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Kickstart My Heart

Here at Rapid Ready, we cover a lot of different areas connected with additive manufacturing (AM), including the current state of affairs in the various levels (or strata, if you like) of the AM manufacturing and production world. One area that is simultaneously fascinating and incredibly tedious to cover is the current hotness in AM Kickstarter projects.

The crowd funding site Kickstarter might be home to the largest number of potential designs for 3D printers ever gathered in one place. Even if you acknowledge the fact that most Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) clones operate in essentially the same manner, there are tons of different failed AM Kickstarters rotting away in cyberspace. In the end, it may be the failures are the lucky ones.

Kickstarter

For every successful Kickstarter, such as Formlabs or M3D, you have another company that has not lived up to backer expectations. Some are victims of their own success. The easiest way to get attention for your Kickstarter project is to charge a ridiculously low “introductory” price for early bird backers. The Mota 3D is a good example of how that tactic can backfire.

You may remember giddy posts or articles about the $99 AM system and phrases like, “a 3D printer for the rest of us.” Mota took in about $65,000 in backer cash before the company did some math and realized what they had offered was impossible to deliver. Acting in the best interests of everyone involved, Mota pulled the project from Kickstarter, rather than spending months or years attempting to slowly fill orders.

“I wish there was a way to offer truly high quality, highly precise 3D printers at incredibly low prices,” wrote Mota co-founder Kevin Faro. “That would bring about the mass market adoption that this technology so needs. The reality is, like any technology, it is expensive to develop and manufacture. We don’t want to promise something that cannot be delivered, or whose quality is anywhere below outstanding, and the fact of the matter is that delivering that high standard of quality would cost a premium.”

That is a hard lesson that’s being learned by a number of successful Kickstarter projects. The Phoenix 3D printer is one example of the difficulties involved with transforming a good idea into a functioning business. Fully funded in October of 2013, the comments section of its Kickstarter page is filled with backers lamenting both their lack of product and lack of communication. Some digging around reveals the company is doing its best to fill orders, but (reading between the lines) underestimated the basic costs of doing business.

The thing to keep in mind when looking at a Kickstarter project is if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. The narrowed eye of suspicion is currently focused on the Cobblebot 3D printer. The system already had a successful Kickstarter run, but the company is now turning to Indiegogo for additional funding.

Sources: TechCrunch, Kickstarter

About John Newman

John Newman is a contributing editor to Desktop Engineering magazine. He covers the rapid prototyping and manufacturing beat.

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