Sales of 3D printers have rocketed for an Auckland-based distributor since a story about making all-plastic guns hit the headlines in May.
3D Printing Systems owner, Bruce Jackson, said, “The whole 3D printed gun fiasco has really helped our sales double since then,” he said.
Blueprints of a working gun design were released online by Cody Wilson, founder and director of Defense Distributed, a non-profit organisation that develops and publishes open source gun designs.
Jackson said it was unlikely people were trying to print their own guns but rather that the story had led to more people becoming aware of 3D printers.
He preferred not to say how many units the company was shipping.
“It’s just an education thing. It’s made people more aware of what they can do with 3D printers,” he said. “We’ve got customers now in New Zealand that are printing production parts for their machines not just prototypes, not just nice things to look at but things that can be used and end use parts.”
3D Printing Systems distributes three types of 3D printers - the UP, the Inspire and the Kevvox - to the New Zealand market and is growing its distribution base to include more resellers.
Jackson said he started the company on his own three years ago and now has three full- time and 2 contract staff.
“We distribute the 3D printers into Australia, as well, which is unusual because our head office is based in Auckland but we sell into Australia. It’s usually the other way around,” he said.
3D Printing Systems is the sole supplier of the three printers. “We’ve also got a number of resellers on board,” Jackson said. And he wants more.
“The UP Printer and the Inspire are used mostly for production parts rather than consumer-printed parts. The Kevvox is used by dental and jewellery printers.”
Jackson said there is also a healthy market in supplying the materials used in the printers but that didn’t mean locking in customers with fixed terms, something he said was a mistake with document printed cartridges.
“All of our printers are open consumable designs so we don’t lock our consumables to our customers. Customers from the ink jet days are very familiar about locked cartridges so all our cartridges and all our materials are open,” he said.
“That means if a customer wants to they can use other materials. Obviously, our materials work best with the printers but if a customer wants to try other materials they can. That’s one of our selling strategies.”
Jackson said the strategy has paid off because he had a decent amount of repeat business with his customers.
“Our material works better than any other material that’s on the market,” he said.
Jackson predicts a bright future for the sector as more and more companies come on board. They range from traditional Computer Numerical Control [CNC] businesses that produce parts for customers, through to hobbyists, model train and planes enthusiasts, artists and the like.
He enjoys the huge variation in the people and companies he meets. “So many different customers from so many different walks of life, even NASA is using our printers,” Jackson said.