Riding the cost curve

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Riding the cost curve

Post by William » Mon Nov 22, 2010 7:01 pm

I have had my Up! printer for a couple of months now. In that time, I've taken it apart, put it back together, done some modding, printed tons of stuff, ordered new plastic, and suffered sore throat and headache for days from breathing in toxic fumes because I could not walk away from watching it print (what a noob!).

Now that I've had my rash of fun, and started designing some things, which is why I purchased it in the first place, I've begun to look at the practical costs of my little hobby.

The printer: At $1500, it was in the same price range as high end MakerBot. The accuracy more than made up for any difference, and the absolute reliability is an added bonus. At $2600- $2800, I'm not sure I would have taken the initial leap. Certainly when considering buying my next printer, if it's at that price point, it better have a ton more features (like stability of the cantilever arm, better spread on heat platform), than the current model.

Consumables: I've gone through two reels of ABS in two weeks. That's a $35/week habbit. The ABS is fairly high quality, for this printer. Looking at Stratasys, which seems to be of similar quality, I can't really complain about this cost. Like film camera buffs though, the price does make me think better about my prototyping cycle. Measure twice, or thrice in software, print once.

I wish the Up! people were selling different colors. White is great, but given that many 'prototypes' from these small systems end up as actual finished goods, different colors would be a great bonus. it would also be great if there were more distributors around the world. Shipping from China is about as fast as shipping here in the US, but it's the added $12 shipping, and the extra paypal charges that begin to add up.

Platform: Adhesive tape, conformal coating, spray paint, whatever. This is a fairly negligible cost over time. The spare platform at $34 is way over priced for the piece of metal that it is, particularly since it's not an integrated heated platform, but merely a blank plate that sits atop the actual platform. A quick release on this plate would be a very welcome feature.

Extruder: Well, I purchased a couple of spare nozzles at $18 each. The equivalent at MakerGear would be only $8. I don't think there's anything special about the nozzle, and it's just priced way too high. Now, nozzles don't fail that often, but as my nozzles get clogged, I'd much rather do a rapid replace, and deal with cleanout later, and at $18, it's priced like a very fine drill bit.

Time: The biggest savings I have is in time. I'm not spending a lot of time calibrating, other than when the build platform gets out of whack with the extruder. I'm not spending a lot of time skeinforging, or anything else. I spend most of my time in OpenScad, and with my calipers, which is exactly where I want to be spending my time.

I fully expect that over time these various charges will come down. the nozzle, the platform, shipping, paypal. It all adds up over time to erode the ease of printing and high quality of the output. As the competition heats up in this space, I fully expect to be able to ride down that cost curve, and continue to enjoy this newfound hobby, for less.

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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by -soapy- » Tue Nov 23, 2010 5:04 pm

I disagree with a fair bit of what you have said, so...

The printer - the quality, out the box, is far, far beyond the Makerbot, the BfB or the RepRap. And I've seen very heavily customised and tuned versions of the last 2, including seeing the BfB and it's output at trade shows. The UP! punches far, far beyond it's cost. $3000 is not an issue when comparing like-for-like, as this is far, far better than anything else I've seen for below the "big bucks". You compare the output to the Stratasys, but have you seen their price?

Plus, unless you break it, or get yourself a lot of use out of it making stuff, you are never going to buy a second machine unless the first one is already more than paying for itself, making things for sale.

Consumables: As regards the shipping, $12? That's under £10! I pay that much to get stuff shipped *inside* the UK. If you can't simply buy 3 reels to reduce the cost, or whatever, then you are probably in trouble already. Even at minimum wages, that's what, an hour? And if you aren't working, then you really have no excuse for not looking over your prototypes more carefully. ;-)

Yes, other colours would be great. Someone has figured out that you can simply colour the outside of the reel and it will print colour, though, so printing a rig to hold two Sharpies (or whatever permanent marker you want) against the incoming line might be the easy way to let you try different colours, and for cheap.

Platform: The platform is just a bit of aluminium, yes, but it has been through several machining steps to get to the finished product, then anodised. $34 is very cheap - a machine shop would probably charge you that for the set-up costs alone. Further, almost no-one is ever going to buy a spare one, as given the target market, most people will just make one themselves. And that will take far more than an hour of machine time for the people who do it "properly", and more than an hour messing around to make it "freestyle".

Extruder: Ok, I had no idea that it was a staggering $18 dollars for a nozzle. Sorry, that was sarcasm. But really, $18? As you say, I spend more than that on drill bits and end mills, and not "fancy" ones - you can pay £££ for a high tech drill or milling bit. Also, you might want to try and work out why your nozzle is blocking badly enough that you need to change it. I've had exactly one failure, and that was when the PSU for the feeding unit died, and I restored it by hitting "Extrude" in the Maintain screen, and pushing hard on the feed line until it cleared.

Time: Yes, exactly right. Draw, check, print, evolve. Very, very fast. I did a product from concept to selling it within 3 days, spending perhaps 8 hours total on it, and 3 of those were working out why the cold killed the UP!.

So basically, I'm not having a go, I'm just trying to re-align your expectations a little - for less than the cost of a basic lathe, or a mid-range laptop, you've got a machine that will let you make nearly anything, as long as it is plastic. That others now might have to pay out a little more is what allows the makers to improve the machine. I doubt they sold the first lot as loss-leaders, but I seriously doubt they made much profit. Now they have the name out there, they deserve to recoup the R&D costs and time involved.

You got something amazing at a bargain price, others paying $3k will also get something amazing, also at a bargain price.

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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by josejuako » Wed Nov 24, 2010 1:33 am

!Ho soapy good amigo is real , your thing , I still whit you ¡.


