In 2013 one of the most popular categories in the crowd funding realm was 3D printing. 3D printing can be found at the heart of many of the top funded boards across popular crowd sourcing websites. In the beginning, the biggest hurdle for 3D printing technology to overcome when it attempted to enter the commercial and at-home marketplace was cost. Even introductory 3D printers were prohibitively expensive for most hobbyists to truly enjoy. Over the past several years, crowd funding has proven to the ideal platform for the emergence of less expensive and more useful 3D printers.
Another initial problem was popularity. With so few consumers interested in 3D printing technology there wasn’t a lot of incentive for manufacturers to create low-cost, at-home solutions. In the past two years, the popularity of 3D printing has skyrocketed. It has proven to be a great solution for artist and hobbyists alike. If there is one thing crowd sourcing has proved is that popularity is no longer a problem for this technology. A quick look at the top performing 3D printer related crowd funding projects easily demonstrates this point.
1. Form 1
The Form 1 high resolution printer has raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter alone, even though they were initially only requesting $100,000. The goal of Form 1 was to create a true high-resolution 3D printer for professional creators at an affordable price. To meet very detail-oriented standards at a high level, a more expensive commercial option was the only choice. Form 1 spent nearly two years in development before turning to Kickstarter to garner production funds, but once it did, the project took off.
To achieve the high level of detail Form 1 is known for it’s bypassed the commonly used extruded plastic approach of most other lower-end 3D printers. Instead the creators opted for a stereolithography printer which is typically associated with the most expensive 3D printers. This approach not only offers greater accuracy but reduces the necessary layer thickness. In fact, the Form 1 3D printer can create layers as thin as 25 microns. Plus, the Form software gives users the ability to create thin, breakable support structures which are needed during the printing process but can then be easily removed when finishing the item.
Another well-known 3D printer that generated a lot of noise in the crowd funding realm is 3Doodler. Instead of using the traditional software/printer approach, it allows users to create 3D objects freehand. It is considered to be the world’s first 3D printing pen which created a whole new range of possible applications. Leveraging crowd funding, 3Doodler requested on $30,000 but raised more than $2.3 million on Kickstarter alone.
3Doodler extrudes heated plastic which quickly cools and solidifies into a strong, stable structure. What makes this 3D printer unique is users create everything by hand. This makes it ideal for tracing objects to create replicas. It immediately became a huge hit on Etsy as artists quickly saw the value in it which was a big reason it immediately became popular.
3. The Buccaneer
The Buccaneer is another huge success story for 3D printers and crowdfunding. The creators requested $100,000 but quickly generated nearly $1.5 million. It is billed as the full 3D printing solution for home consumers. It is built with ease of use in mind. It doesn’t require you to mess around with raw spools of plastic or unnecessary wires. In fact, it can be setup and ready to use in a matter of minutes.
One of the unique features of The Buccaneer is Treasure Island. Treasure Island is a cloud based printing store. Users can simply choose a template of their choice, download it, and start printing. The unique interface also makes it easy for consumers to design 3D objects without learning complicated 3D design software. It operates on a simple drag-n-click layout to ensure it is easy to create basic objects with no fuss.
4. Structure Sensor
Structure Sensor originally asked for $100,000 on Kickstarter but generated nearly $1.3 million. Instead of using 3D printing software, this 3D printer lets users scan objects and rooms in 3D with a mobile device. After attaching it to a mobile device, such as an iPad, the user can capture anything and turn it into a 3D digital form. These forms can even be imported into popular 3D printing and CAD software.
This project is unique in the 3D printing world because it isn’t actually a 3D printer. It is an important first step into independent 3D printer accessories and tools. In total, the ideal range for an object being scanned is between 40 centimeters to 3.5 meters. As an added bonus, it also included an onboard power supply which lasts up to 4 hours. This makes it an ideal partner for mobile devices because it will not affect the devices battery life at all.
