Another crowdfunded 3D printer project seems to be undergoing some controversy.
This time it is the ONO smartphone 3D printer. The technical idea here is that you can produce a resin-based 3D printer by re-using the high-resolution LED screen on your existing smartphone, thus significantly reducing the cost and effort to design and build a 3D printer, because you’re reusing the light engine.
The low development costs in this case yielded a launch price of only USD$99 for the 3D printer. That is a rather low price, but it seems to have attracted attention:
16,180 backers pledged $2,321,811 to help bring this project to life.
I’m always wary of low cost 3D printers being launched in this way because the typical scenario is that the founders usually have limited manufacturing experience, and low costs attract huge numbers of orders - vastly complicating the manufacturing process.
That seems to be what happened in this case.
I should mention that this project was launched on Kickstarter in March of 2016, well over two years ago. At the launch, the company said they would deliver product in June to September 2016. By the way, the product was launched as the “OLO”, but in August 2016 they were forced to change the name of the product to “ONO” due to similarity to another product.
Over the past two year, and over 9,000 often negative comments on their Kickstarter page, it seems that they haven’t really shipped the product yet. Some even don’t believe the printer really exists. Backer Michael Kostryokyj writes:
Now we have yet one more excuse. This printer never really existed, they just sold their backers an empty bag. We were all excited to have this great bit of technology.
Yesterday there was a significant development. ONO announced:
In order to help ONO be a company with this solid foundation, ready to enter the mass market and bring 3D printing to more and more people, we have launched an equity crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine.
With this, we will be able to begin shipping all our Kickstarter pledges and scale up operations, start new production cycles, grow the company, produce and distribute the resins, and ensure the longevity of the support, system, and the servers needed by both ONO and our users.
This is not good news. It appears that the company took in well over USD$2M to produce 16,000+ units, and is unable to do so with those funds, and now seeks additional investment money to be able to complete the job they’d previously collected money for. Some casual researchers suggest the fundraising is to help repay USD$3M in loans they’ve incurred.
The company claims to have produced 20,000 “printer bodies” and is currently in the “final stages of installation”, but after almost 2.5 years of project time for a relatively simple device, this is not particularly impressive. Many other startups have produced far more complex machines in that time.
That sounds optimistic, especially after reading some of the countless negative comments on their Kickstarter page. There are a large number of very unhappy people, and I think they may get more unhappy before this affair concludes.
While the company’s messaging appears positive, it seems to me that they have likely not managed the project effectively and may have found themselves in a corner without a financial means to proceed.
This is the risk of participating in a crowdfunding campaign. Before you do so, we recommend you read our checklist for crowdfunding issues. Next time, anyway.