Timing is Everything in 3D Printer Kickstarters

By on January 10th, 2017 in Ideas

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 Always watch the clock when considering a crowdfunded 3D printer purchase
Always watch the clock when considering a crowdfunded 3D printer purchase

After observing a number of 3D printer crowdfunding fails, there seems to be an effect you should be aware of. 

In ideal circumstances you would examine a 3D printer launch campaign, make your decision to order a unit and await its arrival. However, in all too many instances, that isn’t how things play out. 

While many campaigns do indeed deliver the requested equipment on time, some small manufacturers unfortunately discover the challenge of success: it’s very difficult to actually manufacture large quantities of machines. Many things can go wrong along the way: supplier delays, component quality problems, legal issues, cash flow interruptions, staffing shortages and many more possibilities. 

These problem scenarios are sometimes not understood and anticipated by small startups, leaving them struggling to meet their campaign commitments. 

Sometimes they can overcome them, sometimes not. Usually it depends on their funding and cash management practices. It’s possible a company can run out of money while handling them and that might be their demise. However, some companies can slug their way through the issues, albeit with delays. 

And that’s what I’m worried about. Some startups solve their problems with delays that can be quite lengthy. 

The length of delay opens up an opportunity for competition, and it’s certainly been fierce. The longer the delay, the more likely a competitor will emerge that offers the same or better features. And that’s exactly what happens, particularly when launches are delayed for a year or more. 

Even more insidious for the delayed startup is that their new competitors may offer their option at a lower cost. 

This is a catastrophic situation for the startup company, as their cash lifeline may be cut off from further sales. It’s also extremely frustrating for their backers who see their cash “wasted” on a then-inferior product that they haven’t even received. 

The moral of the story here is that you should pay close attention to delivery dates. They should neither be too distant in the future or too close. 

Too distant might indicate the company is unsure of their delivery capability and is sandbagging their estimates. Worse, a long delivery delay, as I described above, will likely see the introduction of better alternatives. 

Too soon may indicate overconfidence in delivery, particularly in a small company that has never manufactured machines previously. 

It all depends on the capabilities of the startup. Some can delivery, and some cannot.

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!