Innovation is just as likely to be found in the garage as in the boardroom. Individual inventors can bring new ideas to the table that big companies might have overlooked, or never even considered. Crowd-funding site Kickstarter is a godsend for inventors and small businesses to find startup capital to bring their ideas to life. Formlabs is a great example of a successful Kickstarter campaign leading to a rapidly growing business.
Rapid Ready initially covered Formlabs and its FORM 1 Kickstarter project all the way back here. Unlike many additive manufacturing (AM) systems found on Kickstarter, the FORM 1 offered something new; stereolithography printing in a desktop package. Tech junkies that follow Kickstarter developments were apparently as interested as we were, and Formlabs destroyed their $100,000 goal with a total of nearly $3 million pledged.
Now, a little over a year later, Formlabs has fulfilled its Kickstarter agreements, shipping out more than 1,000 3D printers to customers in over 30 countries. While fulfilling its promises might seem routine for most businesses, a number of Kickstarter ventures have run into trouble once manufacturing begins. That the FORM 1 has gone out, and in such numbers, is a testament to the organizational abilities of the crew at Formlabs, and speaks volumes about the company’s future potential.
“This is the end of a phase,” said Formlabs cofounder, Maxim Lobovsky. “We’re thankful for the incredible opportunity that our Kickstarter backers gave us, and with the amazing team we’ve built, we’re looking forward to continue to develop great tools.”
“The Kickstarter community is our rock,” added Natan Linder, another Formlabs cofounder. “They gave us our start, and we’re going to continue to support them. It’s great to be at this stage now, and we’ll be expanding our team to keep doing what they set us out to do. We’re building machines to change the world.”
Kickstarter hasn’t been the only source of investment capital for Formlabs. Earlier this year, the company announced it had received additional investment funding worth $19 million. Among those interested in backing a desktop stereolithography machine were DFJ Growth, Pitango Venture Capital, Innovation Endeavors, and a number of returning angel investors. Along with continuing research and development, Formlabs is using the investment to move operations to an 11,000 sq.-ft. facility in Somerville, MA.
If all that success seems a little too easy, Formlabs has had its setbacks as well. Not long after the Kickstarter fund raiser proved a success, 3D Systems launched a lawsuit against the fledgling company, charging Formlabs with patent violations.
“3D Systems invented and pioneered the 3D printing technology of stereolithography and has many active patents covering various aspects of the stereolithography process,” said Andrew Johnson, general counsel for 3D Systems. “Although Formlabs has publicly stated that certain patents have expired, 3D Systems believes the Form 1 3D printer infringes at least one of our patents, and we intend to enforce our patent rights.”
So far the case has gone nowhere, with Formlabs and 3D Systems embroiled in settlement talks. Even with that particular stumbling block in play, Formlabs can’t be called anything but an enormous success.
Below you’ll find the introductory video for the FORM 1.