First off – this kind of version change roll out isn’t unique to 3D printer world. It happens without fanfare with lots of things - consumer electronics, home appliances, etc. I think the difference is that we tend to be a small, highly focused community that is paying such close attention to the minute details of product feature, availability, etc. that it is very difficult for a manufacturer to roll out a new version without either taking a break between versions (e.g. out of stock for months) or having to clearance old models as soon as people know there is a new model coming.
Having said that, Aleph is in the process of learning their way through this. It doesn’t appear that they have a consistent policy for new version introduction other than making designs for upgraded printable parts freely available. Looking at their roll-out history, they started clearancing the A-101 while we were still waiting for the TAZ 1 (good, standard move), they stopped making TAZ 1 and were out of stock for a significant amount of time while getting TAZ 2 ready for roll out (not too bad on customers, other than impatience – probably very bad for cash flow), and they pulled TAZ 3 out of their hat (surprise!) with a major change in heated bed which (presumably) will address many of the common bed problems people are having. Now, if you dig through their development files this shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise. There is extensive documentation on development and testing of the upgraded heated bed dating back almost a year. However, making this much of a change without notice is a good way to alienate current customers – most of us would prefer to have a choice of earlier model at slightly discounted price vs. waiting for new model. And not everyone would choose to wait so the previous version would continue to move, albeit at a reduced pace.
Once common way to mitigate the customer alienation is to offer an upgrade path at the same time that you do the new model roll out. This would have been doable with TAZ2 since the most notable change was the control panel/SD card capability and this component is readily available. Perhaps working a deal with the manufacturer so that TAZ 1 owners could get it at a discounted price. Unfortunately this still isn’t offered.
Obviously this would be much harder to do with the new heatbed, particularly since it now requires a 24VDC supply. So, what could Aleph have done? One additional trick used by many of the big names is to announce the new model but set the pricing noticeably higher than the previous model. Customers will then make the value judgement before roll out, continuing to buy the old version. Then, two months or so after roll out, do the price reduction. This softens and distributes the current owner impact – really early adopters of the new version are accustomed to paying a premium and understand that prices will fall, recent purchasers of the previous version are generally satisfied that they saved significant $$ when they made the purchase and had the use of the printer during the months when the new version was more expensive.
Anyway, I’m no expert on this, there are lots of books written on the topic and plenty of case studies to look at.
Here’s my position – I bought one of the first TAZ 1’s – I never got it to work satisfactorily and it is currently in pieces in a box waiting for me to have time to redesign and rebuild it. Hindsight is always 20/20 - maybe i shouldn’t have purchased it. Maybe, knowing what I know now, I might not even have bought the TAZ 3. Am I angry at Aleph? Absolutely not. I’m a tech savvy, early adopter. We spend money on new technology knowing that there is risk and knowing that prices will go down and that features will improve. TAZ was not my first 3D printer and won’t be my last. I will continue to research, test, design, fabricate, buy, etc. 3D printers and components looking for the technology that best meets my professional needs.
Could Aleph have made better choices in how they rolled out TAZ 3? Absolutely, and I’m sure they’ll refine their new product introduction strategy as a result of your feedback. My greatest wish is that they would offer all of the custom-made vitamins in their store as soon as each new model is rolled out.
So let’s look at this as members of a tight-knit community of innovators, rather than as consumers of generic mass-produced pablum available at any Walmart. We all invest in trying these new things. If anyone asked us, we would probably use the word “invest” at some point. Inherent in any investment is the element of risk - risk that it won’t work, risk that we paid too much, risk that the next version will have more awesome features, risk that it won’t actually do what we need it to do. But as an investment, there is also the reward side of the equation. We are doing something that very few people know how to do (so far). We’re getting a head start with a tool that will be ubiquitous some day and will have the chance to do things that can create careers and industries.
A few hundred dollars here, a few missing features there, these are the bumps that we take to be in the lead.