3D Printers

ONO pulls plug on smartphone 3D printer leaving backers empty-handed

Kickstarter-funded company ONO has finally pulled the plug on its smartphone-powered resin 3D printer, leaving thousands of backers out of pocket and without the goods they invested in. 

As is the nature of a Kickstarter project, backers haven’t directly bought goods from ONO but have instead invested in the project with the reward of an ONO 3D printer and related technology if the project proved successful. Despite this, backers are clearly unhappy with the way the project has unfolded, with some going so far as to call it a “scam”

Having made its debut in 2016, the ONO 3D printer raised north of $2.3 million from backers on Kickstarter, yet reportedly only a handful of supporters have received their machine to date. The most recent update from the company, and supposedly the first in more than two years, confirmed “the end” of the ill-fated 3D printing campaign, citing financial and legal reasons as the final nails in the coffin. 

ONO’s promising start

3D Printing Industry has followed ONO since its early days, or OLO as the company was originally known. The firm debuted what was deemed to be the first smartphone 3D printer on Kickstarter in March 2016 and after raising more than $2.3 million in a month became the fifth most funded 3D printer ever, at the time.

The concept behind the ONO 3D printer was to enable users to 3D print objects directly from their smartphone via an app. Masks of light are projected from the phone onto the printer’s resin tray, hardening each layer of an object as the ONO 3D printer lifts it out of the vat layer by layer. OLO relies on specialty resins that can be cured by ordinary white light, called daylight-reactive materials, as opposed to UV resins which require lasers or digital UV projectors.

The printer has a build volume of 3 x 5 x 2 inches and can reportedly achieve layer thicknesses as fine as 36 microns with a resolution of 42 microns. 

Gearing up to the project’s launch, there was significant hype around the printer’s capabilities, exemplified by ONO winning the Editor’s Choice Award at Maker Faire New York. Claiming to transform any smartphone into a 3D printer, the technology undoubtedly appeared promising to backers, so what went wrong?

ONO 3D printer and resins. Photo via ONO.
ONO 3D printer and resins. Photo via ONO.

ONO to oh no…the demise

ONO originally announced a shipping date of September 2016, however by February the following year backers were still waiting for their printers to arrive. The company announced then that “every backer will have their printer(s) in hand by the end of March”, however four years on and only a handful of printers have been shipped. 

On July 4th 2021, the company sent a final update to its backers announcing the project’s end, with CEO Filippo Moroni admitting the company had faced “unexpected complexities, unfaithful suppliers, consultants who took advantage of it…and obviously made several mistakes, like so many other projects.”

In the statement, Moroni also revealed he had made “the biggest mistake giving the management and control of the US funds to the wrong person”, but that he and another in the company used their own resources to “avoid disaster, saving peoples’ jobs and recover from this nightmare.”

Moroni claims that after a long absence and silence due to legal issues, he “got rid” of the CEO and partner at fault, taking back 100 percent of his shares of the company and closing pending orders with suppliers using almost $600,000 of his own money. He also says he has “saved several jobs, paid off tax debts, and secured all of the merchandise.”

Now, ONO is a “bankruptcy safe but resourceless company” that supposedly has a warehouse in China full of components, some 5,000 ready-made printers, and monthly server and warehouse costs that the firm can no longer afford. It is unclear what will happen to this stock, or whether these printers will ever reach their backers. 

Moroni ended the statement with the announcement that he has decided to open up the ONO project and its related patents to open-source, however thus far there has been no hint of a GitHub link or other sourcing for the released materials. 3D Printing Industry has contacted ONO to gain clarity on this development.

Unsurprisingly, backers of the project have been vocal in their disappointment regarding the project’s failure, with some questioning the validity of the project and whether there was any intention to ship the printers in the first place. Some have gone as far as to call the project a “scam”, and many have invoked their rights under Kickstarter’s Terms of Use for a refund of their pledged amount.

3D Printing Industry has contacted ONO for a comment in response to these allegations, however as yet we have not received a response from the company.

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Featured image shows ONO 3D printer and resins. Photo via ONO.