3dbaz- Over the years I’ve seen quite a few crowdfunding campaigns launch with a relatively low funding goal and a huge discount on the 3D printer, and they rarely end well. Unless the company already has outside funding and their crowdfunding efforts are for promotional purposes, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of reason to take such a big risk, especially when the 3D printing community has already been burned a few times by similar campaigns. Certainly the promise of a low-cost 3D printer, being billed at 50% off of retail, is going to attract a lot of attention, but the promises that the campaign is making need to seem somewhat plausible.
A new European startup called PYI (short for “print your imagination”) has launched their first 3D printer on crowdfunding website Indiegogo, and on paper everything looks pretty great. The printer is named NEPTUNE, and it has a list of features and specs that sound instantly attractive. It comes with an aluminum frame, auto-leveling bed, a heated bed upgrade, a dual extruder upgrade and a very respectable 300 x 300 x 300 mm (11.8 x 11.8 x 11.8 inch) printing envelope. NEPTUNE includes four swappable nozzles, including a stock 0.4mm nozzle as well as 0.2mm, 0.6mm, 0.8mm nozzles. It offers a layer resolution as fine as 50 microns with a printing speed of 150 mm/s.
NEPTUNE also includes a custom version of Cura 3D printing software that includes material presets for dozens of filament options. Provided the heated bed upgrade is purchased, NEPTUNE’s 300°C all metal hotend should be able to print with virtually any filament on the market, including PLA, ABS, PET, HIPS, Flex PP, Ninjaflex, Laywood, Laybrick, Nylon, bambooFill, bronzeFill, ASA, T-Glase, carbon-fiber enhanced filaments and polycarbonates. Those are some respectable stats for any 3D printer, and if they all are attainable, then the NEPTUNE will be quite the 3D printer.
Unfortunately, we’ve been here before, and as nice as NEPTUNE sounds, and frankly looks, there are red flags all over this campaign. Slovenia-based PYI is only asking for $50,000, which isn’t that big of a deal on its own until you find out that they will also be selling the NEPTUNE for half of the estimated $1399 retail price. Yes, early birds can purchase a base printer (no heated bed or dual extruder) for $699. The heated bed is available as an upgrade for an additional $99, while the dual extruder upgrade is available for an additional $179. And according to the campaign, PYI intends to use a whopping 65% of the funds raised to purchase the components, but they also left themselves 13% to assemble the printers. No, seriously, we’ve been here before.
It’s obvious that with such a low funding threshold and the rock bottom unit prices that PYI is angling for a large payday, hoping that they can offset their losses with a large volume of sales. While that may have been a good strategy four years ago, it’s almost unworkable at this point given the current state of the industry. There have been too many failed 3D printer crowdfunding campaigns, and even worse too many successfully funded 3D printer crowdfunding campaigns that never ended up delivering due to poor business management. I can’t even remember the last successful 3D printer crowdfunding campaign that blew past its funding goal by any significant margin.
As if the numbers not adding up weren’t enough of a red flag, the campaign is just poorly put together, The campaign video uses one of those digitized voices, so it sounds like Hal from 2001 A Space Odyssey trying to sell us a 3D printer. And watch the video closely for the rocket model being 3D printed, if I can see striation marks on a small YouTube video, then you’re not printing at the resolution that is being promised. Now, I’m almost certain that they are just printing at the lowest resolution to get the printer moving as fast as possible to look good on camera, but it still just screams non-functional prototype.