RigidBot creators were asking for only $31,500 to get their project off the ground, but generated more than $1 million. This 3D printer was billed as a sturdy, yet customizable 3D printer. A unique option was the ability for buyers to purchase either a fully assembled version of RigidBot or a kit which allowed them to put it together themselves. Similar to The Buccaneer, part the initial popularity of RigidBot stemmed from the robust online design downloads.
The ability to grow or shrink the footprint of RigidBot was a standout feature. Users can expand the entire printer on the X,Y, and Z direction. Relying on injection molded plastic joints; users can adjust the size by simply swapping out the metal bars with longer or shorter ones. This extra layer of versatility and customization made it an instant hit.
On the list of biggest 3D printer crowd funding projects, Printrbot was asking for the least amount of money to get started. In total, the request was for a minimal $25,000. While it didn’t break the million dollar mark, it did bring in more than $830,000 through Kickstarter. The primary focus of the Printrbot design is simplicity. There are a lot of kits out there but Printrbot stood out from the crowd because it was smaller and easier to assemble. Most people could assemble the entire 3D printer in as little as a few hours because there are less parts and minimizes the need for calibration.
While it was an original design, there is no doubt Printrbot borrows from some of the best 3D printer designs on the market combining them with high quality parts. It utilizes the latest electronics and firmware while also integrating linear bearings, the most popular extruder design, and smooth drill rod.
7. Pegasus Touch
There is no arguing the Pegasus Touch is a huge success, it drops a little on this list because of the initial asking price. The developers needed $100,000 to get started and generated nearly $820,000. While they definitely had no problem utilizing Kickstarter to get the capital they needed, they didn’t generate the excess as some of the other well-known success stories.
The Pegasus Touch is a 3D printer which relies on a touch screen LCD. This unique characteristic makes the software/electronics side much easier for new 3D printer users to get used to. Plus, the controlling lasers are extremely fast which allows the resin to cure more quickly. Without a dip in quality, the Pegasus Touch can print 10 times as fast as many popular FDM printers and 3-5 times as fast as other SLA printers.
8. Robo 3D Printer
The Robo 3D Printer hit the crowdfunding scene asking for $49,000 and was able to raise nearly $650,000. While it is not as small as other popular in-home solutions, it offers a variety of unique characteristics. One of the factors driving its popularity is that it is an open source solution. It is billed as combining the best hardware with the best ideas from the open source community. In fact, it can actually print its own replacement parts.
It has become popular with architects, designers, hobbyists, small business owners, and of course students. This is because its open source roots nearly guarantee a long lifespan even as new technologies emerge.
9. Peachy Printer
The Peachy Printer needed $50,000 to get started and raised more than $650,000 through Kickstarter. This piece of technology was designed as the ideal low-cost solution. 3D printing still isn’t considered accessible to the masses because it can be confusing and complicated to learn. Peach Printer stripped all of this away by making it more like a scanner. Similar to Robo 3D Printer, it is also an open source solution and uses Freedom Respecting software and hardware. The developers also promised they will never close their source code off from the public.
The Peachy Printer is a photolithographic printer which means it uses beams of light to cure light sensitive resin into hard objects. Lasers are then used to create the shape of the object while simultaneously dripping resin on the Z axes to determine the height of an object.
The final success story on this list is the B9Creator. Originally asking for $50,000 in their campaign, the developers were able to raise more than $513,000. It stands out by utilizing anodized aluminum parts, stainless steel hardware, and a barrage of other unique features. By leveraging the Fused Deposition Modeling concept, this 3D printer can create a layer of thickness of 100 microns or less.
At 12-20mm per hour, this is an extremely fast 3D printer for its size and price point. Plus, the resin used to extremely inexpensive. The kit is very straightforward and easy to assemble. As with most 3D printers the most challenging part is constructing the acrylic vat with its special coating.
Note - This was the first time at bat for the B9Creator. Their second attempt raised another $290,000!
Overall, 3D printer creators, developers, and manufacturers have thrived on crowdsourcing. Ironically, crowdsourcing has not only made their development financially feasible but has also had a significant impact on the growing popularity of 3D printers in the consumer marketplace.