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.
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
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
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.
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.