Hi <<First Name>>,
Last edition must have really struck a chord. The response was awesome as I heard from readers who made connections with startups for partnerships, were inspired by the 3rd world stories and some just wanted to share how much they enjoy it. Thanks for letting me know; it helps me know I'm writing something worthwhile. Just reply to this email or any future one if you have feedback, questions or thoughts.
I've got some great stories again for you this week as we take a look at the battling juggernauts, Stratasys and 3D Systems, some new developments on Kickstarter as well as some new developments on the software front. Also - if you're in San Francisco on Monday, come check out our 3D Printing Startups meetup featuring a great talk by MadeSolid's CEO (You can sign up here: 3dpstartups.eventbrite.com)
In this edition:
As always, I *love* getting feedback and hearing reader's thoughts, so please reply to this or tweet me (@Evanish) if you have any thoughts.
Makerbot vs. Cube: The state of the pace setters in the consumer printer war.
Kickstarter and 3DP: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Software Competition Heats Up: Microsoft & AutoDesk introduce new, simple design software.
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1) Makerbot vs. Cube: the state of the leaders in consumer 3DP
At the end of October, the quarterly reports for Stratasys (owners of Makerbot) and 3D Systems (maker of the Cube) were both released. I got the chance to take a look at the reports and see specifically how their consumer sales are really doing. While neither reveals exact numbers, we can estimate them by best case scenarios.
that Makerbot sales were $11.4 million for the 3rd quarter of 2013. With Makerbots costing a minimum
of $2,200, that means that a maximum of ~5,200 printers were sold. A more realistic total is probably around 4,000 units given they launched their scanner
($1,400) and also have MakerCare
($350-$500) and the dual extruder Replicator 2x
($2,800) to contribute to those numbers. As a whole, Stratasys grew their revenue 39% to $126 million.
Meanwhile, 3D Systems reported
that their consumer sales were $13.5 million for the 3rd quarter of 2013. With Cubes costing noticeably less at a minimum
of $1,300, this means that a maximum of ~10,000 printers were sold. More realistically, they probably sold around 7-8,000 printers given they have their Cube X
($2,500+) and printing services
to also contribute to revenue. As a whole, 3D Systems grew their revenue 49% to $90 million.
What this means:
From these numbers and some of the recent activities of Makerbot, it appears that 3D Systems is winning the consumer battle. I noticed that Makercare is now a confusing opt-out process with a higher price point which indicates a push to significantly improve revenue per customer for Makerbot. Also, in an effort to potentially move into a different part of the market, Makerbot made a major press push to sell into schools with their Academy partnership with DonorsChoose
. This partnership leverages crowd-funding the sales of Makerbots and currently has 371 active projects on there and 215 completed (with a MAJOR boost by Makerbot donating
to the early ones). It will be interesting to watch these juggernauts battle it out as the Cube pushes into Staples and other stores and Makerbot opens their stores.
You can see the Stratasys quarterly report here
and the 3D Systems quarterly report here
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2) Kickstarter and 3DP: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Kickstarter has been huge for the 3D Printing community having helped spring many companies into existence
. Unfortunately, as many of those companies have first time founders with little or no hardware experience, it's also had it's share of problems. Despite all this, we're seeing ongoing interesting developments in the space worth talking about:
The Good: Small scale manufacturing
The Pinhole Camera is an awesome "old meets new" technology as it's a 3D Printed camera that uses the old play of leveraging the length of time you expose your film for a unique effect. The project owner will be using his own 3D Printer (a Solidoodle 3) to produce cameras for over 270 backers. Learn more at http://pinholeprinted.com/
The Beastgrip is a smart phone camera mount that makes it easy to add lenses, filters and other accessories to enhance the ever-improving digital cameras on smart phones. The project owner will also be using his own set of 3D Printers (5 Afinia's) to produce Beastgrips for over 500 backers. Learn more at the Beastgrip Kickstarter Project.
What this means: The quality of consumer 3D Printer prints may not be good enough (or fast enough) for many kinds of consumer production, but these two Kickstarter projects show that in some cases they actually are good enough and create an opportunity for new businesses to start that could not afford the small scale production otherwise.
