Creality’s second Kickstarter campaign ended earlier today and there’s good news and bad news.
The campaign was unusual as Creality is by no means a startup company, the typical user of a Kickstarter campaign. In fact, Creality is one of the largest producers of 3D printers worldwide, making apparently tens of thousands of machines each month.
Why do a Kickstarter? Creality experimented with one earlier this year when they launched the CR-6 SE. It was perhaps a different way for the Asian company to gain some coverage and exposure in the West, which is often quite challenging for companies in China. The strategy worked, as the launch brought in over 10,000 orders and well over US$4M.
With that success in mind, the company chose to use Kickstarter again to launch another 3D printer, and one that is quite unusual. The CR-30, a.k.a. 3DPrintMill, is a belt 3D printer. It’s capable of 3D printing very long objects or printing continuously without the need for human intervention, print after print.
I believe this form of 3D printing could eventually become quite popular, but at this time it’s a very strange concept for many existing 3D printer operators.
Did the 3DPrintMill Kickstarter succeed?
The company set a rather modest goal of around US$12,000, and that level was easily passed within the first few minutes of the campaign opening. Over the next weeks, the campaign collected well over 2,000 orders for the belt 3D printer, raising near US$1.4M.
It would seem to be a success, as early reviews of the unusual device are mostly quite positive. I’m hoping to test one myself in the future in our lab. It’s likely CR-30 sales will continue to grow well after the campaign ends as an increasing number of 3D printer operators gain an understanding of belt 3D printing.
But there’s one element that didn’t quite make it.
Creality Promoter Naomi Wu arm-twisted Creality management into a highly unusual commitment: if the Kickstarter were to hit US$5M, they would open source the CR-30 design.
The US$5M target likely did not seem unreasonable, given the success and funding level obtained on the previous CR-6 SE launch. However, the sales fell far short of that goal. Why? It’s likely a combination of several factors, including a higher price than the inexpensive CR-6 SE, Internet trolling and misunderstandings of the belt 3D printing concept.
As a result, it appears Creality will not be open sourcing the CR-30 belt 3D printer design.
Belt 3D Printing Futures
That’s a blow to the belt 3D printing concept, as a proven open source design would have led to many innovative belt 3D printer designs. It could have kicked forward the concept far more rapidly.
However, it seems that Creality ran into the same problem that so many other 3D printer companies do: users don’t yet understand what to do with the technology. Stratasys spent years explaining to the aerospace industry how to make 3D printable panels, and others worked with engine manufacturers to get their heads around metal 3D printing. It seems that same type of effort must be done for belt 3D printing.
Fortunately, there are now a few belt 3D printer options available on the market, including Creality’s, and their presence will slowly expose the concept to others.
I believe that eventually belt 3D printing will be much more popular than it is today. It’s just that it will now take a bit longer.