Let the arms race begin
by Christian on Sep 14, 2023
The Beginning of a New Era
First of all, I want to congratulate Prusa wholeheartedly for beginning to ship the long-awaited XL and for the MK3's successor, the MK4. No one understands better than us the difficulty of taking a brand-new design from concept to mass production, especially considering the supply chain challenges in the past few years. Prusa is one of the pioneers of affordable desktop 3D printing; without the Prusa I3, the desktop 3D printing landscape might look entirely different. Creality is also launching their next-generation flagship today, rumored to be a completely new model, free of Ender 3 influence. We at Bambu are curious, a bit concerned, but mostly excited. Many people dismiss Creality's low-cost products, but I want to say that, to some extent, Creality and Ender 3 have shaped the 3D printing ecosystem, expanding the user base and enriching everything from accessories to models and even the supply chain. Many of us, whether Creality users or competitors, have benefited from Creality.
Nothing drives industry development better than an arms race between manufacturers, and in the April breeze, we can already smell the intensifying arms race to come.
Regarding Competition, Open Source, and Patents
Where there's competition, there are winners and losers – there is no way to sugarcoat it. I've read Prusa's latest blog post about open source, and I can understand the concerns, frustration, anxiety, and a touch of anger expressed therein. We understand this feeling. Countless failures, efforts, and expenses lie behind each new feature. We often mock ourselves after solving a difficult problem, "Look, it took us a month of working overtime and troubleshooting to find the root cause and solution for this issue. How long would it take our competitors to overcome it? Five minutes." What do we do? We have established an intellectual property department, applied for necessary patents, and prepared to use legal weapons to ensure that we are in a fair competitive environment.
Through social media, I can sense that for some reason, Joseph isn't too fond of Bambu. What I want to tell Joe is: Bambu and Prusa are actually on the same side. We both invest heavily in innovation and push the industry forward, converting more users. In the past three years, the i3 has been the most popular design to copy. In the next few months, the number of X1 clones may be as numerous as the i3. Prusa and Bambu are like Android/iOS and Linux/Windows, both have its own strategy, and both can thrive with its approach.
Bambu will adopt a more pragmatic approach to dealing with the pressure brought by copycats. The main market for 3D printers is in Europe and the United States. For Bambu and Prusa, there are a variety of effective legal tools available to address any non-compliant and illegal competitive behavior. Moreover, Bambu will not only use legal weapons in Europe and America but also in China against copycats.
However, you don't need to worry about Bambu becoming a patent troll; we are just a group of engineers trying to protect our business from copycats. For the 3D printing community and innovative companies within the industry, we have a very open attitude towards sharing our designs and patents. We have stated this in a blog article back to the early days of this company. In fact, we have already started collaborating with well-respected companies in the industry. We will not use patents as stumbling blocks for other innovators, nor will we use overly broad patent claims to hinder the development of the entire industry.
Who will be the champion of this marathon of innovation?
In most competitions, the champions are the ones with the strongest core driving force. So, what is the core driving force in this 3D printing innovation? Is it the pursuit of investment returns? The desire for a prosperous life? The founder's ambition to change the world? The satisfaction brought by technological progress? These are all important, but I don't think they are the most critical. The core driving force that ultimately determines who can win the competition is quite simple, and you can see it everywhere in the community. You can see it in the Speed Benchy Race, in various Voron extreme modifications and performance comparisons, and in Reddit's various show-off posts. It's the engineers' pursuit of becoming the best in the world and their desire for glory. Engineers are a lovely group of people, very proud, sometimes even arrogant. They often look down on their peers' designs and even like to mock others, "Look at that clumsy design; my design can be ten times better! It will win over all the consumers." This pride and pursuit of glory keeps them awake at night, thinking about new designs, returning to the drawing board, the laboratory, and the heated debate in the meeting room, making the next iteration, surpassing themselves, and ultimately pushing the entire industry forward.
If you ask me which period of my time working at DJI I miss the most, I would not hesitate to tell you that it is during those two years when the competition among different manufacturers was the most intense. Although the pressure was high and the workload was heavy, everyone was focused on innovating the world's best products. Nobody had time for office politics or wasting time on nonsense. The entire team was in a state of flow, similar to free solo climbing. We came to the 3D printing industry, ready to re-experience this flow. If I were to tell Bambu's team that starting tomorrow, we will only make the cheapest printers so that we can have the highest financial return, perhaps a quarter of the engineers would angrily leave within a month. And I guess it might be the same for other teams like Voron and Ratrig or Prusa. Bambu's team will go all out to compete for the glory of being the champion, just like the athletes on the Olympic track and field. Moreover, we know that there are many other worthy opponents on the field, and that's precisely what makes the competition so exciting.
In the end of the day, the industry and customers will benefit from this competition. Before the end of this competition, we will witness the historical transformation of 3D printing from an early adopter niche market to a mainstream market and the whole world will benefit from it.
Let the game begin.
May the Odds be Ever in Your Favor.