The 3D printing marketplace is increasingly crowded, and especially as it relates to the world of crowdfunding. Formlabs, Buccaneer and others have successfully crowdfunded for 3D printers, but not all 3D printers are created equal.
We first reported on the Pegasus Touch earlier this month as the innovative 3D printer was busy easily trumping a $100,00 goal. The interesting thing about this specific device is that it promises what they say will be an industry-leading combination of price point and functionality.
Full Spectrum Laser’s 3D printer is now in the final hours of a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and the raise is about to end on a serious high note.
We sat down to interview the Pegasus Touch team about their raise, their product and the strategies they employed to raise huge funds on Kickstarter.
Crowdfund Insider: Explain some of the features that differentiate the Pegasus Touch from competing hardware. What benefits does the Pegasus Touch provide over similar products like MakerBot’s line of 3D printers?
Pegasus Touch is a Laser 3D printer—it uses a near-UV laser to harden a liquid resin into plastic. Layers are built in a combined vector and raster mode: a contour is drawn and then the infill is scanned. The laser spot size is 250 micrometers in diameter so it can print very fine details not possible with FDM machines. The other main advantage is speed. FDM printers like Makerbot force melted plastic through a small nozzle—like a hot glue gun—and move anywhere from 30-300mm/s. The Pegasus Touch uses a laser with beam-steering mirrors to achieve a drawing speed of 3000mm/s, which is 10-100x faster. Because of the small spot size and the low mechanical stresses placed on parts during printing, we’re also able to create very intricate and delicate structures that Makerbots aren’t capable of printing (such as miniature rooks and small Eiffel towers.
Pegasus Touch can also print at a resolution 4x finer than Makerbot: 25micron vs. 100micron. On the 100micron setting, we’re also 2-5x faster than other laser- or projector-based machines.
The printer has a full color 4.3in LCD touchscreen and is controlled by a full on-board Linux computer. This computer allows us to process print jobs on the machine itself, meaning that file sizes are much more manageable for transfer over USB. The preferred connection method is Ethernet, which allows the printer to download jobs extremely quickly and also connect to the internet. Wifi is added with a USB wifi device.
The most unique feature of the Pegasus Touch is the built-in “App Store” that we are developing. Users will be able to buy, sell, and share models in a marketplace with built-in design protection. The printer will connect to our cloud infrastructure so that users can connect to their profile and carry out the full model selection and printing process on their machine.
What is your take on crowdfunding and Kickstarter as a platform? How has the experience with Kickstarter been for FSL thus far?
Crowdfunding is opening up consumer electronics and other traditionally difficult markets to smaller companies and individuals. We’ve sold lasers to several dozen companies, individuals, and non-profits after their successful crowdfunding campaigns. It’s a really powerful model—a kind of group patronage for artists in the digital age.
Our experiences with Kickstarter have been very positive. The 5th Generation Hobby Laser was the first project we launched, and we raised 259% ($259k) of our goal over the course of a 30 day campaign. We were a little late delivering our pledges, but we gained many valuable new contract manufacturers and now have our own assembly line. Pegasus Touch has been even more successful (516k, 516% as of this writing). We launched on New Year’s Eve—which is probably one of the worst days of the Year to launch a Kickstarter—but we still raised 120% of our goal in the first 24 hours.
Would the Pegasus Touch exist without crowdfunding? Was this campaign simply a means of mitigating risk or was it instrumental to the launch of the product?
The Pegasus Touch might have existed without crowdfunding. We started tinkering with DLP projectors right as we launched the 5th Gen on Kickstarter, but those concepts got shelved when we had to set up the assembly line and then we moved to a new office, so we were busy for a while. When we came back to 3D printing, we did a lot of research and decided that using a laser would allow us to achieve greater performance at a lower cost. That was almost a year ago. While most of our development efforts have been focused on laser stereolithography, there are other laser-based 3D printing technologies that we’re experimenting with—if Pegasus Touch had failed on Kickstarter, we would have taken that as a clear signal to rearrange priorities. And we think that the response so far is a clear indicator that there is demand for a printer that exceeds the capabilities of a Makerbot.
What strategies have you employed in the run-up to & execution of your crowdfunding campaign? What has helped to garner interest from the crowd? Any tips for crowdfunders out there?
Our primary strategy has always been to make great products. There are many aspects to a successful Kickstarter campaign, but the most important one is to create a product that people want for themselves or believe should exist. We did a great deal of research into other companies’ past kickstarter campaigns. 3D printers are very popular, but there are questions that everyone wants to know right off the bat. Looking beyond 3D printers to hardware products in general, the biggest concern of backers is that you can deliver and on-time. We are fortunate to have been in business for several years and also to have run a successful kickstarter in the past, which lets potential backers know that we’ll be able to deliver the Pegasus Touch. Other strategies that have been useful have been attending conferences and meetups relating to 3D printing. A picture is worth many words, but this is a product that users want to see and feel—San Diego Mini Maker Faire was our first public unveiling and CES and 3D Printer World Expo are both large events that occurred during our campaign. CES in particular was helpful for press exposure.
A successful crowdfunding campaign is the ultimate test of product-market fit, so once you have your great idea, do the following:
- Prepare. This means carrying out extensive testing if you plan to launch a finished product, or making the goal of your campaign to raise money for further development. For hardware products, do NOT add un-tested features as stretch goals.
- Reach out. Find out who your potential users are and try to get some feedback on your prototypes. If you’re early in the development process, find forums and thought leaders in your niche and see what they wish current products would do. Read some great books on product development to understand that what a user says they want and what they actually need might not be the same thing.
- Share. Bloggers and reporters are your friends. Find the people who report on your niche and send them timely information.
- Launch. Once you’re live, reach out to as many people as possible and make sure to answer questions and post updates regularly. You can edit your campaign page, so if you are getting repeat questions make edits so potential backers can get that information quickly and easily.
- Deliver. You should spend a lot of time on planning and make realistic estimates of what it will take to deliver at 100% funding, and also contingency plans if you get a huge amount of over-funding. Logistics (packing, shipping, etc) is what really tends to sting a lot of projects so make sure you know how long it takes to assemble your product for shipping and what those costs will be, both in time and money.
Best of luck to all who are developing a product and planning on a crowdfunding campaign!
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