are able to make a thousand or billion legos that are all the same color of yellow very consistently. The 3d printing industry is currently not meeting that standard. This is preventing large-scale production of parts like the slant 3D print farms and other print farms like it from consistently producing reliable results for clients. There are times even when we do an exact Pantone match and order that color specifically that the filament maker will not be able to mix consistently or monitor it consistently. The intensity of color varies up and down.
This is a huge problem because it is preventing 3d printing from being as massive of an option to all other forms of manufacturing as it could be. This is something that Slant 3D does not control exclusively, we are dependent upon suppliers for this. Suppliers are dropping the ball this is why we manufacture a good portion of our material in-house and we'll continue to expand that because this is unacceptable it is not difficult to make sure that color is consistent it simply requires the will to make the color consistent. Yes, the consumers will not notice but it will lead to a much larger market opportunity down the line. As giant printer farms or Slant 3D itself continues to expand and other companies like it, who need to produce millions of parts, at least need the same color. Eliminate this variable, it's very easy. This is just a letter to suppliers to reliably produce your material and do your job. This is a huge problem for the industry that most people don't notice or know about but it is hurting the industry.
Hope everybody has a great day. Let us know what you think down in the comments. Let us know if you've run into this before. If you've noticed it in orders of filament that you've gotten before. What kind of suppliers caused issues. If you know suppliers that are really good and reliable or if you are a supplier, please reach out to us because we're happy to speak to you and buy a couple of pallets of material from you if you're able to make colors consistently. Thank you everybody have a great day.
Happy 3D printing!
It was just announced that MakerBot and Ultimaker are merging, into well it might be Ultrabot, it might be Maker Maker who knows. This merger is actually really weird because we don't really see what the one is getting from the other. MakerBot is actually owned by Stratasys. Stratasys bought MakerBot several years ago and since then has had to take about a one billion dollar haircut and write off from owning MakerBot because it's been a wildly bad decision. MakerBot made machines that nobody really wanted but Stratasys has been pushing to make MakerBot kind of the prosumer type of printer brand, that is very similar to what Ultimaker is. There are synergies there but it's still odd because we don't know how it's helping Ultimaker. It appears that Ultimaker might just be in a bad spot and trying to find more ways to expand its market reach by getting the customer list that MakerBot has and just shoving Ultimate current’s machines into there.
Stratasys is basically selling MakerBot to Ultimaker in exchange for stock and Ultimaker so Stratasys will own a portion of the new “Ultabot” Company. Ultimaker will be able to have access to Stratasys which has a great customer base and a very strong position within the FDM type market, the prosumer, and eventually mass-production relative to the professional market of people who would be utilizing these machines. So it makes sense that Ultimaker would do that in order to get access to more customers but Ultimaker is what would be considered probably a fairly premium brand. They're in the realm of the kind of an Apple-type brand in the context of the 3d printing industry. MakerBot on the other hand is very much not. If Ultimaker is Apple, MakerBot is a bad Microsoft. MakerBot has had a very negative connotation for the last several years around their machines because they are not good machines. They have not been historical good machines that have been favored by the industry or by customers. This is why Stratasys took the haircut but Ultimaker can breathe some fresh RD and some value into the assets of Makerbot. There's value there to Stratasys and Stratasys has a customer base that is fairly locked in that they can then give to Ultimaker so that's how it makes sense but the brand cohesiveness is not there. I would imagine that MakerBot might just disappear completely and Ultimaker just absorbs it completely because MakerBot has no real brand power out there right now.
Let us know what you think about this merger down in the comments. Let us know anything you think about how it's going down, why they did it, and how you think it's going to go because we'd love to hear what you think and see how this all plays out! Have a great day everybody!
A common question in the 3-D printing world is, can 3-D printed parts be waterproof? Let's discuss it.