The Bubble Bursts—3D Systems to Stop Selling 3D Printers for Consumers
Kyle Maxey posted on January 08, 2016 |
3D Systems will discontinue production of Cube 3D printers and shut down the 3D print portal.
3D Systems has announced that it will no longer produce its $999 consumer-grade printer named Cube. In addition to the shutdown of its Cube system, 3D Systems will also shutter its online 3D printing portal Cubify and stop selling all of the cellphone cases and various other trinkets available on the site.

Although the 3D printing giant has declared that it will continue to develop and support its other Cube system, the CubePro, this new move is a clear signal that 3D Systems sees little potential in an additive manufacturing (AM) consumer market that was exploding just a few years ago. In fact, 3D Systems has said that in the future it will turn its focus squarely on manufacturing applications and delivering new and enhanced manufacturing systems that can drive adoption.

Though many believe this move comes as a surprise, the more skeptical among us saw it coming. 3D Systems may be losing between $19M and $25M in the fourth quarter of the year, and I can’t imagine that the company truly saw the Cube or, for that matter, the consumer AM market as a big winner for years and years to come.

This latest news simply represents the end of a quick, profit-driven play that was fueled by market hype. And who can blame 3D Systems? From the height of the 3D printing boom in 2014, we saw 3D Systems stock selling for as much as $96.42. Today, it hovers just under $10. Was it a move that actually undercut the value of 3D printing? You decide.

But, back to the story at hand.

3D Systems’ brain trust had to have known how shoddy the Cube was compared to other printers in the same category. Add to its faulty build a set of proprietary materials, and you’ve got yourself a born loser. Those facts couldn’t have come as a surprise to 3D Systems’ higher-ups. And if there were millions made on the company’s stock during the “hype days” of the 3D printing revolution, how does it compare to the loss during the market’s quick freeze?

All in all, I’m sure that 3D Systems has just decided to pull up stakes in a market that’s, frankly, overserved by the Makerbots (which are superior to the Cube) and the myriad other homemade 3D printing players offering AM kits for a few hundred dollars. Sure, 3D Systems is going to cede some of the market to Stratasys, owners of the Makerbot, but focusing on manufacturing-grade 3D printing that can work rapidly is what is really critical to the overall success of the AM industry.

Just thinking about breaking into that kind of market in a big way must make 3D Systems’ C-suite team salivate. Think of the billions that could be made on material and maintenance in the plastics market alone. Add to that a growing market for metal AM, and anyone leading the 3D printing space has to be pushing every asset they have in the development of higher resolution machines that can produce parts that can compete with other mass-manufacturing technologies when producing products at scale. 

For now, 3D Systems and its technology will continue to own the short run in terms of prototyping and exceedingly complex geometric manufacturing markets. If the company can ever develop an AM system that can compete with injection molding or casting, then the real revolution in manufacturing might finally be upon us. 

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