Kickstarter Drama: Supporters of NexD1 3D Printer Withdrawing Pledges After Company Evasiveness, Allegations of Copyright Infringement

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01debrandedLast month, German startup Next Dynamics introduced an exciting-sounding new printer: the NexD1, a multi-color, multi-material 3D printer capable of printing electronics with a conductive resin. The Kickstarter campaign has been wildly successful – as of right now, it’s raised more than twice its original goal of €200,000. However, there’s always some risk involved in even the most successful and promising-sounding crowdfunding campaigns, and some backers of the NexD1 are becoming very concerned that this one may be too good to be true.

The issues began in early January, when a backer by the name of KRS contacted the Next Dynamics office to ask if he could visit the lab for a demonstration.

“I’ll be in Berlin next week…is there any chance I could visit your lab?” he asked on January 6. “I opted for the beta version and I need to know how far I can count on the printer for a project I’m planning to do starting in may and it would also be good to see the machine and the actual progress.”

logo-2Next Dynamics agreed, but when KRS reported back, he reported that he was never given the demonstration he was promised, despite his extending his stay in Berlin for that express purpose. He stopped by Fab Lab Berlin, the current working space for the Next Dynamics team, was given a tour of the space, and was able to meet the team. He was told that they were in the process of moving to a bigger space and thus couldn’t give him a demo at the moment, and was shown parts of the internal frame of the printer, as well as several print samples, which he described as “promising.”

However, he was still concerned about the lack of an actual demonstration until, after several delays, he was finally invited to the home office of one of the creators. What he got wasn’t quite a demonstration of a print, though.

“I saw the print head move from side to side as in the video, but as it was in the very beginning i was unable to see the print happening. I then left and didn’t see the print happening not any other as I had hoped to see today. So it’s basically the same thing, that we knew from the videos from before and even less, as I couldn’t see any printing actually occur.

I am not declaring this is vaporware but I have to admit that neither can I say the opposite. So this is a disappointment to me…I came to Berlin, being promised and looking forward for a demo of a revolutionary 3D printer and now i am obliged to report that I wasn’t shown it printing anything…”

This added to the concerns already expressed by backers that the Kickstarter videos didn’t clearly show the printer actually printing anything. In response, the Next Dynamics team posted a few updates showing printed parts as well as the printer supposedly in action; however, the plot thickened when a Shapeways user named Bathsheba Grossman came forward to say that an image Next Dynamics had presented as one of their prints looked suspiciously like a design she was selling on Shapeways. Not only would this have been a blatant copyright violation, but Grossman stated that she had never released the STL file. When she checked her account, she saw that the item had been shipped on January 6, leading her to believe that the print shown by Next Dynamics may have been ordered from Shapeways.

She also pointed out another print, shown in a video update on Kickstarter, that closely resembled another item for sale on Shapeways. The video update, which purported to show the NexD1 printing the familiar-looking Mosaic Egg, was closely examined by several backers who stated that the print job itself appeared to have been faked.

“I was almost thinking that the video they posted could have been a finished product, just with the head moving around and slowly revealing the object that was already there,” said a user named Eric.

Another user named Francesco added, “…the video is clearly fake. The object is behind whatever is that is moving.”

Other backers scrutinized the videos closer, stating that the egg in particular looked like it had been printed on a powder-based printer, rather than with a resin printer like the NexD1, and that there were inconsistencies between the machines shown in different videos and pictures. As backers demanded answers, the Next Dynamics team responded as well as they could:

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They were still evasive about exactly where they got the prints brought up by Grossman, however, and as backers have continued to ask for clarification, the team has gotten quieter. To further cloud the matter, an enthusiastic backer named Alexander Straub was later discovered to be an investor and director at Next Dynamics. Meanwhile, another member of the team appeared to quietly leave the project a few days ago.

All of it has added up to some rightfully suspicious backers, many of whom are withdrawing their pledges with only a few days left in the campaign. If you’d like to wade through the whole story – and you may want to, if you’re one of the campaign’s backers – you can read through the more than 900 comments posted on the subject. You can also read an in-depth account here.

Hope for more answers was given today with the promise of a live-streaming print job at 2 PM EST, but it appears to have been cancelled at the last minute without explanation. A window stating “Stay tuned. Next Dynamics is starting soon,” appeared at the end of the countdown clock that had been on the Kickstarter page all day, but after a few minutes, the window disappeared once the site was refreshed or a new browser window was opened. Meanwhile, pledge amounts have continued to drop. It remains to be seen what kind of answers will be forthcoming from the Next Dynamics team, or whether the campaign will be canceled, so stay tuned, even if you haven’t pledged anything – it’s not often you see this kind of drama coming from a crowdfunding campaign. Discuss in the Next Dynamics forum at 3DPB.com.

(Editor’s note: as of the time of publication, the campaign has €469,940 pledged by 287 backers, and 920 comments. For reference.)

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