How crowdfunding became part of this 3D printer company's design process - Baltimore

Software Development

How crowdfunding became part of this 3D printer company’s design process

The latest 3D printer from Fulton's M3D has already raised nearly $500,000 on Kickstarter. That's after crowdfunding $3.4 million in 2014. Here's how the company is milking consumer interest.

The M3D Pro.

(Courtesy photo)

For M3D, Kickstarter wasn’t only a way to get the word out and raise money for its 3D printers. It was part of the product development process.

The Fulton-based company made a splash in 2014, breaking records with a $3.4 million raise via crowdfunding as it rolled out its first printer, called the Micro.

But along with the money, the company also got direct feedback from the people who bought the printer. That proved valuable in designing a second printer called the Pro, said CEO Michael Armani.

“Crowdfunding fosters a stronger company/customer relationship than almost any other form of fundraising or marketing,” Armani said. “The connection made with M3D’s backers in 2014 not only inspired the innovations on the Pro, they’re a direct response to customer feedback.”

From the Micro’s Kickstarter comments section, it’s clear that the mix of emerging technology (the idea of a consumer 3D printer market is still an open question) and a novel method of distributing it isn’t always pretty. The Kickstarter for the Pro includes a section about how 3D orinters are “still not perfect.”

“We realized that the 3D printer needs to be totally redeveloped,” the page reads. “Every single aspect of the printer must be able to be measured so that it can be corrected in real-time.”

How customer feedback drove product development.

The Pro is designed to be faster and has a larger build volume. Specifically, the company focused on making the printer self-aware and able to correct issues. It has more than two dozen sensors that track temperature, voltage, current, position, speed and bed leveling. It also has a recovery mode, where the printer picks up where it left off in the event of a filament jam or power outage. Armani said the company also sought to introduce precision engineering so the Pro is “extremely rigid and predictably assembled, leading to a more consistent and standardized user experience.”


Released on Aug. 15, the Pro recently made a splash on Kickstarter once again, besting its $100,000 funding ceiling. As of Sept. 12, the project raised $467,211, and has 18 days to go. Prices of this edition range from $399-$699, depending on which iteration and release date backers select.

Armani said the company will continue to collect feedback, pushing the cycle forward.

“All of the major project steps are charted in detail above so that you can honestly see where our status is at today and hold us accountable,” the Pro’s Kickstarter page says.

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Companies: M3D, Kickstarter
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