3D Printing

MakerBot's New Filaments And A Halloween Pricing Horror Story

MakerBot is introducing three new PLA filaments. One in particular with Hallow’s Eve festivities in mind — a new Glow-in-the-Dark PLA filament optimised for the Replicator 2 3D printer. MakerBot has also released Warm Gray and Cool Gray PLA filament.

Made with phosphorus dye the Glow-in-the-Dark PLA filament works with any light source to glow green in the dark. The intensity of the Glow-in-the-Dark PLA filament’s glow depends on the intensity of the light charging it: the stronger the light source, the better. No sunlight is required. Meanwhile, the two shades of gray filament are aimed at professionals that are using a Replicator 2 3D printer, or indeed anyone that wants to pay extra for a MakerBot brand name on the shades of gray for their 3D prints.

MakerBot PLA Filament Glow in the dark

“We’ve introduced a couple of new PLA Filament colours this fall, including our beautiful Translucent PLA filaments, as well as the versatile Flexible filament and Dissolvable filament,” noted Bre Pettis, CEO. “The new Warm Gray and Cool Gray PLA filaments will be especially useful for architects and engineers using 3D printed models to suggest the materials they’re planning to use for particular sections of a structure or product.”

The MakerBot Glow-in-the-Dark PLA Filament retails for a shockingly high USD$130 for just a 1 kg spool; the Warm Gray and Cool Gray PLA Filaments retail for a far more reasonable $48 for each 1 kg spool. That MakerBot would pitch its new glow in the dark filament so high is a horror story in itself. Material prices differ, of course; for example, alternative glow in the dark green PLA filament can be bought for just $60 plus P&P here and $43.53 plus P&P from here; to name a couple, there are others.

To quote Bre Pettis on the Steven Colbert show in 2011:

Steven Colbert: “How you going to make your money? Just Like. Just like copiers, you’re going to get us on the toner. Aren’t you?”
Bre Pettis: “We’ll resist that temptation!”

And the comment Bre made in response to the posting of this quote on the Open3dp website hosted by the University of Washington Mechanical Engineering Department Solheim Additive Manufacturing Laboratory:

‘I didn’t really get a chance to explain my philosophy behind this. Plastic is a commodity, you can route around us to get it, but it’s not easy to get good stuff. We obsess over the quality of our plastic and offer a good value. We’re a business, so we put a mark-up on our costs, but it’s a reasonable markup that allows us to keep the lights on and sell to distributors so they can make money too.’

It’s not for myself to be the final judge of whether MakerBot has misjudged product placement with regard to Halloween, or for whatever other reason the team believe that 1 kg of plastic should ever retail for USD$130. MakerBot continues to produce sound products, I have no doubt that the new filament, however overpriced I may believe it to be, will maintain high quality.

You can take it under consideration, but, I’ll leave you with this thought: Stratasys shareholders, MakerBot staff and the US economy will lose out by relative financial — if far from relative material — amounts. This is an example of an ethical dilemma that is only going to get more central to trade as 3D printing grows as a sector.