The world of 3D printing is one full of extremely positive energy for the most part, offering so much benefit to the world in nearly every sector. We have the pleasure of following many new dynamic companies–and especially those who are getting a successful start on Kickstarter. We often also report on those who go on to create entire line-ups of products after multiple crowdfunding campaigns as well as receiving substantial funds from investors in many cases.
Supporters of campaigns like those on Kickstarter or Indiegogo are showing great faith in giving their money to startups that sometimes may not even have a functional prototype completed. Funds are transferred with trust–and when that is broken, obviously it begins to chip away at what has become an incredible new avenue for beginning companies to receive monetary support where otherwise they might have none.
Where, you might wonder, is this train of thought leading? We go back to a new 3D printer manufacturer we wrote about over a year ago, Griffin 3D, which is now showing itself to be over a year late on following through with rewards and supporters, quite rightly so, are becoming somewhat alarmed–as well as disappointed.
At the time of launching their Kickstarter campaign to raise $30K, this startup out of St. Louis, Missouri was attempting to pull off what sounded like a comprehensive and very dynamic launch–if not perhaps a bit overly ambitious in hindsight with a set of three different delta 3D printers being featured in the form of the Griffin Pro Series. This series, meant to target the entire market ascended in capabilities an size, comprised the following:
- Griffin Mini
- Griffin Pro
- Griffin Pro XL
It’s pretty rare to see a situation like the one currently going on, with Kickstarter deliverables being well over a year late and now, no communication. What started as quiet rumblings amongst the community of those who pledged their hard-earned money of up to $1K has now turned into full-fledged concern and speculation. Pre-orders were taken on the Griffin 3D website as well, and they have yet to be fulfilled.
As seen in their company’s general discussion forum as well as the Kickstarter comments page, those who thought they were true customers of Griffin 3D are now not only wondering if they have been parted with their money forever, and with nothing in return, as well as speculating on buy-outs, whether the company has just shut down altogether, and even if perhaps something has happened to founder Scott Rocca.
Those who pledged and gave their money report attempting multiple ways at making contact with the company, only to hear…crickets. Several supporters are worried that they have simply disappeared or ‘gone dark.’ Earlier in the year, the company was still responding, although a bit sketchy with details, to people who were asking about ordering 3D printers. In January, regarding their products, one response from the company was brief:
“No printers have shipped yet, we are still having some issues related to the electronics suppliers.”
Upon more questions from consumers, Griffin 3D posted a much more detailed response regarding issues with manufacturing, tweaking the design, attending events, and plans to give more information. Explanations in late January were still fairly optimistic as they seemed to continue trying to toe the line.
“Yes, the design was altered, which was good actually, we just weren’t expecting a manufacturer change and dimension change, that was a stumbling block,” stated sheepdog on their forum, answering for the company. “A good one, but a stumbling block as the new ones have some serious issues fixed. Unfortunately, we only received half of what we ordered so far and need to resupply almost as soon as we get what remains on the order.”
“We also have yet to receive the power boards from another supplier. The company handling our laser cutter parts has also been a thorn in our side. We literally had to call them and say ‘take our money!’ because they were too lazy to send the invoice to our financier.”
While those waiting for their 3D printers continued…waiting, several other explanations were offered, as in February:
“We were told there was a 3 week wait on some circuit boards we ordered, but we may have a lead that will shorten it to a week. Either way, we intend on having some printers ready to go as soon as the parts arrive, and keep going from there. I’ll be in the shop later this week doing just that.”
“I hate trying to give exact dates though, because our suppliers keep screwing us. As mentioned, we still have yet to receive all of our controllers and lcd’s [sic] and the supplier for our laser cutter is still giving us trouble and has not shipped our parts.”
“We are trying guys, we really are.”
Some of those still waiting on their 3D printers even offered to come by the shop and pick them up if that would help. That offer was met rather sardonically from the company with the comment, “Haha, I’m sure more than a few would.”
As winter rolled into spring of this year, those who had given their money to the Griffin 3D Kickstarter began to express their concerns in more detailed fashions, explaining that while they weren’t trying to be overly pushy or aggressive, they didn’t feel like questions were being answered effectively.
In March, Scott answered himself that things were moving along:
“Currently, we are looking at the beginning on April as our ship date for kits and fully assembled due to the lead time on the FSR boards. We want to get everything out to people as soon as we can and we appreciate the patience everyone has had with us.”
April came and went with nothing, and those who had ordered 3D printers asked for updates only to be met with anger.
“As for lack of updates… Would you prefer a daily update saying ‘its still on the boat’ day after day or would you rather we actually spend time getting them out the door and fighting ulcers?”
Yes, folks, at this point, things seem to be going rapidly downhill, while in May, they did announce that one 3D printer had been delivered to a supporter for testing.
“Before anyone screams, yes, this person got one out of order, but he was still one of the first orders, he ordered multiple printers, and it was done to give us last minute feedback before the others shipped,” stated the company.
Some discussions did follow throughout May, with excuses peppered in about how difficult it is starting a new company–to match the tirades launched against dealing with the Chinese. Spring settled into late summer, with few updates. On July 16th, an update reported that they were busy ‘assembling,’ and one 3D printer had gone out.
July rolled into August as those chatting on the company’s forum were left to their own devices, glum and becoming increasingly disappointed and worried.
“It’s depressingly quiet and worrisome. I don’t think anyone would care about another delay but not hearing any updates about shipping is frustrating. I really hope Scott’s healthy and OK,” wrote one supporter.
Speculations abound from worrying that one of the founders might be in the hospital, to wondering if they are both in jail, to thinking that they may just be tied up dealing with murmurings of lawsuits. The bottom line is no one can figure out what’s going on, but not for any lack of trying.
No one has heard anything regarding updates on their 3D printers since August 2nd. While many continue to hold strong and even support the company, others clearly want their money back and are more than disgruntled.
“I hope Scott and his partner know we’re all holding on because we believe in their product and believe in what they know about 3D printing,” said another forum user recently. “I know they’ve put a lot of work into building Griffin. It’s a bummer to have to go onto this forum and vent frustrations and start talking about refunds and other printers, but what are we supposed to do? I’m sure most of us would wait longer if we had a one sentence update to read.”
At this point, everyone is at a loss as to how to get in touch with Griffin 3D. While over a month has passed, we too have requested their phone number and also have e-mailed waiting to see if an explanation or further update crops up. Obviously, every project cannot go exactly according to plan, and some do fail overall. Without any further communication, however, the Kickstarter supporters for the Griffin 3D campaign, as well as those who pre-ordered, are completely left in the dark.
While Kickstarter does expect those in charge of campaigns to follow through, the crowdfunding platform itself does not issue any refunds. “On Kickstarter, people ultimately decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it,” states the team in their accountability information.
What would you do in this case? Discuss in the Griffin3D Goes Dark on Kickstarter Fulfillments forum thread over at 3DPB.com.