Of all of the unspoken truths about 3D printing that the industry doesn’t often talk about is the reality that FDM 3D prints are rarely, if ever, perfect. Not only does the very nature of the 3D printing process produce striation or stepping along the surface of the model, but variances in temperature, moisture in the air or occasionally just bad luck often leads to bumps, ridges and all manner of imperfections – not to mention any scarring left over from supports or rafting used during the printing process. The surface finish of the final 3D printed object isn’t always important if it’s just a prototype, but if the goal is an end-use product then there is going to be a lot of post processing work to be done.
There are several methods for smoothing 3D prints, some of them better than others. Sanding combined with a brush-on material like Smooth On XTC is the most obvious method, but it is often very labor intensive. A trickier method that has served many a maker well over the years is using a soldering iron to smooth out imperfections or remove stubborn supports. The process actually works like a charm; unfortunately most soldering irons aren’t really made for this type of use, and the models that can be easily acquired are usually cheaply made and of poor quality. In the hands of an expert, the soldering iron is a great solution, but it has quite a steep learning curve.
Last year an enterprising new company launched a first of its kind product that was such an obvious ancillary 3D printing device that I’m still rather shocked no one else has copied their idea yet. The Retouch3D was a handheld electric tool that was created to replicate the effects of a soldering iron, but was designed specifically to be used for repairing and post processing 3D printed models. Not only was the Retouch3D made from higher quality parts, but it included five different easily exchanged heated elements that could be used for different tasks related to smoothing and finishing. The startup that would eventually come to be called Full Circle Labs launched a Kickstarter campaign in March of 2015 looking to raise $30,000. The campaign would eventually raise more than $56,000 and pre-sell more than 400 units in 16 different countries.
Now, as the Retouch3D finally enters its beta-testing phase, Full Circle Labs is looking to raise investment capital to follow the reward shipments with a full-scale retail launch of the product. In order to attract investors, Full Circle Labs has launched a new crowdfunding campaign, this time on Invesdor. They are looking to raise an additional $285,000 to build the necessary infrastructure to fully launch the retail version of the Retouch3D as well as enhance the product with new functionalities that would allow it to be used as both a soldering iron and a wax sculpting tool for dental technicians. The retail version would also include a new temperature range that will allow it to go higher and lower depending on the application – new features that were largely inspired by user feedback.
“We have received huge interest from distributors and resellers across the world looking to sell the Retouch3D, however, as we have developed the platform and engaged with customers we have identified higher volume and higher value markets beyond 3D printing. These opportunities have led us to revisit the crowdfunding community as we look to build the capital needed to support the product and business development required for expansion into these new markets,” said Full Circle Labs co-founder Phil Newman.
According to Full Circle Labs, the company believes that the results of their Kickstarter campaign have set them up for a greater expansion, with several key requirements already in place. The company already has several sales channels, global distributors and resellers in place to carry their product, and the Retouch3D will be perfectly positioned for success. Not only is it the only product of its kind on the market, but it will be entering the 13 billion dollar 3D printing industry with an extremely high quality product. They are offering equity of 19.85 to 23.64% and price per share of £0.52 with a minimum investment of 500 shares. The equity crowdfunding campaign will be open until until July 27 2016. You can check out the campaign here, and you can learn more about Full Circle Labs here.