We’ve got a different one for you today from OLO which is the first smartphone 3D printer. It’s not technically in the FFF realm, but it is definitely noteworthy. From a tech perspective, it is different. It is a different kind of 3D printer. It’s about a Kickstarter that ran recently which was very successful as far as Kickstarters go, for a new kind of 3D printer that is a resin 3D printer. It is only $99. It is very small. It even prints like the size of a golf ball. It is a resin printer and it is very simple in terms of what it is, how small it is, and how easy it is to use; easy being relative to using resin which is still messy to use at times. But the unique aspect of this printer called OLO is that it uses your smart phone as the light source so that’s why it’s a smartphone 3D printer. When you put your phone down on the table, and you put this 3D printer on top of it through an app, your phone is then programmed with the light that goes and cures the resin layer by layer. It is pretty ingenious to make a 3D printer where you don’t have to make the major electronic circuitry and light source and other things that are involved in so many SLA printers. For that, that makes it very clever.
Listen to the podcast here:
OLO – The First Smartphone 3D Printer for SLA
From a practical standpoint, I just don’t see myself using a smartphone 3D printer. If I did, I have to buy a spare smartphone or perhaps I want to upgrade to a new one, and keep my old one and save it to use for that. I have enough frustration when I am checking on or getting on to an airplane when I use that mobile boarding pass on my phone. This has happened to me several times. Well, I’m trying to save paper and trying to be good for the environment. I have my boarding pass bar code out there for them. I’m two people away from getting my phone out and having them scan it. Then I got a phone call from my brother. Immediately, the boarding pass is gone. You then get rid of the phone call, and you’re going to get back in to the airline app, bring in your boarding pass again, and you have to stand on the side again where a dozen people pass through. What’s going to happen when you get a phone call in the middle of a 3D print on this thing?
I think that the cost of this smartphone 3D printer is where you have to consider the fact where you’re going to use a crappy, old cellphone, because there is no matter how good this thing is engineered, and how well it is – then just sticking my cellphone below a bunch of resin. It’s just not going to happen for me. I just think that no one wants to take the risk with their cellphones. But hey! Who doesn’t have an extra one lying around somewhere. I think that’s where it will fall, or you can also think of the cost as it is.
I also do think that people do have an extra cellphone around, but I’ve done this. I have used it in two different
products in our house. One of those products was the baby monitor. When he had one of our kids in the last several years, I said that we can get a Wi-Fi baby monitor, because there’s so many like this that have been used and they work with your smartphone. It also uses an app. I would have done that, but there were always problems and frustrations between the things that I’m doing in the phone and the baby monitor. So, I ended up using the old iPhone 4 as the app for the monitor. The problem was that, the phone could only upgrade the OS so far, and eventually you couldn’t use that app on that older OS anymore. I ended up not being happy with the Wi-Fi baby monitor. I then go back the old school baby monitor that does not use Wi-Fi and a smartphone.
The other product is the GoPro camera. Years ago, we used a GoPro camera to shoot our time lapse videos for 3D prints, and when we were doing reviews with 3D printers. You control the GoPro through a Wi-Fi connection that GoPro puts out, and you use your smartphone to do it. I have the same kind of problem, so I just don’t see using an older phone or a spare one. You’re not going to buy a brand new smartphone. First of all, none of the carriers will let you buy one unless you’re going to buy two whole accounts and service from them. You usually need to wait for two years until you are eligible for an upgrade, then you can get a phone. Unless the app is going to continue to be updated to be backwards compatible to the older OS, I just see a host of problems.
Smartphone 3D Printer as a Sketch Printer or Gateway Printer?
I don’t think that that is a fundamental problem. I think the fundamental problem is that these resin based printers are not as useful for final products. They are fine if you are going to paint them, but the resin itself deteriorates. I am not a fan of the resin printers from that perspective, but I think that there are people that would make a lot of prototype objects where they are going to deal with Shapeways, then that is going to be a very good use for. But I agree that the resolution of these resin printers is actually quite good in general. But I don’t know what’s this is going to be because I haven’t experienced it.
But from the pictures and the shots they show, I don’t think it’s quite as good as some of the resin printers out there. That is very obvious because you could see lines. To me, this is a sketch printer. I think that this is where you are going to do a little piece of something and just trying it out, unless you’re not trying up your computer. You’re trying it out with a cellphone or a crappy cellphone.
That aspect of it is something that I like, and I agree with you there. But to me, it’s a gateway printer. Although I think the resin in its liquid state is somewhat toxic, so I don’t know how young a person should be using it. It is certainly not for a 7 year old, but maybe a 10 or 12 year old or young teenagers. I think that it could be a gateway printer and help them get into it, and enjoy it while exploring the world of 3D printing for a $99 price if you go to this Kickstarter. It might be not that cheap when they get through all of the trials and tribulations of bringing a product to life where they distribute 14,000 of them.
From the Kickstarter results, they have 16,000 backers, but I think not every backer paid enough to get one. It’s a really interesting project. Fortunately, it is a relatively small product and hopefully they wouldn’t have any problems in the delivering process. Sometimes, the smaller things are more complicated because there is less room for error and less opportunities for tolerance issues. You have a lot of things that go on. Maybe something simpler is harder. $99 is not a large budget with what you do it. Hopefully the scale will be good for them and to not be detrimental to their success. I think that it’s really interesting that these kinds of things still play on Kickstarter, that to me is the most interesting thing but it goes with the most common Kickstarter belief right now which is going on. What people are talking about is that, “Unless your thing is cheap, it’s not going to happen.” Well, if it is cheap and predominantly male oriented, then you have a greater success with Kickstarter. That is the formula right there. You already have a built in ability to bring in a third off the audience of your original ask. If you can bring that, then you got the Kickstarter. If you got a list and if you got a lot of people that you are likely to show that you have a third of the backers you’re looking for in a week, then you got a really good chance of having success, because Kickstarter will boost you, and you’re going to have a lot more attention.
