Friday, January 21, 2011

Death of the "sub $1000 Desktop Factory"

Bre Petis just announced today over at the Makerbot blog that after a small hiatus the Cupcake will be brought back for a 250 set run, and then the Cupcake is over.  It's a pretty good assumption that the death of the Cupcake also comes the death of the Gen3 Electronics, but I might be wrong.


Around 18 months ago I had to make a decision, I had just finished watching Adrian Bowyer's Poptech speech.

I wanted a Darwin, and I wanted it BAD.  Looked into getting the RP parts, no luck, professional printed was going to be $1700 plus just for the plastic, and I could tell a repstrap was going to be outside my technical ability.  So it was a kit for me.  At the time there where two choices, Rapman by Bits From Bytes and Makerbot Cupcake.  To me at the time the Math was obvious:

-$1250 for the kit
-200x200mm build area
-single source nozzle
-Expensive electronics (what happens when you loose a board?  Which I read happens a lot)
 -Superior Build Quality


Makerbot Cupcake
-$750 for the kit
-100x100 build area
-All the parts where source able from different venders
-RepRap based hot end
-Cheap Electronics ($175 for complete kit or $150 for DIY at the time)
-It used the official RepRap electronics
-Loudest printer on the market

Well if you’re reading this blog, I went with the cheaper, more open design.


Up! by pp3d
-$2700 for a pre assembled printer
-140x140 build area
-1.75 filament stepper extruder
-Single source everything

Rapman: (some things don't change)
-$1275 for the kit
-200x200mm build area
-single source nozzle
-they don't even sell their electronics any more
-3mm stepper extruder nozzle
-No heated build platform
-Multiple print heads available

Makerbot Thing-o-matic
-$1225 for kit
-96x108 build area
-3mm DC gearmotor extruder
-Single source nozzle
-Expensive electronics ($100 dollars more than Rapman's electronics’ where)
-still the loudest printer on the market

Botmill Axis 2.1
-$1025 for kit
-200x200 build area
-RepRap nozzle, stepper extruder-3mm stepper extruder
-Single board electronics (1 thing fails, the whole electronics fail)

Mendel Parts Mendel
-$950 for kit
-200x200 build area
-RepRap nozzle, stepper extruder
-Single board electronics (1 thing fails, the whole electronics fail)

Makergear Prusa Mendel
-$825 for kit
-200x200 build area
-only kit printer to offer 1.75 filament option
-Only kit printer to use RAMPS electornics based off the "offiical" reprap printed electornics

Self Source Prusa Mendel
-Find Prusa Mendel parts on Ebay,, RepRap IRC, or in the RepRap forums
-Get your electronics form Ultimachine.
-Get your Extruder from Makergear
-Get your hardware at the local fastener supply (type in your zip code and fastener supply in Google Maps)

I love Makerbot, and I love my Cupcake.  But the reason I bought my Cupcake was it was solidly the best deal PERIOD in RepRap at the time, and it had a great brand image.

But that was last year, now the Thing-o-Matic has the smallest build plate, with the least reliable extruder, the most expensive electronics, and the most complicated printer to put together.  I have been suggesting the Cupcake as a great alternative to the Mendel kits, but now MB has not a single product I could recommend.   It's a shame really.


  1. It is a shame. The Thing-o-Matic would be a lot better even if it was just $200 cheaper, but when is THAT ever going to happen?


    So far, I've made half a regular Mendel set, half a Mini Mendel set, half an SAE Prusa set, and a few parts from a Metric Prusa set and it's bumming me out that I can never complete a set. I'd love to have an SAE Prusa, but I don't want to buy the printed parts (I have a functioning machine) but I can't make them, either (it still fails half the time and can't handle large build plates). I just feel like my Cupcake is useless except for making trinkets and pointless stuff. Sorry for dumping this all in a comment (I probably should have just posted this on my blog).

    What I need is to get a few MakerBot operators together for a big Cupcake tuning session, but no one lives near me that I know who has a MakerBot... :(

    I kinda feel like this whole 3D-printing movement is just winding down because it just eats so much time for so little results.

  2. Where you live Cryozap?

  3. Don't forget to put the Ultimaker in the list; 200x200 build area; likely to be the fastest in the pack. Not yet released, though, and I suspect it won't come cheap either.


  4. I have always tried not to mention products that I either don't know enough about to sugjest, or know enough about that I can't sugjest them. That's why you never see Techzone products (because of their electronics), Profound Devices, Shapercube, etc etc.

    All the machines I listed, I have seen VERY happey people runnning them. Ultimachine looks like it's going to be 1200 euro or $1600. At $1600 it makes the Thingomatic look like a GREAT deal.

  5. The "best deal" in any area is a pretty subjective decision. For example, the TOM is nice and expensive (not as expensive as others) but it also comes with great customer service (expensive electronics buys you RMAs). Sure, Makegear has good customer service too, but it's a one-man shop. Additionally, MakerBot is doing the most (short of Dr. Bowyer) towards educating the public on the potential for 3d printing.

