It’s been two years since Glowforge set a crowdfunding record for its innovative 3D printer and the company is still having trouble delivering the product to original backers — some of whom are canceling their orders and refuse to wait longer.
The Seattle hardware startup, backed by high-profile investors like Foundry Group and True Ventures, originally planned to begin shipping its $2,995 printer to backers in December 2015, but announced initial delays the following February. More delays followed in April and again in December of last year.
Then, this past June, Glowforge promised that all orders placed during the crowdfunding campaign would ship by the end of October. Glowforge CEO Dan Shapiro repeated that milestone in an update last month.
However, that’s not happening. This week, Glowforge sent emails to individual customers with updated shipping schedules — and many are fed up with what they’re hearing.
Customers replying to an October Update forum post written by Shapiro note that they received updated shipping estimates that range from this month to mid-2018. There are longer delays for the printer’s air filter.
“I ordered mine 10/14/2015 and I just got an email this morning saying I can expect it on 02/14/2018 and may 2018 for the air cooler,” one customer wrote. “I just feel like crying.”
“The thing I learned from this experience – I will never participate in internet crowdfunding again,” another wrote.
On a Glowforge user group Facebook page, customers also shared their frustration.
“We just cancelled,” one person wrote. “For me, the fun and excitement is just not there anymore. Sincerely hope they refund my money a bit faster than they are producing machines. Wish you all the best.”
While many customers are still without their printer, some have received their product, though no air filters have been shipped.
Backers can cancel their order “any time up until we collect your address for shipping,” Glowforge notes.
Shapiro said the updated shipping dates may change.
“It’s based on a complicated forecasting model that integrates realtime data from the factory and updates any time the forecast changes,” he wrote. “We’ll likely have some big changes at first as we shake out the bugs and fill the model with data, with dates jumping around by large amounts, and then see it settle into a slow trend towards the correct date.”
In a separate forum post titled “Sad news for some international backers,” Shapiro also noted that customers who ordered from 20 international countries won’t be receiving their product.
“We’ve been processing reports from our consultants this week about international compliance, and we have some unfortunate news,” he wrote. “There are 20 countries we will not be able to deliver to for legal or logistical reasons. We’ve sent an email to everyone affected already to arrange for a refund.”
Shapiro, who created the popular kids board game Robot Turtles — one of Kickstarter’s most successful campaigns ever — started Glowforge in 2014 with fellow Seattle area startup veterans Tony Wright and Mark Gosselin.
This past August, Wright announced that he was leaving the company.
“Keeping up with demand at the factory is going to be a lot of hard work that probably will never end,” Wright told GeekWire. “But complex hardware ships all around the world every day — that’s a solvable problem. The elusive problem that most startups fail to crack is ‘creating something that lots of people really want and will pay money for.’ There’s still a lot of product work to do, but we’ve clearly solved that problem.”
As of August, Glowforge employed 67 people, which is more than double from one year ago when Glowforge raised a $22 million round. In March it hired a new vice president of hardware engineering, Spencer Worley, who previously was an executive at Amazon and Sphero.
The Glowforge device is different from most other 3D printers — instead of making objects out of plastic strands, it uses a laser to quickly cut and engrave products. The device lets people use raw materials like leather, paper, plastic, fabric, or cardboard and make products with a push of a button.
We’ve reached out to Shapiro for more details about the delays and will update this story when we hear back.
Update: We caught up with Shapiro this morning and here’s his full statement:
“Our goal was to ship all units ordered during the 30 day crowdfunding campaign by the end of the month, but we’re not going to make it. We’re only going to be able to ship to day 23 (for people who ordered a Basic model) and day 26 (for people who ordered a Pro). Unfortunately international customers and later orders won’t come as close; those, plus deliveries of our Air Filter accessory, will stretch into next year.
We know how unfair it is that we’ve made people wait. That’s why we’ve committed to $200 in free materials and designs for every customer who has to wait, and an extra $20 on top of that for each additional month that we’ve had to keep them waiting. It’s costing us millions of dollars, but we’ve discussed with our investors and they support us using company funds to do the right thing for our customers. And of course, we’ll issue refunds immediately to anyone who asks – about ten of our 10,000 preorder customers have taken us up in the past day.
Even with all of that, we know how unfair this is for the customers won’t make October. We constantly second-guessed ourselves – should we cut corners on the product to get it in customers’ hands faster? But now that we’re hearing from owners how much they love their Glowforge, we can see the payoff in product quality that will benefit every customer.
A Harvard professor created a training simulator for heart surgery, winning three awards in the process. A leathercrafter resumed selling designs on Etsy that her disability had stopped her from being able to make. An artist created his first piece of gallery work on his Glowforge. And what warms my heart the most, kids across the country have been printing themselves toys, jewelry, and inventions I could never imagine. I check the public gallery of projects at https://community.glowforge.com/c/glowforge-project-examples every day for inspiration.
We’ll work day and night to deliver everyone their Glowforge so they can unlock their creative superpowers too, just as soon as possible.”