Also, if you notice the stories from the two project makers, both benefited greatly from the rapid prototyping and testing of their design thanks to their printers. Finally, it will be interesting to see if these are the start of a more robust photography-related niche for consumer 3D printers.
The Bad: Mega-Success Buccaneer deals with manufacturing challenges and trolls
The Buccaneer raised over $1 million on Kickstarter in June. They have been hard at work to deliver on those orders since and announced recently they will be unable to deliver on many of their stretch goals, to the ire of many of their backers. They've also now sparked trolls, who have apparently made up stories about them on Reddit.
What this means: No matter how much Kickstarter swears the backers on their site know that there's no guarantee of delivery of items by using their platform, it's pretty obvious that users think of these as contractually guaranteed pre-orders. The team at Pirate3D have done a good job communicating with their backers and being open to criticism and disappointed users. This is much better than some other companies that have hidden from angry backers.
Hat tip to reader Zach Warder-Gabaldon for the tip on this story.
The Ugly: 3D Printer project called "biggest regret of my life"
The Bottom Line:
The Eventorbot raised over $130,000 on Kickstarter over a year ago and has struggled mightily to deliver on those printers. After going silent for most of this summer, a new update was posted in early November which alluded to severe burnout, depression and frustration. He was harassed day and night by backers and still hasn't shipped all the printers. Having a day job and family as well as past financial difficulties has not helped his situation.
What this means: This is the worst case scenario for a project creator and Kickstarter; the project creator didn't know what they were getting into and Kickstarter is forced to dance the fine line between empathy for both sides and their legal stance on creator responsibility. This problem isn't just limited to 3D printing, but given the hardware, software and production challenges of such a device, the odds of hiccups or failures is particularly high.
Kickstarter will continue to be a crucial part of the 3D Printing industry, but I expect backers to raise their standards and expectations
of companies listing their printers on there. I also expect to see many more projects like the aforementioned camera projects showing how you can do small scale production with at home 3D printers. The technology, quality and precision will only get better with these printers so I expect to see simpler prints from more expensive printers to be disrupted over the next few years.
3) Software Competition Heats Up: Microsoft & AutoDesk introduce new, simple design software
A common rallying cry in the 3D startup ecosystem is how bad the software can be; the print process, the design software and even the repositories for designs
have come under fire by confused and frustrated users. As many startups set out to improve one or multiple of those areas, large companies are also making moves. Both Microsoft and AutoDesk have recently come out with software of note:
Microsoft has already made a mark by coming out with their printer drivers for their Windows 8.1 operating system, but they aren't stopping there. On Friday, they released an app to allow you to augment existing designs in their library.
You can check out the app for yourself if you have Windows 8.1 here.
What this means: Microsoft was late to the smart phone and tablet markets. To avoid a similar fate in another new market, they are making great efforts to get in early in consumer 3D Printing. Their biggest challenge will be whether their device market share will hold them back.
I expect to see more releases like this as they try to build a lead ahead of Google and Apple, which I expect they hope will lead to people buying Microsoft devices because of what they can do related to 3D Printing.
The Bottom Line:
AutoDesk has been making design software for over 30 years and has a market cap of nearly $10 billion. As one of the originals in the market, they're just starting to modernize as they offer "rental plans" which sound a lot like modern SaaS only more confusing. They recently released Shapeshifter.io which is also a design augmentation tool but with more power and not so directly targeted for just consumers.
You can try it out for yourself at http://shapeshifter.io/
What this means: I tried this app out and found I was able to actually make some things I liked and felt I would print if needed. The UI lent itself to both precision control and point and click exploration of what different changes could do to a shape. Having a user-friendly app like this could help open up new market opportunities for the largely enterprise-priced company.
Augmentation tools are only as good as what you end up making. Having played with a number of them, I've found it's common to have some fun making tweaks and then not be happy with what I've made. Unfortunately, that result makes you not want to print the object, which should be the point of the software. It will be interesting to see how these efforts will all interconnect as well; without a good tie in to both a source of designs users want to augment and an easy interface to the printer someone has, it doesn't matter how good the design software is.
There were a number of interesting reads this week:
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