In September 2011 a trio of classmates from MIT’s legendary ‘How To Make (almost) Anything’ course founded a company called Formlabs, their aim was to create the ultimate 3D printer. After a year of R&D they launched their product on crowd funding website Kickstarter. What happened next may go down as one of the most disruptive technological advances of our time or it may get stifled by an impending lawsuit.
Armed with a prototype and pretty swish video they asked for $100,000 of funding to get their Form 1 SLA based 3D printer, well, kick started. They fell just short… of $3million. Backed by over 2,000 people desperate to get their hands on the first consumer priced SLA machine, Formlabs quickly gained widespread media exposure and became the golden child of 3D printing.
Those levels of exposure are always going to draw detractors; unfortunately for Formlabs one of those detractors came readied with a lawsuit owing to the fact that the Form 1 had infringed on 3D Systems’ stereolithography patent.
You’d think the might of 3D Systems would be able to halt a little startup, but after a brief period of radio silence, Formlabs seem to be alive and kicking. There was some element of worry for those on the Kickstarter comments section who hadn’t received their February batch of pledges, nor heard of any reason why. It may have been a month late but Formlabs eventually updated the world, through the medium of their blog, as to the reasons for their tardiness.
Apparently some components ordered didn’t pass the quality required to ship. This perfectly reasonable explanation may have been a little easier to swallow for those backers had it not have come up to six weeks after they expected their order. Nevertheless, Formlabs are going full steam ahead with production
“We have been able to get a head start by assembling most components on our first batch of Form 1s. We will use the first ten printers mentioned above to finalize testing and click “go” on final assembly. We can’t yet declare the first shipment date, but we do plan to produce hundreds of Form 1s in April.” - Luke Winston, Operations Manager at Formlabs.
A week after the apology and explanation Formlabs put this brilliant blog up detailing how the Form 1 will be packaged. Not the most riveting of stuff one would think but it is a genuine insight into a consumer product and how packaging is such a big deal. Think about any Apple product you’ve ever opened, one of the assets that stands them head and shoulders above the rest is packaging, Form 1's packaging is of that ilk.
The fact that packaging is so far down the line coupled with the announcement that the full-production Form 1s will be on display at the Design & Manufacturing of New England trade show in Boston, indicate not even the meatiest looking lawsuit can stop this juggernaut from shaking up the 3D printing world.