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Should You Buy a Kickstarter 3D Printer?

Picture of Miles Scott
by Miles Scott
Oct 14, 2017
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You don’t buy anything from Kickstarter, says Miles Scott. You are investing into a project. But is that worth the wait and money?

This post was contributed by Miles Scott, UK-based 3D printing expert, and co-moderator of the biggest 3D printing community on Facebook

You don’t buy anything from Kickstarter. You can’t buy anything from Kickstarter. Put that in both hands, rub it together, work it into your hair, and let it seep in. When you give anything money on Kickstarter you are getting a statement of intent. You’re investing. You could receive absolutely nothing.

As a rule of thumb, never give any project any money on Kickstarter unless you’re perfectly comfortable with throwing that same amount of money into the wind on he hopes a box turns up at your door a year later. Your money could go towards an amazing company that gives them the boost in funding they need to start a multi-generation run of great printers. Or it could be building some dudes dream home while you sit at home wondering when your low-cost high tech printer is going to arrive (some of you will already get that reference. Don’t worry, we’re getting to that later).

The Contribution Crowdfunding Has Made to the Market

formlabs
The Formlabs Form 1. That campaign helped to start a healthy company.

To make one thing clear: The 3D printing market will continue to grow and be healthy because of crowdfunding. Many strong well-respected brands have come out off of Kickstarter and into the maker spaces of thousands of satisfied customers. The value cannot be underestimated. In doing research for this article I was stunned just how many printers had come from crowdfunding. Here are just some well-known 3D printing companies and their printers that started on Kickstarter:

I think you agree the market would be worse without these players, even just for the sake of competition to other brands you may like. It’s so important to have a wide range of printers in multiple categories so we can have the market be diverse and healthy. Or every printer could be a MakerBot if you’re one of those people.

Lies, Dirty Lies, and Kickstarter

fitforlaunch
Scampaign Public Enemy Number 1: Peachy Printer

Did you know that you can have the most advanced never seen before super amazing printer for only $200! Do you like inspirational music a voice-over artist they found on the freelance platform Fiverr. Changing the world! Well, my friend, you better hand over that money so you can be part of the future.

I find these videos are damaging to new entrants to the market. They overpromise and usually underdeliver.

This kind of “pitch video” needs to go the way of the dodo. You all know exactly the kind of video I am talking about. It’s not realistic it doesn’t give you accurate information and most of the time it’s just downright cringe. I find these videos are damaging to new entrants to the market. They overpromise and usually underdeliver. Tempting those who don’t have any knowledge or experience in 3D printing with a low price tag and a dream.

Right when the M3D micro delivered to its backers. The 3D printing group on Facebook was flooded with frustrated backers looking for help. Almost all of them have bought the M3D as their first printers. It was a mess to clean up and most moved on to other machines suggested by the group burning their investment if not giving up on 3D printing entirely. More people in the market is only a good thing so having people’s first experience be negative or just a complete failure is not acceptable.

But hey, nothing goes to plan all the time. Plenty of things go wrong because of unforeseen problems. But then there is the more blood boiling kind of Kickstarter problem. Stealing…..for all those who have been waiting since the beginning we have arrived.

We can’t talk about Kickstarter 3D printers without talking about Peachy Printer.

We can’t talk about Kickstarter 3D printers without talking about Peachy Printer. That printer was just too good to be true. A $100 SLA 3D printer using a quite frankly master level student engineering that is to be applauded. Using the Digital-to-analog audio converter in your computer to drive the laser and a saltwater drip feed to increase the Z height. It sounds dumb, but it actually looks pretty cool and seems to work better than it has any right too.

But then there is the infamous update video that Peachy put out, still confusing to this day.

The finance director of the Peachy Printer had stolen $320k from the project to build his dream home…. and was now giving an interview about why he did this to the Kickstarter backers. Frankly, the fact that he stole the money doesn’t surprise me. It’s the fact that this video is better produced than the original Kickstarter video. Complete with sad music and close up camera shots. The long and short of the video is that he stole the money he admits to stealing the money from the rest of the team and now you’re not getting a printer. Thanks, bye!

As far as I am aware the finance director did not even get arrested for stealing this money.

That’s if you gave your money and you get nothing. Something bad happened money got stolen and you have no legal recourse. As far as I am aware the finance director did not even get arrested for stealing this money.

This is probably the most extreme demonstration of what can happen when backing Kickstarter projects. You’re investing, and if the team can’t deliver, you are left empty-handed. Plenty of printers get funded and never materialize just with no TV quality dramatics – remember Tiko 3D, anyone?

I really hope the Peachy Printer can make it to market. I think the concept is really cool. If the Peachy Printer team happens to read this article, I would say to them to release all the files as an open source project. Keep developing your kit and rebrand entirely. You need to drop the name and company and start anew.

Better Expect Delays

A factor backers often overlooked is just how long the items are going to take to get to you. In many high profile backers have received units AFTER retailers! Which is a great way to get a lot of people very angry.

A project being delivered on time is rare, a one to six-month delay is normal.

If you need something timely, do NOT get it from Kickstarter. A project being delivered on time is rare, a one to six-month delay is normal. This just adds to the point I was stating before; you really have to believe in something more than you care about the money. Remember you are not “buying” your giving (and hoping). A good rule of thumb to use when looking at a project is adding a third more time than they say they will need to get you your product. That way you won’t be sitting at your door like you do for Amazon Prime. Or maybe I’m the only one who does that?

Also, don’t forget that technology advances fast. The Kickstarter printer delivered to you may be out of date when you finally put it in your workshop.

Final Thoughts

And that really is how I feel about Kickstarter printers. There are some really cool things worth supporting. But honestly, you can’t expect anything in return. I think it would be better if Kickstarter was more like go fund me for projects. You give money to support something without expecting anything in return. Not the pre-order style crowdfunding that seems to be how it operates today.

I think a much healthier model would be to ask for support to bring a project to life and then receive your pledge amount as money off the printer when it hits the market. But if you have anyone who sends you a link to a Kickstarter printer, just because they know about 3D printing, please send them back a link to something on Amazon that they can get shipped in a week. Kickstarter is great for experienced makers willing to take a chance on some new interesting things. Or supporting an already established brand you feel you can trust.

Kickstarter is a great platform that has done a lot of good. Just remember you’re throwing this money into the wind and there are lots of great products already on the market today.

 

License: The text of "Should You Buy a Kickstarter 3D Printer?" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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