It hasn’t really been a great year for 3D printers on Kickstarter. Considering how many of the 3D printing industry’s biggest success stories can be traced back to a successful crowdfunding campaign there hasn’t been a big Kickstarter windfall in a while. Perhaps for a lot of users the shine has rubbed off of backing 3D printers from the beginning, or maybe the massive selection of 3D printers already available on the market has eliminated the need. Personally, I think that it just comes down to a lack of innovation. The fact is, there really haven’t been a lot of huge leaps forward for desktop 3D printers lately, and I think that replacing innovation with slick marketing campaigns is starting to wear out its welcome.
So I’ll be watching the recently launched Readybox Kickstarter campaign pretty closely. Brett Potter, the 21-year-old college student who developed Readybox while working in the Rapid Prototyping lab at the University of Maryland, claims that it is the fastest commercial FDM printer in the world. And with printing speeds as fast as 400mm per second, even at a 0.05mm layer thickness, it certainly sounds like he has the tech to back that bold claim up. Potter says that the reason Readybox can reach those speeds is he’s eliminated as much weight as possible from the printing head and developed a high-pressure extruder that pushes filament out faster. At those speeds a print that takes 20 hours on an average 3D printer can be done in as little as 3 hours.
Readybox has plenty of other bells and whistles, like auto-calibration and nozzle cleaning, a heated Ultem build plate that requires no tape or bonding glue, and a generous 13 x 13 x 13 inch (330 x 330 x 330 mm) build volume. It can also print directly from a SD card so there is no need to hook it up to a computer, and a web interface option so it can easily be networked. Potter also packed a 32-bit ARM-based controller board inside of it, so it can handle just about any software that you throw at it. When I spoke to Potter a few weeks ago he told me that he intends the Readybox to primarily be used by businesses and organizations that often don’t have time to tinker or tweak with a fussy 3D printer.
That happens to be an especially smart choice given that all signs are pointing to small businesses and office environments as being one of the fastest growing groups buying up 3D printers. Small businesses have been clamoring for an affordable consumer quality 3D printer – and the accompanying contracts and leases – for years now, and they are settling for less reliable desktop 3D printers rather than be priced out of 3D printing all together. If Readybox delivers on the speed and reliability promised, then I can see it being a very popular option.
Take a look at the Kickstarter campaign video here:
Priced appropriately for the commercial segment of the market, Readybox carries a retail price of $3,499, although Potter is offering a great early bird Kickstarter price of $2,799. While that is certainly pricey for a standard desktop 3D printer, it’s a lot less than most commercial options available from larger 3D printer manufacturers. I do worry that the price is going to scare off some potential backers though. I’m also not sure that a lot of small businesses will be willing to back a new printer on Kickstarter rather than just buying an existing option, so Potter and his marketing officer Sam Forline are going to have to do a lot of work to find the right buyers.
So far the Readybox campaign is doing pretty well on Kickstarter. It was launched on Friday and ended up breezing past its — admittedly low — funding goal of $12,500 in a little over 24 hours. There are also some pretty nice stretch goals in place, although they start a little high. But if the campaign tops $100,000 every backer will receive two additional spools of filament. If it tops $200,000 they will swap out the thermistor for a thermocouple for improved temperature readings. And topping $300,000 will get all backers free engraving on their Readybox.
With the campaign running until November 4th, it’s reasonable to expect that they will easily bring in enough to get their warehouse and production line up and running. However I do worry a little about the timeline that they’ve committed to. Having a warehouse space staffed and in place by December seems a little bit quick, although not completely unrealistic. I also worry that the low funding goal may end up biting them in the end if they don’t reach a significantly higher, and more realistically necessary, funding target.
You can take a look at the Readybox: Fastest Consumer 3D Printer campaign over on Kickstarter, and as of now there are about 40 early bird Readyboxes left to be claimed. That’s a pretty huge $700 discount, so if you’re going to back this campaign, you should do it soon. You can read more about Readybox over on their website.
Let us know if you are backing this project in the Readybox forum thread on 3DPB.com.
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