While many additive manufacturing operations may have appeared to be booming earlier in the spring, 2020 is turning out to be a bad year for DreamLab Industries. This is true for many individuals and businesses in the US, with tens of millions fighting unemployment and entrepreneurial challenges due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it sounds like DreamLab may have caused problems for themselves due to miscalculation in their abilities to produce.
The Traverse City, Michigan 3D printing company is now being investigated not only by the Better Business Bureau but also by the Michigan Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Complaints began flowing in as early as May, apparently, after DreamLab, run by CEO Brandon Williams, failed to come through with orders, and also may have delivered faulty products.
Joining a handful of other companies pivoting from their regular 3D printing activities to the digital fabrication of personal protection equipment and other COVID-19 related items—including ventilator parts and breathing equipment adapters—DreamLab halted normal production of 3D printed machine fixtures to begin 3D printing face masks in March.
Records have been subpoenaed from DreamLab amid allegations that they may have actually misrepresented themselves by telling customers they had certain approvals, offered false statements, and put forth false advertising. The Attorney General has also alleged that they failed to “provide goods to customers in a timely fashion.”
Even worse, Williams has admitted that the link on his website allowing customers to donate to healthcare workers was actually used to pay for more material to print masks. He has stated that those funds have since been returned to customers who thought they were making valid donations.
The FBI has already spoken with Williams, who has said recently that trying to “scale up too fast” is what led to the firm’s problems.
“We were just late on shipping products,” Williams said in a recent interview. “There’s no fraud at all. We struggled to keep up with demand and we couldn’t get the materials in time.”
Williams has also pointed out that because orders began coming in so quickly, there was no time to get properly organized or conduct the amount of research and development that might have been normally required in pre-COVID times. Some customers reported waiting months (instead of the promised seven to ten days) for their 3D printed masks, which then arrived and were unusable, with defects like splits down the middle.
The DreamLab CEO does admit that the first masks they sent out were lacking, but that the second batch was “light years ahead.” It would seem that any improvement in materials was too little too late, though, as DreamLab had to stop taking orders, and Williams is now left to produce smaller requests for masks on his own after laying off his team.
[Source / Images: mLIVE]
“I’m still driving the same car. Everybody’s laid off. We didn’t make a killing. We were really out there to try to do the right thing,” said Williams. “There was no ill intent whatsoever. Nobody’s driving a Lamborghini.”
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