The Interesting Part of Resin 3D Printers
I think the really interesting part of this whole thing isn’t the smartphone 3D printer at all, because it didn’t excite me, and I’m not going to buy one. It’s not my thing. But before the project closed on Kickstarter, that they began to announce partnerships on Gravity and Sketch Fab, and I think that’s really the interesting and probably really smart for those software companies. We never go to Sketch Fab to check out designs for Mother’s Day or Father’s day. We don’t do that on Sketch Fab because it tends to be more of those 3D designers who do stuff that get plugged into renderings, game designs, and other things. To me, unless you have a resin printer and you’re going to paint them, to me they are not that really 3D printable at the end of the day. It makes sense that this is a more of a common community and there is a match there. Gravity Sketch has an idea that they would design and up sell Sketch Fab or make it available, and then you print onto there. That is a good partnership between the three of them, and that makes a lot of sense for that. The fact that they were able to close those right away is probably the smartest thing that they have done, because now, they brought a few more people in the table. When they are unable to deliver, they have partners on the line that can have got them bailed out and keep their partnership alive.
Thoughts Regarding Resin 3D Printers
I’m just waiting on the history of this. This Kickstarter is very recent and I am waiting for the history in the next year or two. First of all, to see how long it takes for them to fulfill? How long will it take them longer than they intend to? I make sure to see when the accessory comes out. That is the light source that replaces your cellphone. I think that it’s a great gimmick to get a lot of attention. It is impressive that the light from your cellphone is enough to cure that resin and be able to control that. It is admirable, cool, and you grab a lot of attention with it. But from a practical perspective, I don’t see it long term. I am waiting for the time that they are going to put in an accessory product that would cost maybe another $100 or more, because it has to be a light source that is smart which involves chips and computing power. The software would perhaps cost more than the actual product here than the one that they have been doing on Kickstarter.
I just don’t see it as being realistic. This is why I am not interested to back this. I am not really a fan of resin printers in general, but I respect them and I know that there is a place for them, and that is great. But this is not something that I would do with a smartphone.
What’s with Kickstarter?
The other thing that I am curious about is the trend that I’ve been seeing happening on Kickstarter, is that for instance, they talk about their team in one of their press releases and other things. It is kind of interesting because they claim that their team has professional experience with over 15 years in product engineering in more than 1,200 products. That is a design firm who just did this as a spin off. That is a huge amount of products to do. That’s a serious effort of a very large company. It is not a one designer’s job. It’s a huge team. You have a big company who just made $2 million on Kickstarter. This is not your little guy on Kickstart making a gun. This is not even the Coolest Cooler. It’s not even at that level where he had a very small team and it was his innovation. This is a company doing it. This is where I have been seeing.
This is what I suspect here, because when I went to look up their address, it caught my eyes because it wasn’t an address that sounded like a company address. When I look it up, it was an incubator address. This is what I find happening a lot which is misleading on Kickstarter, that these groups of people who are putting out the Kickstarter are saying that it’s their thing but this is their team. But their team is really an incubator working within. They are talking about all their mentors and the people of their team that have done 1,200 products. That doesn’t mean that the guys who did this did. It can be misleading. I have been seeing the trend happen across that and because I have been solicited by many Kickstarters to write about them, when I dived deeper to get into the person to talk about, it is where you will start to find out. This is a marketing group in an incubator that is putting this press release out. They have this whole huge backing.
That’s what it takes to work on Kickstarter. I don’t want anyone to think that this is like an overnight success is going to happen to you here. The people who do this are professionals right now. That’s what their whole backing teams have done before. You don’t want to be thinking that this is your lottery ticket. It is not. The companies that are doing it are companies that are being successful doing it. They are following a model; they are hiring the right people. They are doing the right things in the right order. Everything is not just going to succeed because you put it up there with a 3D printer that is $99. It doesn’t work like that.
I don’t remember if we talked about that before, but it is very true. Kickstarter is one piece of a very complex puzzle to being able to achieve success in crowd funding. It is not the answer. Putting something up there doesn’t solve your issues with this. Kickstarter is the car but if you don’t have gas to put in it, it’s not going to go anywhere. The gas in this case, is already having an audience to be able to market this Kickstarter 2. You already have an access to a big audience. We are talking thousands of people – 3,000 to 5,000 people. If you don’t have a list that you know of people that are likely to backup your campaign, then don’t bother to go printing on Kickstarter. Don’t get sucked in by those marketing firms that tell you that they have a list that they will send your thing to you for $300, because that doesn’t work.
The real thing about this is that Kickstarter is not the answer. It’s a part of a plan that you might put in place and it may have a place, but it also has a great risk. If that didn’t succeed as fast as they thought it was, your partnerships could fall away. If you needed those partnerships and if they have a Sketch Fab, then it could go very wrong. They might think that it just didn’t succeed because it’s the wrong product. Well it might not be the wrong product, but you just have the wrong process. You may have the wrong marketing budget, you may have the wrong marketing team, and you put your money into this email list and is not in the right place. It may mean that I have nothing to do with your product, but that this reflects to your product. That is where it is really risky, and that is why I don’t recommend it to most people. There are only a very few products that I say is good to put on Kickstarter.
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