Start-up's Buccaneer 3D printer venture sinks

Home-grown start-up Pirate3D's founders (from far left) Brendan Goh, Tsang You Jun and Roger Chang with the Buccaneer 3D printer, in a file photo from last year. Delays in the project, apparently due to poor planning and lack of skills, have led to o
Home-grown start-up Pirate3D's founders (from far left) Brendan Goh, Tsang You Jun and Roger Chang with the Buccaneer 3D printer, in a file photo from last year. Delays in the project, apparently due to poor planning and lack of skills, have led to only 800 or 900 of the machines being made. Mr Goh said that the company is now trying to raise between $2 million and $3 million to fund production of a new machine, using updated technology. He hopes to use the proceeds from the new product to fulfil the back orders.ST FILE PHOTO

Local company Pirate 3D halts production, leaving Kickstarter backers in the lurch

Singapore's highly touted Buccaneer 3D printer, produced by local start-up Pirate3D, has been sunk.

The company, which raised US$1.44 million (S$2 million) via crowdfunding platform Kickstarter in 2013, and another $2 million from investors in Singapore and Germany last year, has ceased production of the machine, leaving 60 per cent of its backers in the lurch.

The printers manufacture three- dimensional objects by adding layers of synthetic material.

Touted as one of the cheapest consumer 3D printers in the market when it was launched in 2013, more than 3,300 global Kickstarter supporters each paid from US$297 upfront, towards a US$799 Buccaneer, expecting to receive it by last year.

One backer even signed up for the US$9,997 package which included a laser-engraved printer with spare parts and tickets to a launch event in Las Vegas.


Home-grown start-up Pirate3D's founders (from far left) Brendan Goh, Tsang You Jun and Roger Chang with the Buccaneer 3D printer, in a file photo from last year. Delays in the project, apparently due to poor planning and lack of skills, have led to only 800 or 900 of the machines being made. Mr Goh said that the company is now trying to raise between $2 million and $3 million to fund production of a new machine, using updated technology. He hopes to use the proceeds from the new product to fulfil the back orders. ST FILE PHOTO

Delays in the project, apparently due to poor planning and lack of skills, have led to only 800 or 900 of the machines being made.

Rather than continue to make a machine using technology designed in 2013, the company is scrapping the project.

Pirate3D's chief operating officer Brendan Goh said that the company is now trying to raise between $2 million and $3 million to fund production of a new machine, using updated 3D printing technology.

He hoped the funding would come through this year, allowing the company to build on the plans of the current printer, produce and sell the new machine by the third quarter of next year.

"As much as possible, we will build a new product, and from proceeds of the new product, use that to fulfil the back orders," said Mr Goh. He said the new machine will cost less than US$799.

Still, he admitted that the new projected timeline is an estimate and that the company oversold its capabilities in 2013.

"We didn't have enough professional people, and a lot of money went into research and development. In short, we bit off more than we can chew."

The lack of funds led the company to cease operations two months ago, and this will continue for another three months, Mr Goh said in an update to backers on Oct 13.

He told The Straits Times the company still has a team of 12 working on the new product, after it had to dismiss 10 workers earlier this year.

Some angry Kickstarter backers have demanded a refund and accused the company of using the funds for other purposes, which Mr Goh denies.

"The most important thing is integrity. There is no misappropriation of funds," he said. "There are Kickstarter products that fail."

He added that the company is not looking at refunding any backers, and is concentrating on fulfilment.

Crowdfunded projects can prove risky and platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have previously suffered failures. Some projects have been delayed by several years, while others never materialised.

Board game The Doom That Came To Atlantic City raised US$122,000 but was cancelled after several delays, prompting an investigation by the United States Federal Trade Commission.

Crowdfunding platforms do not normally issue refunds for cancelled or failed projects.

US-based Kickstarter recently put more emphasis on suspending projects it deems to be questionable in its goals or promises.

It pulled funding for the Skarp razor, which supposedly uses a laser to remove facial hair. That project raised US$4 million in funding and has since appeared on Indiegogo.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2015, with the headline 'Start-up's Buccaneer 3D printer venture sinks'. Print Edition | Subscribe