    If you want prices to come down, the market needs to get bigger.

  6. Wait, Makerbot great customer service?

    They leave their customer service to the community; the people who draw a check from MB don't help people get their printers running. We do.

    ToM has the smallest build area of any printer in our community, it has the most expensive electronics in the community, and they give the least direct customer service of anyone in the community.

    Makergear isn’t a one guy shop, no more than Makerbot is a 3 guy shop

    BTW, seriously if ANY of the companies I list send you a dud, they are going to let you return and replace the dud. RMA is assumed.

    Nice blog by the way, but the most interesting stuff is on the RepRap side, MB is quickly becoming not much more than a Marketing firm who continually recycles their own ideas.

    Cupcake and Rapman came out about the same time. In this year Bits From Bytes managed to add a upper end machine that has 3 heads, made their base machine 2 head, offer a solderless kit, and they now offer 6 different plastics.

    MakerBot has just managed to kill their entry level machine, and released a new machine that costs TWICE as much as a cupcake, but get’s marginally better build quality, the same tiny build plate, and electronics and hot end that the RepRap community has Zero interest in.

    God I want to love MB, but they are making it so hard to take them seriously.

  7. I think the trend amongst the original corporate entrants to the market, BfB and MB, has been to concentrate on a smaller market share willing to purchase a more expensive machine. BfB is asking about $3-4K for their lead machine, the 3000, and MB has jacked their machine up to the price {~$1,200} of BfB's entry level Rapman. The new companies like MakerGear and colleagues are where you are going to see price competition, not the established guys.

    Fortunately, the Reprap community is ironing the bugs out of the Mendel design, which is an intrinsically cheaper machine to print and build so the price of that one is slowly dropping towards the long term Reprap goal of about $500. :-)

  8. parts printed by the reprap community can also be sourced on, and there are some good deals to be had there at the moment.

  9. Because every other comment I have ever seen from a person who has bought it talks about burnt out boards, replacing broken wood, and 100 other nightmares.

    I was the 1st blog to post about that kit, and GOD do I wish I could sugjest it, but I can't. They sell a Huxley kit also, with their new electronics (which are cheaper even than Ramps), but given their track record I wouldn't sugjest their kits any further than I could throw them.

    Now if they offered you a choice of Ramps/Gen6 or their elecronics in their kit, I would be the 1st to sugjest their Huxley. Of course I would also sugjest you as quickly as possible print a direct extruder and up size it like Azze did his.

  10. I am sorry, I always forget Emaker shop. I Shouldn't because you don't charge commison, which makes you cheaper than Ebay!

  11. No problem. It's tough trying to establish a significant presence on the web. I do think your price comparisons are a very valuable tool for people wanting to get into 3D printing. Keep up the good work!

  12. None personally. I know of 6 people that have them, 3 people where tickled. And the other 3 saw room for improvement. But considering most of us folk are a little obsessive that's about as glowing of recommendation as you can get around here.

    I PERSONALLY think you would do better to self Source 6 Mendels, or get 3 Prusa Mendel kits from Makergear, but hey I am just strange like that.

  13. self source 6 mendels? I'm sorry but the Mendel doesn't even come close to the resolution of the Up.

  14. Zuma:
    a: Some mendels do, most don't. 1.75mm filiment & stepper extruder are what gives Up! it's resolution. Mendel is quickly getting.

    Well I have got 90% of the parts for the 1st 3 and I am 2 days in, we shale see.

  15. That's very interesting. I can't wait to see if it can match the 0.2mm resolution.

  16. Hello everyone!

    It is really incredible machine!

    But, there is one small question:
    How can it be possible that this printer cost 1000$ or even more? :( As far as i can see - all needed materials (metal rods, plastic set, small dc motors, electronics etc.) in point of fact can not cost even close to 1000$! Price for parts must be from 25$ to 100$ (except electronics which are bit more expensive ~+30-40$). So, normally it should be sold for 200$ - 500$(max).

    Please tell me someone, am i wrong?!

    ...why dont you give this incredible technology to everyone, not just for people who can afford 1000+$ for things like this.. As show statistics, people who can spend 1000+$ on "gadgets" and things like this dont even need this technology (if only just for scientific needs). is really sad when commerce kills human inteligence... and we all are in same trap again and again..

    Dont make this technology expensive! It will die! :(

    Sorry for grammar mistakes, i'm in process of studying this language.

    Thank you all!

  17. Same as above, why are they so expansive?

  18. Because 3d Printers are like cake. The Components of a cake costs no more than $3-4 but it's the time, taxes, insurance, electricity, marketing, etc etc that drives the cost of cake up.

    Same is true with 3d Printers. Makerbot is not beign evil, they are spending a lot of money marketing their product, paying wages, trying to make a profit.