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Editorial: Tiko 3D Printer Burnt Up $2.7M but Funders Should Have Known Better

Now that it has officially failed – as it was clear from the very beginning it was going to – everyone is talking about the Tiko 3D printer Kickstarter project. Tiko is the latest of a few Kickstarter projects based on 3D printers that promise too much for too little.

What is peculiar is the how the media – not just the generalist media but also specialized 3D printing and technology websites – are treating this story which, it seems to me, is no story at all. The truth is that many of these media websites feel a certain “guilt” for presenting the Tiko project as realistic and thus contributing towards convincing many of the funders to invest in the project.

There are tons of 3D printing related crowd-funding projects that have become very successful ventures

Formlabs started on Kickstarter and is one of the most successful companies in 3D printing today.

The funders themselves should have known better – that’s what happens when something is too good to be true. What I don’t understand is how the media – especially generalist technology websites – after incensing Kickstarter projects, now make it look as if all 3D printing related Kickstarter projects have become high profile fails. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There are tons of projects that have become very successful ventures. Want some examples? Formlabs is now a multinational company and a leader in the low cost SLA market. M3D raised millions and delivered a real product. FABtotum was acquired by a large group and is continuing to expand its multifunctional offer. There are many DLP 3D printers that barely made their funding goal and delivered.

There are many DLP 3D printers that barely made their funding goal and delivered

In fact I can’t think of that many high profile fails. Sure, Pirate3D and Tiko lost a lot of money but you cannot have a great product if you slash the price. Most Kickstarter epic fails are not 3D printing related. The “Coolest Cooler” one of the biggest – if not the biggest – Kickstarter failure in history went down as a 3D printing-related failure because it had some 3D printed parts, but it really had very little to do with 3D printing. It did have everything to do with the fact that the people behind it promised too much for too little. That is obvious in any industry. For the rest, sure there have been some failures and some successes, as is to be expected when you put your money on a product when its development has not even begun.

The NexD1 was a bad call and we knew it, but we wanted to believe.

Just to be clear, we have never covered the Tiko 3D printer crowd-funding campaign on 3D Printing Media Network. We try to be extremely selective on the crowd-funded projects we cover. We are not perfect and have made some bad calls. In fact we have made one and we take this opportunity to point it out: the NexD1 – a low-cost multi-material electronics 3D printer – was clearly unfeasible and has now been suspended by KS. We should have known, because we have seen first hand how many challenges a real manufacturer of electronics 3D printers such as Nano Dimension has to face in its R&D activities. However the idea was so captivating that we wanted to believe.

When you invest in crowd-funding you are effectively paying for a startup’s R&D. It does not get much riskier than that.

Recently we have covered the ONO smartphone 3D printer – which some believe is going to be the next high profile 3D printer Kickstarter failure – however what convinced us to do so is that, upon careful consideration – ONO is not really promising anything that far out. They simply engineered the mechanics for a photopolymerization tray – leveraging smartphones to provide the expensive digital light source. They did have to conduct some R&D to make it work, but $100-200 seems like a fair price for motors, screws and a smartphone app. The only real question is whether the ONO system will actually be reliable, but that is an issue for any low cost 3D printer. When you invest in crowd-funding you are effectively paying for a startup’s R&D. It does not get much riskier than that.

About Davide Sher

Over the last decade Davide has built up extensive experience as both a technology journalist and communications consultant. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he received his undergraduate degree from SUNY Stony Brook. He is a senior analyst for US-based firm SmarTech Publishing focusing on the additive manufacturing industry. He founded London-based 3D Printing Business Media Ltd. which specialises in media and communications services for the 3DP and AM industry, through which he runs 3D Printing Business Directory, the largest global directory of companies related to 3DP, as well as two editorial websites, 3D Printing Media Network and Il Replicatore.

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