Despite the benefits of 3D printing, not everyone can afford to purchase a 3D printer, particularly in our current economic state. While this has caused some businesses to open up lease-to-buy programs to allow customers to purchase machines in installments, others are providing them to public institutions to increase access. This is the case for Zortrax, the Polish manufacturer of the popular M200 3D printer, who will equipping 180 different public institutions with 3D printers in Poland’s largest and most populated province, Masovia, which boasts a population of over 5 million people.
Fighting what they call “digital exclusion”, Zortrax will be equipping such institutions as schools, libraries, and local clubs with their M200 machines, additionally organizing courses on how to use the equipment, giving access to an e-learning platform and professional software, and donating a year’s supply of 3D printing materials. The reason, the company outlines in a press release, is that, especially in smaller towns, access to cutting edge technology is limited, but Zortrax believes that self-governing bodies, like schools and libraries, can stimulate local communities if they themselves have access. And, given the ease-of-use and quality output of the M200, which Davide describes in his recent review of the system, the company believes that it is ideal for such locations.
Zortrax CEO Rafał Tomasiak elaborates, “The Zortrax M200 3D printer is perfect for both beginners in the field of 3D printing technology and experienced professionals, who expect top of the line precision and reliability. Our project reflects the growing interest in the 3D printing market. We offer not just the devices themselves, but a complete Zortrax ecosystem – with dedicated software and printing materials.” He continues, “We can also provide education through our professional e-learning platform. This will soon allow the local communities to spread their competences within the scope of the latest 3D printing technologies. These actions are also aimed at strengthening Poland’s position on the 3D printing market. We firmly believe that many of the people who are able to experience this fascinating technology in one of these places will enter our field as professionals in the future.”
Correction: A previous version of this post stated that the printers would be donated for free to these institutions. In fact, 3DPI guest writer Paweł Ślusarczyk, also the Editor of the largest Polish 3D printing news site, has told me that this was actually a huge financial boon for Zortrax. Pawel explains in a post on his site, CD3D, that the the deal between Zortrax and the Agency for Development in Masovia is worth approximately 2 million PLN (about $538,00). Apparently, Zortrax beat out two other companies in the industry, official MakerBot reseller CadXpert and 3D scanner manufacturer SMARTTECH.
Pawel tells me that the whole story behind the deal is actually a pretty interesting one, “Over a year ago someone (whose real name wasn’t revealed to the public) posted on the biggest Polish RepRap community forum that he was looking for a supplier of 180 3D printers. At first, no one took it seriously because of the form and location of his inquiry wasn`t too professional. But, soon, many big players contacted him and found out that the case was really quite serious… And, then, all of a sudden, he disappeared…”
Pawel continues, “He returned later this year, and started everything all over again. The problem was that all of those 180 3D printers were supposed to be shipped in one month after the deal was signed. It turned out that only three companies in Poland (Zortrax, CadXpert / MakerBot and Smarttech) were able to do that…”
In the end, Zortrax may very well represent the face of 3D printing in Poland, seeing its machines installed in the country’s largest province. And, if those institutions like what they’re given, the company may just have some customers for life.