Glowforge is delaying initial shipments of its innovative 3D laser printer.
The Seattle startup set a crowdfunding record this past October, raising nearly $28 million from thousands of backers who pre-ordered the printer. The original plan was to start shipping the “first units” in December.
Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro confirmed with GeekWire on Thursday that those shipments have been delayed, a move that has angered some backers who were expecting their 3D laser printers late last year. However, the company is still on target to deliver printers by June to those that pre-ordered during the 30-day campaign.
“During our crowdfunding campaign four months ago, we said that shipments would start in December and that all backers would receive their units by June,” Shapiro wrote in an email. “The whole team here is working like mad to make sure that all units from the 30-day campaign are, in fact, delivered by June. We’re still on schedule for that, so right now, it looks like no one will get their Glowforge late.”
As far as the initial shipments scheduled for December that have yet to be delivered, Shapiro said “I wish we were further along with that.”
“We don’t have units in public locations yet so people can go use them, which was our goal,” he added. “We’ve found enough improvements to be made on early models that we don’t want to build up new ones or put them on unattended display until we’ve finished the fixes.”
Shapiro warned that future delays are possible.
“Shipping on time is very important to us, but honestly it’s our second-most important goal,” he explained. “The only thing more important to us than shipping on time is delivering the fantastic product our customers expect. While we’re on schedule for June, if something unexpected comes up and we have to decide between shipping a mediocre product and taking a delay, we’ll take the delay so we know we can ship our customers something they’ll love. We haven’t had to make that decision yet as our schedule still has us shipping on time, but it’s a possibility we have to plan for.”
Those that pre-ordered a printer but want a refund can do so by emailing email@example.com, Shapiro said.
The device retails for $3,995, but the basic model sold for $1,995 during the crowdfunding campaign. You can still pre-order the printer for $2,395, but you won’t receive your shipment until “later in the year,” Shapiro noted.
Those that placed an order after Oct. 24 — when the crowdfunding campaign ended — will receive their product “between July and September,” according to the company’s FAQ page.
Some customers have expressed frustration with the initial delays on Glowforge’s Facebook page and on Reddit, where one backer wrote that “I’m going to take my $4,500 and give it to someone that can deliver a product with a deliver date better than 9+ months from date of order.” The backer, Reddit user KiltedCajun, said that it wasn’t clear at the time of purchase — five days into the campaign — that Glowforge was only shipping “beta” units in December.
“Since I was so early in the order process, I expected to receive this unit by the end of the year,” KiltedCajun wrote. “In the meantime, I have interest accruing on $4,170 and no way to use the tool I bought to start paying it off. Some people may have bought this for hobby use, but I ordered this to use to make things for sale. The longer I have wait, the more it costs me.”
Those looking for production updates can head here.
Glowforge was founded in 2014 by Shapiro, the brains behind the hit kids board game Robot Turtles — one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns ever — and fellow Seattle area startup veterans Tony Wright and Mark Gosselin. The company employs 22 people and has job openings for another 18 positions.
Glowforge raised a $9 million investment round in May 2015 from Brad Feld’s Foundry Group, True Ventures, and people like MakerBot co-founder Bre Pettis, former MakerBot CEO Jenny Lawton, Wetpaint founder Ben Elowitz, KISSmetrics founder Hiten Shah, director of open source at Google Chris DiBona, and former Swype CEO Mike McSherry.
The Glowforge device itself is different from most other 3D printers because instead of making objects out of plastic strands, it uses a laser to quickly cut and engrave products. Along with smartphone sensors built into the printer, the lasers allow the Wi-Fi-connected device to cut and engrave materials that are curved, uneven, or irregular. Dual cameras also measure the thickness of material to a precision of four one thousandths of an inch.
The device lets people use raw materials like leather, paper, plastic, fabric, or cardboard and make products with a push of a button. It has no screens and measures 37 inches wide, 20 inches deep, and eight inches tall.
At the 2015 GeekWire Summit, Shapiro showed off a book bag he made with the Glowforge that had the exact dimensions for his laptop and other personal items — all for $58 and six hours of work. You can create “almost anything” with Glowforge, he added, including jewelry, light fixtures, smartphone engravings, wallets, and toys.
“It’s like we’ve been eating fast food for years and never had kitchens, never been able to make food for ourselves the way we want it,” he said at the GeekWire Summit. “I like to think about this as reinventing what it means for something to be homemade — something better, faster, and cheaper than what you’ll buy in a store.”
You can watch Shapiro show off the Glowforge at the GeekWire Summit below: