If you’ve bought or built a desktop 3D printer, the chances are that you’re probably quite knowledgeable around some basic engineering and programming principles and understand at the least the basics of how 3D modelling works. And if you aren’t, you at least possess a mindset that means you’re willing to learn these things as you go along.
That’s because 3D printers can be finicky beasts. There’s a definite art to removing a filament jam at 200 degrees Celsius, and a knack to making sure print beds are level. When prints don’t turn our quite the way you want, there’s rarely a plain text troubleshooting manual to explain why.
If the first paragraph describes you, that may not be a problem. But with high street stores now selling affordable printers and a lot of hype, it’s something the industry has to sort out before it can go mainstream.
According to the managing director at new 3D printing startup, 3D Unique, it’s the single biggest problem facing South African retailers – and a bad experience will put consumers off of the technology for life.
Prior to working at 3D Unique, Laurie de Beer worked for another leading retailer of imported 3D printers, so he has some knowledge of where the market’s weaknesses are.
“It became evident that there is a huge lack in real customer service and care. Which is actually very sad for the 3D printing community and clients,” de Beer says, “It may be understandable as 3D printing is still a fairly new technology in SA, but there are no excuses for poor service in any sales environment.”
de Beer says that when he opens up shop – his first shipment of printers from Witbox is on its way here now – after sales service will be the single most important thing to his business. He believes that he can do this by helping customers do more than just make prints with their machines.
“We want to help hobby designers to start up their own small business or side-line that can hopefully progress into something bigger for them,” de Beer says, adding that customers will be entitled to advertise their services for free on his site.
In order to keep costs down, de Beer has partnered with the Spanish electronics firm BQ, which is perhaps best known for its smartphone range. BQ is the first manufacturer to ship phones running the Ubuntu operating system, rather than Android or Windows.
3D Unique will be the sole supplier and distributor of BQ in South Africa, and among the printers de Beer says he will be importing are the Witbox (which is priced at R23 500) and the Prusa i3 Hephestos (priced at R7 500 as a kit or R9 500 fully assembled). The Witbox looks remarkably like a Makerbot and features a safety locking box so little hands don’t get hurt. The Prusa i3 Hephestos, meanwhile, is a standard open source RepRap design by Josef Prusa. Both come with a 2 year warranty.
Two other fields 3D Unique will be exploring are bio-printing and chocolate printing. To help out with the bio printing technologies 3D Unique has partnered with a research lab where the common goal is to help universities, pharmaceutical companies and surgeons and patients by fully exploring the capabilities of 3D printing technologies in the medical field.
Anyprint Unique from China have given 3D Unique exclusive distribution rights to its second generation of 3D chocolate printers giving bakers, culinary artists and hobbyists more freedom to create stunning designs. The Chinese company will also be supplying 3D Unique with the massive statue printer capable of printing objects up to 2m tall.
If you’re as excited as we are about all these printers you can head over to the 3D Unique website right now and start shopping. While you do that we’re going to try convince the bosses that office memos printed in chocolate are absolutely essential.