The woods are full of Kickstarter 3D printers. Most of the offerings aren’t much more than a repackaged RepRap machine for those hobbyists either incapable or disinterested in building their own 3D printer. Others, like Formlabs‘ desktop stereolithography system, the FORM 1, stand out from the crowd.
Not all innovation comes from bleeding-edge technology. Marketing is just as big a factor in the success of a product as any number of technical specs. This is particularly true when marketing said product to a crowd that might not really understand exactly what those specs mean.
On the surface, the RoBo 3D is just another material extrusion 3D printer. It operates in the very nearly the same way as the earliest Stratasys Fused Deposition Modeling additive manufacturing (AM) systems. It’s reasonable to assume that any Kickstarter consumer that is interested in a 3D printer has some idea of how the thing works. It only takes a couple keystrokes to find one of the myriad, “What is 3D Printing?” guides that exist on the net.
A better educated consumer means selling the idea of 3D printing isn’t as useful or exciting as selling the potential of 3D printing. In order to make the potential exciting, a company must have examples of what its AM system is capable of, along with what AM in general is capable of producing. Samples of printed objects only go so far in convincing a consumer. People want more.
In the case of the RoBo 3D, the creators have gone out of their way on the Kickstarter page in describing all of the options available for AM. They name drop Thingiverse a lot. They talk about the free design programs that can be downloaded, such as Tinkercad. In short, the Robo 3D creators are selling the potential of AM as much as they are the product.
Of course, if you are bold enough to link to Thingiverse on your Kickstarter page, you’d better have a system that is comparable to MakerBot’s offerings (the company behind Thingiverse). If your potential customer is in the market for a 3D printer, linking to another company’s site takes some guts.
RoBo 3D comes at this problem head on, by offering a side-by-side comparison of their system with the Replicator 2, MakerBot’s newest 3D printer. The results aren’t really that surprising (check out the image above for specifics) for anyone with a reasonable amount of experience in the AM field, but I bet they impress many consumers.
The RoBo 3D has a couple of other things going for it. Customers can purchase a fully assembled 3D printer that, according to the company, only needs to be plugged in to begin building objects. Further down the page, RoBo 3D’s creators mention some hard truths about calibration:
Everything in a 3D printer has to be tuned very fine in order for everything to work perfect (sic). We know it will be a challenge and we challenge ourselves to create this product so that when it is fully assembled, it can be calibrated and in perfect working order very easily and efficiently.
For backers pledging $520 (plus $48 shipping) RoBo 3D promises to deliver everything you need to start 3D printing. I’m of the general opinion that the sweet spot for home AM systems is right around $500 (iPad sales back me up).
The printer also looks professional, rather than the spawn of a Tinkertoy collection and a hot plate. The RoBo 3D has already surpassed its funding goal, so the initial startup is a go.
Will the company rise to challenge the likes of 3D Systems‘ Cube 3D printer? Let’s see how the company does at fulfilling its orders first. But, for people interested in a little 3D printing fun at home, this sort of system, the price, and marketing behind it may present a viable contender.
Below you’ll find the Kickstarter video for the RoBo 3D.