3D Systems has announced its latest desktop 3D printer, the Ekocycle Cube, more interesting however is the heavyweight marketing tie-up with mega-brand Coca-Cola and sometime pop star William Adams.
There are few facts for what the aesthetically jazzed-up version of the Cube 3 will offer, although we expect it to shares the same 15.25 x 15.25 x 15.25 cm build area, 70 micron layers, with a neat filament cartridge system. Whether it includes the dual-extruder is unclear as it looks likely to cost $1,199, a few rolls of filament cheaper than the Cube 3.
Yet what makes it special is that the Ekocycle system is using a filament that sources its materials partly from recycled plastic bottles, namely Coke bottles.
It’s a masterstroke of marketing, with the general public mostly unaware and uninterested in the different plastics, on first glance to the uninitiated it seems like you can store up your sugary drinks containers and reprint the world around you.
Sadly, the filament is only 25 per cent recycled matter, and unless you have a processing plant and a Coke addiction you will still have to buy the filament from 3D Systems.
This aside, it’s a great piece of business to raise public awareness – look as the national press lap it up – but the big question is why it has taken so long for a 3D printing company to do this?
The second question is whether this has come too late for the FDM home printing section, which has already seen other companies make a strategic move away.
The Cube 3 is at the top end of the domestic printing market, yet cheaper FDM models are still being launched by the dozen each month, and the Far East hasn’t even began to turn its hand to this industry yet.
As other top line competitor Makerbot moves further into the Pro Desktop sector, buoyed by Stratasys’s R&D capabilities, it would appear that the professional’s pay check seems to be where the longterm money lies.
The other challenge to this is the rise of the affordable SLA machine, with FormLabs and Autodesk both announcing new machines in the last month this sector would seem ready to grow.
Offering greater accuracy for a much increased price might not seem like the bargain of the century, but you can bet your back collection of Black Eyed Peas CDs that those prices will begin to plummet once the competition increases further.
The new Cube 3 and its Ekocycle brethren look to be polished, desirable models that will undoubtedly produce some great 3D models, but in a maturing market where the buzz has already moved on to the next big thing, maybe this has come too late.