One thing is for sure in the world of business: nothing is ever for sure. No matter how hard you work, there are no guarantees for success—and especially not in the highly competitive industry into which 3D printing has evolved. When a company falls on challenging times, however, it says a lot when their users rally around them, calling in all the troops for support.
This is the case right now for OctoPrint, who has apparently lost their sponsor, BQ, and is taking to Patreon for support in what is a bit of an emergency funding situation or we may lose this startup to current lack of capital. According to word on the street—or, today that would be on Reddit—those who are fans of the ‘snappy web interface’ for their 3D printers put the word out leading us to a social media announcement from founder Gina Häußge. There is undeniable concern for the future of what is currently quite a popular source of 3D printing host software.
BQ, headquartered in Spain, has pulled support for officially unknown reasons, and Häußge has taken to her Google+ page to explain her position. It would seem, according to comments from others there, however, that BQ is under pressure to cut back on the budget for philanthropy and education—and Häußge is not the first to feel the bite.
One user on Reddit, rhino_driver, commented:
“I’m unrelated to Octoprint (other than a user) but I’d like to put my two cents in to ask people to contribute. It is not easy to keep software like this in good working order. Considering the time, expense, and care we put into this hobby (or profession for some) and in to our machines, a small monthly contribution can have a small impact on our wallet but a big influence on the project.”
“Consider how much you would pay for this software if it was commercial and then contribute half. It’s a win win.”
Another, jstevewhite, summed his thoughts up quite succinctly:
“I’m in. I use Octoprint all the time. I can spare a couple bucks a month for an excellent product that’s so useful.”
When we wrote about OctoPrint last summer, the team certainly seemed full of momentum and promise (and then, sponsorship), offering a unique set of solutions for ease in 3D printing, and already summoning quite a following of users for their web interface which allows one to control their printer wirelessly and to enjoy a bevy of remote features.
The convenient interface runs from nearly anywhere, even from a Raspberry Pi to your gaming rig, according to Häußge, and is operated with free, open-source software. It has also, thanks to Häußge, been made extendable with a powerful plug-in system, and is compatible with other printers and firmware. While the funding of BQ has allowed for this to happen economically, founder Gina Häußge has obviously been behind the enormous amount of sweat equity put into OctoPrint.
“Most of you probably know that OctoPrint’s development has been heavily sponsored by BQ since August 2014, mostly by employing me (Gina Häußge) full time for working on it. If you’ve been following OctoPrint since before that, you’ve seen what enormous change in pace that has allowed me to achieve and what it has made possible. To give just one example, the plugin system was a behemoth to implement and I wouldn’t have been able to make it this powerful without being able to concentrate on it exclusively,” writes Häußge.
Without the financial support of a sponsor, it’s obvious that Häußge may have to go back to a day job—and that leaves OctoPrint very much up in the air. She is the first to point out that all the progress made would have been very difficult to pull off in her free time.
”So far, the bill for this heavy involvement on my part has been paid by BQ. And if you look into the commit history, it becomes pretty evident how heavy that involvement really is,” said Häußge. “Sadly, due to reasons that are beyond my control, BQ’s patronage is not possible much longer. I’m indescribably grateful they’ve sponsored my work for as long as they did, and I fully understand the reason why that’s simply not possible any more now.”
With all of these concerns in mind, she is creating a Patreon page for the company so that her supporters can contribute, almost in an indirect way of hiring her. If you choose to back her there, you can choose a nominal amount to pledge to the Octoprint cause on a monthly basis and hopefully with enough like minds doing the same, Häußge will be able to continue.
“My contract with BQ ends in a couple of weeks. I should hopefully still be able to continue working on OctoPrint for some time after this, to see if it becomes financially viable to commit to do this long term through community funding,” states Häußge, who had a career as a software architect previous to taking on the Octoprint gig full-time.
The founder states that no matter what, OctoPrint will remain open source and ‘always there to use and improve on.’ See more on her Patreon page and find out details for backing OctoPrint. Is this an interface you use or have been thinking about? Will you back OctoPrint on Patreon? Discuss in the OctoPrint 3D Printer Interface Company Loses BQ Sponsorship forum over at 3DPB.com.