Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The "Professional" Price of a Mendel

Likely not many of us make $21 an hour, especially in our spare bedroom, or shop wearing our hack around clothes. But that is around how much you can tell your family you are paying yourself as you spend a week or two printing the Mendel parts.

A company named Protovanage posted an advert on the RepRap forum, offering to print a full Mendel set. They didn't mention a price, but luckily for me they have a WONDERFUL web interface, that makes tracking out the costs of their printed items very easy. After adding up the costs of all the items to build a Mendel using their service (They offered some parts for Mendel that are not listed on the Mendel Assembly Data Sheet, but this might have been my lack of understanding considering I haven't even built my RepStrap Yet.

The Total cost of a Full set of RP parts for Mendel came out to $1,577.33. Or ruffly the equivalent of 2 Makerbots, or 1 Rapman and 8 pounds of ABS. Below is the spreadsheet that I used to come to this total, please tell me if I am wrong here.

The point of this post is not to beat up on Protovantage
, honestly I might use their service at some point if I have a part that must be printed to an extremely tight tolerance, such as extruder. They are the only Rapid Prototyper firm that I have seen that allows 1 off prints of any STL with an instant online price quote (considering all the Mendel parts came out between $5 and $50 a piece it might occasionally be worth using them).

My point is likely some people in the community are actually going to pay the $1,500 to get the pieces from Protovantage. Most will scoff at the price, but in a community where Darwin, and now Mendel parts have always been few and far between, it really raises a question.

If RepRap has put a factory in your shop, are you willing to pay yourself $100 for an afternoon reading a book while your Reprap sings The Gold diggers song to you?


  1. I think a company would pay that price without a problem. For the individual there may be a few.

    For me it's not about just getting Mendel. It's about the journey and the coolness factor of building an awesome machine while being a student of the technology. Also, I want to contribute to the body of knowledge where ever I can. I f I save some $ along the way - yah, that'll be cool.

  2. Thank you for not "beating up" on us.

    As many of you know, commercial quality RP is prohibitively expensive for many individuals, with high minimum fees and rates. We are working hard to change that because we know about this frustration ourselves!

    We thought most people would be interested in our offering for single parts that need high accuracy, strength, or that might otherwise fail often when printed by a RepRap. It seems there is interest for entire kits, so we will investigate ways of lowering the cost even more for a kit.

    Regarding the Mendel parts we list, we used the STL files in subversion from the link located here:
    If that is in error, please let us know.


  3. How many CC in plastics is the entire set of Mendel parts?

    Protovantage is indeed not expensive relative to the others. Shapeways is also one of the cheaper ones (as they target prosumers) but a rough calculation for the set of Darwin parts is about 3200 euro's. That is for about 1000 CC of ABS.

  4. You have ommited the

    bed-height-spacer-31mm_1off from your parts breakdown.

  5. You have ommited the splitter jig parts


    Costing an extra of $40.73

  6. For more info on the belt splitter jig see here:

  7. For more info on the bed height spacer see here:

  8. We calculate about 35.25in^3 (577.68cc) of modeling material used and 4.75in^3 (77.83cc) of support material used to print 1 solid copy of every Mendel part - which is not a complete kit. Raw material costs *us* $4.44/in^3 from Stratasys for a total of $177.60 in materials alone. There is of course, electricity and operator time that all need to be factored in.

    The biggest cost for us is machine time and that is our (and the industries') measure for pricing. To print 1 solid copy of all the Medel parts takes about 43hrs. Corporate customers are willing to pay more and when the machines are busy printing parts with narrow margins (such as when trying to make reprap kits cheaply), we would likely lose money.

    So this is why you don't see others in the commercial RP industry attempting to do what we are. But we strive to succeed where others have not even tried.


  9. @Protovantage you mentioned lowering the cost, can cheaper parts be produced with your FDM machine at lower resolution?

    Or another (probably daft) idea, how about creating your own Mendel and being the first commercial supplier of repraped parts?

    Either option you will be producing parts that are less refined than what you usually offer, but more than adequate for the needs of the reprap community.

  10. I spoke with a RP professional: he agrees on the catch22 of RepRap: Nobody invests in tools to fabricate cheap Mendel parts as there are already many RP machines who will undercut the price whatever it is when going to market.
    Solution 1: build a cheap tool for some parts.
    Solution 2: use a Buddah license: everybody receiving parts to build his ownh Mendel need to give 2 or 3 sets of Mendel parts for free but with the condition to give also to 2 or 3 Mendel builders the parts. If they fail to build theior Mendel they need to return the parts.
    kubitus @

  11. If I were to make my own mendel and then use that mendel to make more parts for mendels would the parts I make be accurae enough to be sold comercially?

  12. Yes, but the quality depends greatly on the calibration of the printer. See Nopheads's blog for an example of how good it an get, and look at my stuff for how bad it can be :)