So essentially, these new technologies are being implemented to assure a more 'consistent' experience for future / existing customers and not to expand the availability for cIEMs, by reducing the price.
In my experience, the things holding people back from buying cIEMs is first and foremost the price and secondly the difficulties which come with possible (international) refits.
But if this new way of making cIEMs doesn't effectively reduce the price and therefore doesn't make them more compelling for 'new-comers', this news isn't of relevance for many (dare i say most) audiophiles .
It only effects people who already own cIEMs and are familiar with the daunting process involved or have the ability to buy cIEMs at their present price point (many of which already own cIEMs and fall in the first category).
....of course these are only personal impressions and opinions and anyone has the right to concur...
From what I observe, from markets in the US and around the globe, price is usually not
the limiting factor, especially in emerging markets of Asia.
Ultimate Ears offers the UE4, which is the same price as the UE900, and I can actually imagine the UE4 dropping in price in the future because of the limited options available, but really, custom in-ear monitors will inevitably remain lower in sales volume than universal products. Price is cost-prohibitive for entry-level enthusiasts wishing to buy a top-level product
, but TOTL is TOTL, and it really is a luxury offering that isn't accessible to most people.
If we go from the perspective of simple supply/demand economics, even though UE's supply capabilities have gone up, they are simply meeting the existing demand for their custom in-ear products in a timely manner. Altering the price point of their CIEMs will shift the demand curve to where it might not be able to deliver a product that can meet its quality and service standards. As mentioned by Jude, the process is still very labor-intensive, so unless they figure out how to automate 3D scan processing and replace skilled technicians with *skilled* robots, UE will not be able to substantially lower prices and still maintain a operational profit margin.
Let's view it from another way; switching to 3D scanning/printing has the following benefits for UE:
- More consistent and faster shipping times
- More consistent and better fit rates
- Ability to scale production to meet demand
These things have the capability to further:
- Reduce operational overhead due to lessened customer service burden.
- Maintain a higher rate of returning clients (competition in the CIEM industry is ever increasing).
- Be prepared for projected increases in sales volume.
Ever since Logitech officially took over UE in 2008, the team at UE has been remarkably clear about its goals, and it is to increase consistency in all areas, from presentation to delivery times to build quality, durability, and even sound quality. This step, now, is merely a continuation of that goal.