The year 2011 laid out in a Timeline Format makes for interesting reading about the development of 3D printing.
Especially the last entry on the TimeLine as you can see below.
The last entry shows you that some guy put the design of a DIY 3D Printer on the KickStarter website and has raised an amazing USD$830,827 to develop it! Isn’t that unbelievable??
Let me explain what the KickStarter site is in a few words. It’s a site whereby your average Joe Blog can post his ideas for Products or Projects and ask people to donate money to realise it. In return the investors receive something that is relative to the size of their donation. Ie. you might receive a mention on a website as form of a thank you if you donate $1. But you might also have bought yourself a brand new product, first off the production line, if you donate $1000.
The catch is that in most cases the product is just an idea. It is not real. It still needs to be made, if it can be made at all! So in actual fact people are giving their money away for something that is just a figure of the inventor’s imagination!
So inventors essentially get free money up front to get their product developed. And if there are not enough people that back the project up, it would mean that your idea, of which you think is the greatest invention since sliced bread, is in fact something that people wouldn’t want to buy. So you have a very affordable marketing tool. It does mean though that your idea is out in the open and people would be able to steal it from you and develop it themselves.
In the case of the 3D printer on Kickstarter, the top investors part with $999 and get promised one of the first actual 3D printers. Now, since this printer appears to be a working product already this is a pretty good price for a desktop 3D printer. But how long do the investors have to wait for their product? Who is to say that the developer has good intentions and doesn’t waste their money? What if the 3D printer is a pile of rubbish? What if the printer takes so long to develop that another, better printer gets developed in the mean time and is cheaper?
It seems to me that this social behaviour is not logical. Yet why are people investing money into something that is obviously not real? Is it the same reason why people pay 20 cents per txt to vote for someone on a tv show? To feel you have control over something?
A more important question though is how does this change Product Development? The concept of the website seems to work. So why wouldn’t more Product Designers put their ideas for sale on sites like KickStarter rather than finding angle investors or hook up with larger corporations to get their product funded and loosing control over the profits? Perhaps the fear of putting the product out there for anyone to see deters them. But if you have a good idea, you would possibly give it a go and post it on a site to see if you can raise enough money. Perhaps this will democratise the process of Product Development. The people rather than companies will be the ones that come up with ideas and the people are the ones that decide which Product is good enough to invest money in and get to the market.
I’d say this is a very exciting development for sure. One to keep a close eye on.