The Future Of 3D Printing, According To Elegoo

“20 years ago, all the printers you saw were industrial level SU printers, which were widely used in university laboratories or even the military.” Elegoo co-founder and vice president Kevin Wong is giving me a brief history of 3D printing. “They were used for STEM education purposes, or research and development. But the price tag was very high, maybe even over five or ten thousand dollars, which is out of the general public’s budget.”



Elegoo noticed that its clients were not only using its 3D printers for their intended purposes, but also for personal projects. “Maybe we can try to offer our customers a 3D printer at a much more affordable price,” Wong thought, “and lower their barrier [of entry] to use 3D printers to explore their creativity and unleash their imagination.”

Related: Warhammer Needs To Embrace 3D Printing

This has been Elegoo’s philosophy to date. It boasts some of the most affordable 3D printers on the market, reaching up to 12k definition for maximum detail in your prints, and all for under four figures. Sure, $500 for the Saturn 3 Ultra 12K is a lot of money, but I just spent half that for a decent printer that only puts ink on paper, rather than building impressive resin miniatures in the blink of an eye.

Elegoo Kevin Wong and Chan

The affordability of 3D printing has led to the niche hobby becoming far more mainstream in recent years, and I quizzed Wong and his colleague, a designer who goes by the name Chan, about what the future of 3D printing has in store. But first, the present.

Chan is showing me a host of miniatures he has printed and painted via webcam from the Elegoo offices in China. He has loving recreations of Marty McFly and legendary Chinese mythological antagonist the Monkey King, whose cape is spectacularly rendered considering the curves and ripples on display. This was a multi-part print that took around 20 hours to complete, and two days for Chan to paint. But the pair are more excited by the number of gaming characters in front of them, including heroes from League of Legends and Overwatch.

When Elegoo surveyed its customers, it found that the “number one” use for its products was to print tabletop miniatures, although it appears this definition extends to include large-scale models like those on their desks. Six or 12-inch figurines, not unlike those found in games’ collectors editions or the shelves of Forbidden Planet, are clearly a doddle for Elegoo printers, and it’s what most people create. After that, the most common uses are functional parts, home decor, and product prototyping and other such business purposes.

“A 3D printer can give them a much easier and affordable way to print these kinds of customised models.” – Kevin Wong, co-founder and vice president at Elegoo

With so much IP on the table, and these Overwatch and LoL models used to promote Elegoo on social media, I can’t help but worry that lawsuits or cease-and-desist letters are in the post. But Elegoo is just the printer, it doesn’t sell the STL files to print these copyrighted likenesses itself. It does surprise me somewhat that in the midst of all this, Wong talks about working with game developer Naughty Dog directly in the future.

“Have you ever played a game called The Last of Us?” he asks me, seemingly unaware of the cultural phenomenon the game has become. “It’s an amazing game. We are thinking whether we can work with [Naughty Dog] directly and print the models or get the license from them – it’s a potential collaboration we’re working on.”

Elegoo 3d printers

Potential collaborations aside, Elegoo is acutely aware of what its buyers use its printers for, and Wong isn’t afraid to talk about printing Warhammer, a sticky subject due to the legalities of printing your own models, which are copyrighted.

“We have customers who are printing Warhammer miniatures, 40K,” he says. “But the original Warhammer kits are very small models. It’s very difficult to paint. But our customers prefer to print a larger one, a large model which can be like a collectible that they can showcase on their table or in their home. So a 3D printer can give them a much easier and affordable way to print these kinds of customised models, especially ones which you cannot get access to from the original brand.”

While Warhammer does have one range of large-scale action figures, Wong says that the allure of customising your own figurine for display purposes allows Elegoo to fill a gap in the market that Games Workshop currently does not offer.

“In the future, we will keep investing more on the software side.” – Kevin Wong, co-founder and vice president at Elegoo

His colleague Chan also suggests that the printers are great for making cosplay props – weapons, armour, helmets, and the like – which is a far more legal passtime. The pair believe that if 3D printing becomes even more affordable, events like Comic Con will be rife with 3D printed costumes and accessories. But the future of 3D printing is not in higher resolution printers or cutting costs further, Wong believes. It’s time to reduce that steep learning curve that comes with 3D printing.

“In the future we’ll work more on the software side,” he tells me. “Because the slicer and the overall system built in with the product can really [put off] customers.”

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He’s also working on solutions for common printer problems, like the fact that printing in winter is fraught with difficulties due to needing to keep the resin warm to print efficiently.

“If we can solve this problem, it’s going to be a huge advance for our product,” Wong says. “In the future, we will keep investing more on the software side. It’s not only the built-in system but also the slicing software, so we can make sure that the whole experience is perfect.”

Wong wants to completely eliminate “printing fails”, where slightly misaligned parameters in the complex printing setup result in botched prints. Elegoo has just launched a four-point screw system for securing the build plate, which shouldn’t need readjusting after the initial levelling process. “Once you level the plate, it will stay levelled forever – unless the printer fell off your table,” Wong jokes.

AS 3D printing becomes more normalised in hobby communities, from cosplayers to tabletop gamers to shelf-stacking statuette collectors, the future looks bright for those who may be nervous about taking the plunge. Competition is increasing, prices are dropping, and if Elegoo has anything to say about the future of the hobby, the learning curve is about to get a whole lot simpler.

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