It is never a good day when a well-liked company can’t keep their doors open, and even less so in a small and tight-knit industry like 3D printing. Unfortunately 3D printing is losing what use to be one of its more successful startup 3D printer companies today as Solidoodle founder Sam Cervantes announced that despite all of his best efforts he is going to be shutting his company down. Sadly, this doesn’t come as a huge surprise, as rumors have been swirling for months now due to late paychecks, unpaid refunds and unfulfilled orders. We all kind of saw the writing on the wall, particularly as ordering was disabled at the end of February, but it wasn’t confirmed until this week when the closure was made official.
Aside from what used to be a seventy-person operation closing, and those seventy people being out of jobs, the sad part is the fact that up until now Solidoodle was often considered a 3D printing success story. They may not have grabbed as many headlines as some of their fellow manufacturers, but Solidoodle made good, high-quality 3D printers, had a substantial and loyal community of users, and offered some great support for their printers. That allowed them to sell more than ten thousand 3D printers, and release five models of their printers over just a five-year period, sales numbers that a lot of companies would kill for.
So what went wrong? That’s never an easy answer to give, but it looks like it was a combination of a few poor business choices and some really bad luck. From the start, the company proudly assembled their printers at their Brooklyn warehouse, but as sales increased, scaling their operation became challenging. Cervantes made the choice to move their assembly operation to China, which brought with it several unanticipated problems. First, it is really hard to monitor assembly quality in a factory on the other side of the planet, and the company’s fifth gen 3D printer the Solidoodle Press was unfortunately plagued with quality issues. Add to that a very ill-timed port labor dispute in 2014 that delayed shipping for months and reduced their ability to properly inspect the new printers, and the company took a hit that they couldn’t bounce back from.
“We were able to raise some turnaround funding in July 2015, but, despite the support of our investors and the heroic efforts of our team, we were unable to revive sales and return to profitability. As a result, at the end of 2015 Solidoodle ran out of cash, stopped taking new orders, and laid off [its] employees. I’ve now exhausted nearly all of my personal savings in an attempt to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone involved,” Cervantes explained on the blog post announcing the closure.
While Solidoodle was able to ship most of their outstanding orders and settle most of their outstanding refunds, there were a few dozen exceptions. That means a handful of their customers are not going to get either a 3D printer or a refund for the 3D printer that they paid for. Thankfully, as a small and tight-knit community, the 3D printing community has stepped up to help these dissatisfied Solidoodle customers out. Steve Schell and New Matter have stepped up and offered each of those customers a free MOD-t 3D printer. There is a price differential, which isn’t ideal, but it is still a pretty remarkably generous offer. If you’re one of those customers who isn’t getting a refund from Solidoodle you just need to email New Matter about your printer by May 1, 2016.
“Customers have used [Solidoodle] 3D printers to unleash their creativity, teach children about technology, and even print prosthetic hands for amputees. Together, we played an important part in advancing 3D printing from a relatively unknown technology into a powerful force of creation. While the Solidoodle era is ending, the digital manufacturing revolution is only just beginning. I’m grateful to have taken this journey with all of you and I have great faith in the human spirit of creativity to continue using technology to build a smarter, happier, more sustainable society,” Cervantes concluded.
Over my years of writing about 3D printing I have written plenty of articles about Solidoodle, and when I needed to interact with the company they were always beyond helpful and happy to answer any questions that I had. Even during the more difficult periods when there were quality issues with their product, they never ran from the problem, but rather faced it head on and tried to fix it. I’m sad and disappointed that they were unable to correct the issues in time to save both the Solidoodle printer brand and the company itself. For those who still have a Solidoodle 3D printer, it looks like the the soliforum.com will continue to operate for the foreseeable future to address any technical or support issues. You can read Cervantes’ entire goodbye over on the Solidoodle blog. Were you surprised to hear about this? Discuss in the Solidoodle 3D Printer Manufacturer Shuts Down forum over at 3DPB.com.