Last year, one startup made a huge splash on Indiegogo with its elegant-looking and practically-priced MOD-t 3D printer. With $680,000, New Matter was able to raise almost twice its funding goal for its sub-$400 FDM/FFF 3D printer. The company is already quickly growing. Not only is New Matter set to ship 2,600 MOD-t 3D printers to its crowdfunding backers this May, but the Pasadena-based startup has also raised funding through independent investors.
In addition to finding funds from Bill Gross’s Idealab, New Matter today announced that they’ve secured $6.5 million in Series A funding led by Alsop Louie Partners and participation from frogVentures, First Round Capital, and Dolby Family Ventures. What is it that these investors are paying for? On the surface, it could be that the MOD-t’s price tag combined with its sleek aesthetic was just too beautiful to pass up. With most desktop 3D printers exceeding the $500 mark and looking like milk crate capable of producing more milk crates, the mainstream consumer market may be waiting for something a little more affordable and nicer looking before entering the world of 3D printing.
It may also be possible that, matched against other printers in the same price bracket (machines from XYZprinting and Printrbot), the MOD-t can hold its own. The MOD-t was originally described as printing at layer thicknesses of 200 microns, not much to brag about when other machines easily boast 100 microns. According to Pando, however, since the launch of the Indiegogo campaign, New Matter’s CEO, Steve Schell, has said that the MOD-t is now capable of the same 100-micron resolution as an Afinia or Printrbot 3D printer (though still not as fine as the 25-microns claimed by Ultimaker). As Schell is a CalTech mechanical engineer, the MOD-t’s design could be up to snuff, with a simple motion control system and, potentially, fewer components to bring down the machine’s price, while maintaining quality.
Along with its printer, New Matter is also developing its own 3D printing design software and online marketplace. The idea is to remove some of the barriers to 3D printing for beginning users by making 3D design simple, to accompany the low-priced machine. As New Matter continues to finish off its marketplace, in preparation for the May shipment, the company plans to populate the marketplace with “hundreds of high-quality, curated designs from today’s most influential 3D design artists.”
We’ll have to see whether or not New Matter’s investors are paying for the elegant package or the contents themselves as the MOD-t arrives on the doorsteps of Indiegogo backers. There have been other similarly hyped, low-cost printers in the past that have failed to deliver literally and figuratively. Though the last two years have seen desktop 3D printer manufacturers undercut one another left and right, this year will see them outpace each other in terms of features and useability. In other words, a sub-$400 price meant a lot when the MOD-t was first announced, but consumers may prefer to have features like auto-bed calibration and advanced print monitoring over a low-cost, potentially unreliable machine.
Of course, I shouldn’t speak too soon about the MOD-t. New Matter is already looking to get their machine on physical store shelves and, if New Matter customers are as enamored with it as the press was last year, then it could be a huge success.