Freelance ID Business - worth it to buy an RP system?

I am in the first stages of thinking about freelance. I have tons of contacts and would like to set up my own small studio in the future. As I put together my budget plans, I am wondering if I need to purchase my own RP system.

Most manufacturers I deal with have their own development departments, and I can always outsource it to a prototype house, but the immediacy and advantage of a small RP lab is attractive. The products I specialize in are very hard to carve from foam, and usually I work with cosmetic skins only.

Any opinions on this?

I’m assuming you’d want to buy an SLA machine. You would really have to look at the numbers. A used machine (depending on the size) would run you $100,000+. A used machine has hours on the laser (replacement lasers are $20,000+), and material is hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I have a friend in this business and he has 3 machines. He has problems with maintainance and the machines going down. You need to run them 24hrs a day to make the payments. With that said, he’s making money and looking at a new machine. I’m sure he’s working on an ulcer.

i’ve read rumors HP is working on a lowcost desktop RP using inkjet tech. considering all the stuff jonz mentioned, i’m happy to send them out. for now.

You can get a ZCorp or Stratasys for under $30K new, it all depends on the size. You could alway’s lease one as well. Just know what your working envelope requirements are and go from there. Another option is one of the Roland DG’s subtractive MDX series, although more labor intensive they are less expensive overall.

There are a few companies doing RP work as their main business, but even they subcontract out to other houses and act as middle men. Get some quotes, which most can be done online if you have a solid 3D model file and see how the pricing figures out and compare the cost.

I’m still waiting for HP to bring out their desktop RP machine, the rumours are flying.

mick what kind of stuff will you be/are making?

I was thinking either Stratasys or Envisiontec, both of which I have experience with. The cost will be pretty cheap to buy the machine (around 30K or less for used) - but still a sizable investment.

I’ll be working mostly in architectural products and housewares.


You can get a RP machine for $25K new, not used. If you need a larger work envelope you be out of this price range pretty quickly. Unless you need immediate results, your better off outsourcing it until the prices come down.