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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by William » Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:03 am

maybe a couple of misunderstandings here. i must be one of the biggest Up! supporters there is. that is exactly why i want to see them succeed.

in comparing to stratasys, i'm paying Up! a huge complement.

as for Makerbot, you can check my posts here. i done all but call my cupcake laughable in the face of Up!

i can afford a Stratasys, but i think the real action is in driving these consumer affordable printers into the market.

i want to help that process. i want to help with second sourcind, variable manufacturing, and all manner of other things.

there are improvements to be made in hardware, software, consumables, promotion, and all the rest.

i sold some of the first apple and hp laser printers. i know how they changed the market. Up! has the potential to do the same, and i look forward to riding the cost curve even as the quality improves.

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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by trebuchet03 » Wed Nov 24, 2010 8:48 am

Shipping from China is about as fast as shipping here in the US, but it's the added $12 shipping, and the extra paypal charges that begin to add up.
When the cost of shipping and other fees are cited as the reason, many companies roll prices into their cost. Currently, the cost is $70 for two rolls, with $12 shipping

How does $90 for two spools (1.4kg total), free shipping and no paypal fee sound?

You're still less than 7 cents per gram which is less than $30/lb ;)

1lb of material from makergear, after shipping is $27.50/lb (ideally, you order more than just one pound to distribute shipping costs). Stratasys material is about $300/lb (or maybe that was kg, I can't recall off hand).
Certainly when considering buying my next printer, if it's at that price point, it better have a ton more features (like stability of the cantilever arm, better spread on heat platform), than the current model.
This is the price of early adoption ;) I bet your feedback is well taken and will be rolled into future models at similar price points :) Anyone in here an early adopter of the iPod? Not this person, but boy was that a shit show (and cost way more than other music players at the time) :p

I still claim abstraction is one of the selling points :) My mom, she can't use a Makerbot or Reprap... But with the abstracted sophistication* in the Up! software, if she has a library of files, she can use the printer :)

With respect to sophistication - while skienforge et. al. are highly tunable, they are not sophisticated. They rely on the sophistication of the user to get quality results. To keep with my above example, I love my mother but she is not: "being expert or having knowledge of some technical subject" in the subject of 3dp (sorry mom) :D
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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by Chris.e » Wed Nov 24, 2010 9:33 am

I think $34 for a platform is ok, and the $18 nozzle as well, it´s not that I have to buy a new every week and the difference between a makerbot/reprap nozzle is that when i put up that extra money for the UP! platform/nozzle i expect it to work or they have to give me a new one, if i buy the makerbot platform it´s more up to me to get it to work.

And of course they want to make money on the consumables and maybe not much on the printer itself, it´s much easier to give away $34 than $1500. If you bought a stratasys you would be stuck with a $600/week habit instead ;)
It´s still far from the big printer companies who sells you a printer worth $100 for $50 and then charges $20 for an ink cartridge worth $2.
And as far as I know this is PP3DP's first machine and I think it´s a great first machine and I believe they learned a lot and the next model will be better with many new features.

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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by Linkreincarnate » Wed Nov 24, 2010 9:57 pm

My only gripe with regards to price is shipping on multiple rolls of abs. I pay 12 dollars on every roll no matter how many I order. The shipping should be calculated per shipment not per item. That said I'm sure that once we get some more plastic distribution centers that will even out a bit. If anyone from the company is reading this I am still interested in becoming a reseller.

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Re: Riding the cost curve

Post by William » Thu Nov 25, 2010 5:54 am

One of the great things I like about manufacturer sponsored online forums is they give the consumer a relatively direct line to the manufacturer, and visa versa.

Many of the topics raised in these forums have been interesting, even when they are not exactly singing the praises of the company.

All things decrease in cost over time, typically, at least in competitive markets. I think the filament pricing will become an issue over time. The plain fact at the moment is that shipping, at $12/2 reels, is about 16% of the overall cost of materials. For someone who might want to make a living out of printing things on an Up! printer, that represents a 16% increase in their fixed costs, which they will not be able to decrease by volume. For this particular situation, I'd want to go with mass orders. I'm about to order 4 more reels of filament. I would gladly place an order for 10 or 20 roles right now. I would do it willingly if two conditions existed. 1) I could get a volume discount. 2) I could get a reduced shipping charge. If I could do this, I could then resale some roles here in the US, possibly for a reduced rate, and possibly for quicker delivery (probably not a big deal). If I could buy 100 rolls, under the same conditions above, primarily for the purposes of resale, I could make it even more interesting for the burgeoning Up! community.

The nozzles are not necessarily a big deal. I do pay $20 for good router and drill bits. There is a discrepancy in the market though. I can get a nozzle from MakerGear for $8.50 I think. I don't know if those nozzles are structurally better, or if the Up! nozzles have a particular machining step that really warrants a difference. If the nozzles can be reproduced, under license, then they can be produced by many vendors, and be provided more widely. I did purchase two additional nozzles, not because I needed them, but because I wanted to support Up! and their early efforts.

I purchased a spare platform as well. Again, not because I really needed it, but because I want to support the company's early efforts. I would love to see a pluggable heated platform that would cost 60 - 80 dollars, and get a nice even spread.

Yes, I think all these sorts of things will be incorporated into future versions of the printer, and that's what riding the cost curve is all about.

I will gladly purchase multiple Up! printers, and I don't have to wait for the one I've got to make any sort of return on investment for me. I would gladly purchase 3 more today, and put them into production producing Huxley parts. With that scale, I could produce a Huxley in 2 hours!

I will gladly wait for the next generation next year, before making this investment, because I'm pretty sure the printer will improve, and I'll get more bang for my buck with the next version. Again, riding the cost curve down.

I fully expect the Up! people will read these forum posts, and if any of the suggestions, or concerns I raise have any impact on their decision making, I'll be a very happy camper.