In January of 2012 at CES, 3D Systems made the big announcement that they were entering into the direct consumer market with the Cube line of 3D printers. Now, nearly 4 years later, the experiment is over. 3DS has announced the end of Cube and Cubify.
First off, if you are an owner of a Cube or Cube Pro machine, don’t panic. This isn’t the end for your machine. While the consumer-focused Cube 3 will be discontinued, 3D systems will continue to sell the higher end Cube-Pro, as well as materials and supplies for both machines, via their 3DSystems.com site.
Beyond being a portal for Cube owners to manage their print libraries, order supplies, and find downloads for their machines, Cubify.com also served as a model repository and retail print portal for 3D Systems. While machine support will be moved to 3DSystems.com, all retail and model libraries will be shut down as of January 31st 2016.
Through the years, there have been 3 editions of the Cube, and while many will bemoan 3D Systems for their usage of proprietary software and adding ID chips to their filament (locking buyers into their supply chain), they also pushed a lot of innovative features to consumer-friendly machines. The Cube was one of the first printers with built in WiFi printing, a feature that may sound frivolous, but becomes very easy to get used to and miss from other 3D printers. 3D Systems took a serious look at safety with the Cube printers, adding features like magnetically-attached tempered glass build plates so prints could be removed away from the hot end, and nozzles surrounded by silicone buffers to prevent accidental touching by stray fingers.
The Cube 3 brought a feature that I found extremely progressive, with nozzles integrated into their filament cartridges. Most critics concentrated on the “evil” nature of chipped cartridges, and missed this handy add-on. If a nozzle became jammed (a less likely occurrence in a sealed cartridge), the whole thing could be quickly, and without use of tools, swapped out for a new cartridge with a new un-jammed nozzle. This could be a huge advantage for a teacher trying to print an object for a room full of anxious youngsters (or even a demo for impatient Makers).
While most Makers won’t be mourning the loss of this entry in the market, I worry about the other projects from 3D Systems that we know were coming down the pipeline. The Chefjet and Cocojet alone would be sad losses if never shown the light of day.