There are a wealth of new companies, aspiring crowdsourcing projects and prosumers getting into the 3D printing game every year. Accordingly, we see quite a few of them fail to produce a profit and go bust. Here’s a series of pointers that can allow newcomers to adapt to this ever-changing market.
Kickstarters – Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
Many a Kickstarter campaign has fallen flat for promising overly ambitious returns. This is truer than ever when it comes to the Additive Manufacturing industry. Overly ambitious Kickstarter campaigns like Peachy Printer have collapsed due to awful business decisions. Similarly, CobbleBot’s entire run has been fraught with criticism. There was uproar at CobbleBot over their audacious promises.
It’s nice to be ambitious but if you can’t walk the walk, you will have angry investors on your back. Anyone can make promises. Both the examples above show that there’s a definite demand. What they also show is that suppliers were not prepared for their own success. To avoid this, have an exact cost breakdown ready. Unlike Peachy, make your company’s own bank account one that’s separate from your own. Unlike CobbleBot, let people know how the price structure works rather than promising the impossible.
Additionally, as consumers, people should stop supporting audacious, low-information Kickstarters. It gives the whole industry a bad reputation. It also steals the thunder from the genuinely great Kickstarters that did work out (Micro and FormLabs, for example).
Patents and Copyright
When researching which components you need, remember to check who owns them. Printing methods have been copyrighted and components often have patents on them. You don’t want to get your feet off the ground and then be slapped with a lawsuit. Lawsuits are becoming more and more common in industries like Additive Manufacturing. This will require a diligent legal mind to dissect exactly which terms and technologies are under fair use.
Remember, FDM is not under fair use. FFF can be used, though. The former is legal property of Stratasys Inc. In response, the RepRap movement created the term Fused Filament Fabrication to avoid such legal hassles. Similarly, it is important to keep track of which patents have elapsed their limit. At this point, there are quite some patents that are due to expire soon. There will be companies popping up just to take advantage of this.
Cost-cutting is Fine But Always Choose Your Parts Wisely
When assembling a 3D printer, there are a plethora of options to consider. Which technology are you going to back? That’s the main one. Even aside from that, assembling your own 3D printer can be quite harrowing to research. Perusing the pages of a good source like Openbuilds.org can go a long way. We’ve also done our own guide to building printers from scratch.
Other than that, here are just a few components that are worth the hefty sum for a higher quality output:
- MOSFETs – don’t go cheap. Cheap MOSFETs tend to overheat and will eventually destroy your boards.
- Rails & Bearings – Always buy linear rails & bearings
- Rods – Threaded rods are cheaper
- Leadscrews – Pricier but better (and of course this all depends on what build you want to make)
- Frame – Wood (easily manipulable), Aluminium (ready-made t-slots can be bought) or Steel (relatively cheap)
Those are just a few examples. Startups often make the mistake of either spending too much or too little. One can be a waste and the other invites issues with quality. Like with all these steps, what matters is research. Furthermore, any startup needs to know what to research. Hopefully, this article has served as a good starting point.