3D Printers

Refund Delay for Buccaneer 3D Printer May Signal Sinking Pirate Ship

It’s a tragic day for pirates, as the world’s first pirate-themed 3D printer company sinks below the seas of the market. After Pirate3D launched a wildly “successful” Kickstarter, earning over a million dollars for their low-cost, consumer friendly Buccaneer 3D printer, the manufacturer has only shipped 200 of the 3500 units promised to its KS backers. And, though the company will need to refund money it earned through crowd funding, that doesn’t mean that the story is entirely over.

pirate 3D kickstarter page for buccaneer 3D printer

As backers demand their money back, contributed in the hopes of quickly receiving a decent desktop printer, Pirate3D has even been slow in issuing refunds. The crowd, turned an angry school of loan sharks, had received the following automatic response when asking for the return of their funds:

This email serves as a confirmation that you have selected a REFUND for your order of the Buccaneer 3D Printer.

Refund Amount: $497.00

Paypal Address to Receive the Refund:

Your refund has been queued based on a First Come First Serve basis and will be processed in chronological order. It is expected that you will receive your refund on September 2016

Fair winds,


Some form emails even included dates as distant as 2017.  This isn’t the first act to inspire outrage among their backers. Initially, Pirate3D explained that if it received $1 million in funding on KS, they would include a heated bed, automatic bed calibration, a filament feeder, and an air filtration system on their machines, but, even as the first few units shipped, the Pirate3D crew failed to deliver on its promises, instead deciding not to add any of those upgrades to their machines. Their backers took to the KS comments, filling pages and pages of the thread with litigious threats, name calling, and elegies of despair. Pirate3D explained that the decision not to include a heated bed stemmed from the desire not to support ABS, for which heating is required, as it produces potentially toxic fumes.

pirate 3D buccaneer 3D printer

Upon receiving the automated message about their refunds, the backers again took to the comment boards, until the company issued the following response:

Hi Backers,

We have noticed a lot of discussion about the refunds. Upon checking, we realized that the script used to calculate the refund dates has a serious error. This would explain the ludicrous dates emailed out.

We apologize for giving you guys a shock. Let us correct the algorithm, and we should get back to you today with corrected dates.

Our bad for the delay in replying – our timezone means we only noticed this early in the morning.

Sorry once again for the error, we will get right to it.

Now, Pirate’s investors have received slightly less excruciating wait times, with backers receiving dates as early as January next year.  Still, 2015 is a long way off from the original funding date of June 29, 2013, meaning that the 3,520 supporters of the campaign have spent the past two years without a printer or a refund. And Pirate3D had included in its original campaign an option for backers to spend an extra $100 to receive their printers in December, 2013, instead of April, 2014.  Despite Pirate3D’s above message, the crowd is still seething. Terry Nghe wrote, just before P3D posted its response:

It’s probably a stunt to see how people would react to the ridiculous time frame. If the reactions aren’t too bad then it’s a win for p3d (of course this isn’t the case right now). But now that they have tested the waters and see how bad the reactions are (which should have been a given) they can come out and say it was just a big mistake.

Others are agreeing with this sentiment and would like to see some accountability on the part of Pirate. Backer “Saul & Katie & Baby Samuel” writes:

“We will be sending out emails to everyone to get your input. You have 3 choices going forward:

1) Heated Bed : Fulfillment starts April 2015 (Buccaneer Hot)

2) Cold Bed: Fulfillment starts Nov – Dec 2014 (Buccaneer Cold)

3) Refund: You will get your money back in Aug – Dec 2014 (Depending on when you request for one) “

I would like to request financial documentation to SEE where all the money is going. This is the least you can do for us. Please don’t give us bull about we can’t share that information! We backed you and this would not be possible at all if it was not for us! Show me invoices or something!!!!

Land Grant discusses the pitfalls of the crowd-funding model in his Kickstarter series, but it seems that there are definitely some bugs to be worked out.  If the crowd is given the ability to invest in companies that they believe in, there needs to be a method for the crowd to hold these companies accountable in some way, legally and financially.

Backers in the company’s home country of Singapore provide a distinct perspective on the Pirate3D saga. The founder of Singapore Makers, William Hooi, first funded the local manufacturer with hope, until ultimately turning his back on Pirate3D, as well. He tells Vulcan Post:

I’m impressed with the promise of it being a well-designed, easy-to-use consumer grade 3d printer compared to many Rep-raps which look intimidating to novice learner and users. It also helps that its a made in Singapore product, so it was a no-brainer to back them as it has the potential to put Singapore in the world map… However, when it was time to deliver on the goods, they fell short. Expected delivery was supposed to be Feb 2014. And around end July, one of the founder sent a survey question asking backers to choose opting for either heater bed (which will deliver in April 2015), cold bed (deliver in Nov/Dec 2013) or opt for refund. I’m was told that those requesting refunds will get it in stages between Aug-Dec 2014 which was acceptable. I’ve actually seen a non-working prototype at Simplifi3D and am not confident that the printer will be as user-friendly as what it was touted to be so I decided on the refund instead.

Though there is hope for the company to remain afloat, it’s a bit difficult for me to imagine how they will be able to do so, while still issuing refunds and building printers.

This is a sad story for a group of young hopefuls that wanted to jump into a growing industry with goals of success.  It’s hard to blame anyone for exaggerating their capabilities in a scary world in which we’re expected to compete with one another to survive, but, as their backers have suggested, the company may have participated in some deceitful tactics to try to keep their supporters at bay.  If the pirate ship does eventually sink, perhaps it will signify the end of an era in which pirates were rewarded for seeking treasure at the expense of the well-being of others. Buckminster Fuller suggests that the days of individual prosperity over collective prosperity is an extension from a time in which competition was necessary to survival, saying in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth [PDF]:

One of the myths of the moment suggest that wealth comes from individual bankers and capitalists. This concept is manifest in the myriad of charities that have to beg for alms for the poor, disabled, and helpless young and old in general. These charities are a hold- over from the old pirate days, when it was thought that there would never be enough to go around. They also are necessitated by our working assumption that we cannot afford to take care of all the helpless ones.

He concludes his book by arguing that it isn’t money that is needed to solve the problems of the day, but cooperation and human ingenuity.  With the following instruction, may we all learn from the example of Pirate3D and go forth seeking new, selfless methods for surviving:

So, planners, architects, and engineers take the initiative. Go to work, and above all co-operate and don’t hold back on one another or try to gain at the expense of another. Any success in such lopsidedness will be increasingly short-lived. These are the synergetic rules that evolution is employing and trying to make clear to us. They are not man-made laws. They are the infinitely accommodative laws of the intellectual integrity governing universe.