I suppose, if you must credit Cobblebot with something, it is their sheer fearlessness in the face of a reputation in the 3D printing community that really couldn’t get any worse. If you haven’t heard the storied history of Cobblebot, it begins like a lot of 3D printer crowdfunding campaigns: an optimistic product, a far-too-low-to-be-feasible price and a pack of promises that would never be delivered. However unlike Kickstarter campaigns gone wrong like Pirate3D’s Buccaneer, the Peachy Printer or the iBox Nano, the Cobblebot was a mess almost from day one, and while the company’s first attempt at a 3D printer managed to actually get funded, it very quickly descended into chaos.
It all started with the Cobblebot 3D Printer campaign launched on Kickstarter in July 2014. The company was seeking $100,000 in funding for a 3D printer that claimed to feature a 15″ x 15″ x 15″ build envelope, a hot end capable of reaching temperatures in excess of 400°C, a large LCD screen and a heated bed. As nice as the 3D printer sounded, its shockingly low price of $299 was justifiably met with skepticism. The reality was, that the 3D printer being promised could simply not be made for even twice the cost of what the Cobblebot was selling for. So how was the company’s owner, a Texas-based lawyer named Jeremiah Clifft, able to offer his 3D printer at such an affordable price? He claimed that he was really good at negotiating deals. No, really, this is actually written on the campaign description:
“With your help we can bring this work horse [sic] of a printer to everyone at the market shaking price of $299. To put that into perspective, our prototypes of Cobblebot cost $1,000+ to build and printers currently on the market with similar build area (+/- 3″ all axes) have an average price tag of $3,716.57. How are we able to get the cost this low? One of our team members is a business attorney with extensive connections in the manufacturing world and has negotiated rock bottom prices from all of our suppliers.”
The skepticism was so thick that dozens of people actually backed the project for $1 in order to get access to updates and to ask some tough questions of the company — a move that led to Clifft cancelling all of the $1 backers to avoid having to deal with their comments and inquiries. To make matters worse, once printer kits started being shipped to backers, months late, they didn’t even include assembly instructions. As more and more people started to complain on social media and 3D printing internet communities, Clifft began threatening lawsuits. He even reportedly went so far as to hold back shipping Cobblebot kits to people who were complaining publicly about his company, and threatened to sue someone who posted a video of a Cobblebot that showed a half completed, nonfunctional 3D printer.
And this was only one of several crowdfunding campaigns that would be launched over the next year. A second campaign for the same Cobblebot 3D Printer was launched on Indiegogo with flexible funding, so Clifft would be able to keep whatever funds were raised and not be required to meet a specified goal. Then in 2015 he launched a Kickstarter for a new 3D printer, the Cobblebot Vanguard, and at an even more ridiculous price point of $199 for a slightly smaller 3D printer. While the Vanguard managed to crawl over its $100,000 funding goal it was plagued by the same complaints from backers, including poor assembly instructions (hey, at least they got them this time around I guess) and parts that were inferior to those promised.
Things had been pretty quiet from team Cobblebot for the last year or so and the CobbbleFlop forum, opened specifically to complain about the company, started to grow silent. That is until backers of the original Cobblebot 3D printers received an email notification of an update to the original campaign:
“Before any of our press releases went out and spread the word, we wanted to make sure all of our great backers from both of our previous successful Kickstarter campaigns got the news first and had a chance to secure those early bird spots on our new 3D printer campaign!
We just launched our newest Kickstarter campaign for our first professional grade, assembled, Wi-Fi enabled, tablet controlled desktop 3D printer. You can even add a laser cutter to it!
For those interested, you can find the campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/workstation/cobblebot-pro-xs-desktop-3d-printer2
Thank you all for all of the support and encouragement that you have provided us! We wouldn’t be where we are now without all of you.”
Curiously the company had changed its name from Cobblebot LLC to Cobblebot Inc. There is, I suppose, more than one reason a company could make such an innocuous change to their company name. But an immediate benefit would be that any new potential backers would have no idea of the history of the Cobblebot. The new name meant that their new campaign for the Cobblebot Pro XS 3D Printer couldn’t be linked to their two previous campaigns. That means that all of the negative comments and dissatisfied customers loudly complaining in the comment sections would be much harder to find. Now, I’m not saying that is why Clifft chose to change the name of his company, but that was most certainly a result of his doing so.
It didn’t take long for the CobbleFlop community to take action, filling up the previous campaign comment sections with new negative comments and sending Kickstarter messages about the name change. Only a few days after being launched the Cobblebot Pro XS 3D Printer campaign was closed, and there has so far been no new update from Clifft on the future of the project or the reasons for it being cancelled. Not that we should expect any sort of an update. But my question is, what’s next? Will Clifft take the Cobblebot to Indiegogo in search of new backers? Or will he wait another year and launch a new project, despite many backers of his very first campaign in 2014 still waiting for their reward? We’ll just have to wait and see I suppose. Let’s discuss the topic further over in the Cobblebot Pro XS 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.