There are significant consequences stemming from Bambu Lab’s A1 Mini.

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I’ve been pondering about Bambu Lab’s latest 3D printer announcement, and there are some significant implications. In case you’re not aware, the emerging 3D printer manufacturer Bambu Lab has ventured into a new domain of 3D printing: low-cost desktops. Their recently launched A1 mini device boasts an incredible range of features at very attractive pricing.

For months, I have been discussing how the low-cost desktop market is being upended by the arrival of high-speed 3D printers. The development of vibration compensation firmware, also known as “input shaping” or other terms, enables these devices to operate at much higher speeds without compromising print quality. After testing several “high-speed” printers, I have come to a couple of conclusions: Faster 3D printers are not just faster; they are also more effective. A printer that is four times faster is essentially equivalent to having four slow printers. Therefore, selling large batches of slow printers to low-volume manufacturers for farms is no longer as lucrative as it used to be.

If the introduction of high-speed printers has already disrupted the 3D printer market, the A1 mini takes it a step further. The low-cost, high-speed desktop 3D printers that manufacturers have been releasing are, for the most part, sped-up versions of their previous products. They feature similar print plates, motion systems, software environments, and so on. Despite their increased speeds, they largely operate in the same manner as their predecessors.

Now, consider the A1 mini, a machine that stands out from the crowd. It capitalizes on the powerful calibration technology found in Bambu Lab’s higher-priced printers but adapts it for a low-cost platform. This means that print quality should not be a major concern with the A1 mini, and calibration is entirely automated. Additionally, their software environment provides a more user-friendly end-to-end experience, making it much easier to use.

This brings us to the realm of consumer 3D printing. Back in 2014/2015, there was a belief that consumers would embrace desktop 3D printers for general use. However, this idea quickly fizzled out as consumers found these devices to be far more challenging to operate than anticipated. DIY enthusiasts had no trouble with them, but the general public simply couldn’t navigate the necessary level of technical complexity. Despite numerous attempts to simplify the process, no desktop 3D printer manufacturer has successfully penetrated the true consumer market. However, the consumer market is significantly larger than the DIY market.

I suspect Bambu Lab is determined to change that. The A1 mini requires very little manual intervention due to its high level of automation. Furthermore, the user environment has been greatly simplified to eliminate potential confusion. I anticipate that this won’t sit well with DIY 3D printer enthusiasts because they won’t have access to certain settings. But that’s alright because I predict that the A1 mini is just the first of a series of devices aimed at actual consumers, not just tech-savvy individuals. Each subsequent device will feature increasingly simplified interfaces and operating procedures.

Let’s not forget that Bambu Lab was founded by individuals who previously worked for DJI, the company that successfully simplified drones to the point where anyone, including consumers, could operate them. Today, DJI is a massive company that dominates the drone market. It comes as no surprise, considering that DJI drones are impeccably designed in terms of both hardware and software. Unfortunately, many Asian manufacturers tend to overlook the importance of software, and this could pose a significant problem for them in the near future.

I believe that Bambu Lab aims to do for desktop 3D printers what DJI did for drones. Competing providers of low-cost desktop 3D printers will undoubtedly strive to catch up, but by the time they manage to produce printers as advanced as the A1 mini, Bambu Lab will likely have moved on to an even more sophisticated platform.

So, keep an eye on Bambu Lab because they could very well revolutionize the consumer 3D printing market. And if history is any indication, they might just succeed in dominating this space.

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