There’s been lots of bad news regarding inexpensive 3D printers appearing on Kickstarter, but there have been some successes, at least from the funding standpoint.
Way back in 2013-2014, life was a lot easier for those hoping to launch a new desktop 3D printer on Kickstarter. There were fewer vendors, expectations for print quality were lower than today and that time period was perhaps the peak of interest for desktop 3D printing, so far.
Companies that launched reasonable products back then, like B9 Creator, M3D or Formlabs, were able to generate massive amounts of cash that some were able to carefully spend and grow into large operations today.
Since then, things have gotten a lot more challenging.
General public interest in 3D printing has dropped, although it may be starting to rise again recently. But quality expectations for both print quality and ease of use are much higher than before. And there are more competitors. A great deal more, perhaps hundreds.
Those trying to launch an undifferentiated product today face a steep battle. I’ve even seen some products launch that literally attract zero pledges. That is correct: no one bought a single unit. That’a tough market!
Nevertheless, some ventures do offer unique features that we occasionally feature on this blog. And they’ve attracted attention. Here are some recent funding successes:
Blackbelt 3D Printer: USD$105K+
Bean 3D Printer: USD$465K+
TRIUM DELTA 3D PRINTER V2.0: USD$11K+
OPENCREATORS BS210: USD$60K+
And there are a few others. These are not like the USD$3M successes of 2012-2014, but could be enough to get these companies started.
However, that is merely the beginning. Once funds are gathered, each of these companies is then obligated to deliver product that is: on time, of good quality and has appropriate support.
Achieving that is the most difficult challenge for a startup company, as they must transform their lofty ideas and rough prototypes into actual, reliable products – and sometimes in considerable volumes. This requires different styles of management, different skills in manufacturing and distribution and more. Some companies simply don’t have those skills on their team, and could fail over time.
But others do recognize the challenges ahead and take the right steps to overcome them.
The problem is that at this point in their lifecycle, we don’t know which ones have it and which ones don’t. Always be cautious when considering backing a Kickstarter campaign.