Cultivate3D make some amazing 3D printers. Serious printers. They’re huge, fast, and can even print four-up! After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, they’ve built a thriving business, and their next-generation model is shaping up to be just as impressive! We chatted to co-founder Dan Herlihy to find out more.
Meet the Team:
Thanks for taking the time to chat with DIYODE Magazine. How did you guys come together to build your first 3D printer, The Beast?
Our V1 unit was the brainchild of Josh Mamo. Josh was selling parts for 3D Printers on eBay, I was building a 2m tall Delta 3D printer and needed parts, so I found Josh, went to his house to pick up the parts, and we ended up chatting for hours. We agreed to meet the next day to discuss working together. The Beast V1 was already designed by Josh on computer, but he lacked the support to get it off his computer, into reality and marketed to the world. So that’s where my role began.
It’s very interesting how things come together sometimes. Your first Kickstarter for The Beast was a huge success raising AUD$237,572, which is amazing! How did you approach the Kickstarter? Did you have an audience ready for your product or did you start from scratch?
I’m afraid to admit it, but no; we had no expectation that our product would do as well as it did. We knew our product filled a gap in the market, and we launched it on the hope that niche would be enough. We knew how expensive the competing large printers were, due to first-hand experience; we both had needs for large printers so we knew there was demand, and we knew it could be profitable if we filled that niche by creating a low cost, highly functional device and made it available in kit form, to reduce costs.
Well it’s always better to have an unexpected success than the alternative! Huge build area, synchronous printing, and incredible precision. Are there any features you DIDN’T manage to get into The Beast?
Our design is flexible and can be customised by the user to suit specific needs. When you buy a Beast, if you find there’s a feature it doesn’t include, you can always add the feature yourself - that’s our design principal. It’s a 3D printer that can be very easily modified by the user. We’ve only scratched the surface with product options, so as technology progresses, our design will be able to keep up.
That’s awesome. 3D printing has definitely progressed in recent years, ironing out the bugs and making things much more productive! Getting a product finalised and shipped is no small feat. What did you learn during the process of filling orders from the first Kickstarter?
Ha! To simplify the design! Our original design was crazy, with heaps of printed parts, laser cut parts, and complex assemblies. We actually built around 20 of the V1.2 kits in functional printers ourself, and learned exactly where we needed to improve the design - as did our clients!
That’s a great lesson to learn, and solid advice for anyone out there venturing into the manufacturing space. The Beast had garnered some attention in the medical community. Can you tell us a little about that?
Human body parts can be much bigger than the standard desktop 3D printer, and our product allows surgeons to visualise a procedure prior to making an incision. This may be to shape a titanium plate, or reassemble smashed bones after an accident. By minimising the time a patient is “open”, a surgeon can greatly improve outcomes. Our 3D printer is capable of printing every single bone in the human body without post assembly. In synchronous configuration, a surgeon can improve mission critical reliability (if one hotend fails, or a print delaminates, up to three others will continue).
It’s definitely providing some amazing medical advances in that space, with some rather amazing innovations! You guys are currently running your Kickstarter for The Beast 2.0 (note: this will have concluded when this issue is published) - which has already smashed its goal and is continuing to grow. Are you happy with how the campaign has progressed?
Our V1.2 3D printer turned over $235K on Kickstarter, but much more (I won’t say) in the following 12 months. Kickstarter is not just a pre-order platform; it also provides great exposure. Despite the fact our new product is far superior to the last, the excitement factor on Kickstarter hasn’t been there this time. At the very least, regardless of the outcome, our product is infinitely more visible thanks to Kickstarter than it would have been otherwise.
So it’s effectively launched the whole company, well beyond the original campaign. That’s great! The Beast 2.0 is bigger, badder, an easier build, and still available for an amazing price for large printing. Just how much R&D has gone into this new and improved version? It looks like A LOT!
Yep; three years, two nerds, working every day, with enough cash to try anything we thought might work or improve our product. Our Kickstarter campaign is live, but we haven’t stopped. The product we ship later this year will be improved up until the day it is shipped.
That’s a great testament to the quality of product you’re offering, and will only help you with future Kickstarter campaigns too! Filament out detection is a huge feature - especially on large prints. Are there any other unique features you’ve added?
Our print bed mapping uses some very cool proximity sensors. No mechanics involved and incredibly precise; not that we think our customers will use it much. Once the bed is levelled, its very difficult to throw out (unlike the V1 unit). Really, our major feature is bang for buck. This is an expensive 3D printer, especially for a kit build, but we’ve made it as easy and as possible to own a large volume, no compromise 3D printer without spending upwards of AUD$10K.
We’re impressed by the low cost for what you’re offering for sure. Cost isn’t everything, but it does help! You’re still in the belly of the Beast 2.0 (so to speak), but do you have your eyes on new creations for the future already?
Our beast V1.2 owners are about to get an upgrade kit. We’ll begin work on this once the pre-orders for V2 kits are shipped, so stay tuned!
Awesome! What else would you like our readers to know about Cultivate3D?
We’re moving our factory to Ashmore, Queensland. Also we’re moving towards a strictly pre-order business model, whereby we make pre-order units available for a limited time only. We believe this will allow us more time to focus on product development, while reducing costs and allowing us to better support our customers.
That’s a great position to take for stability and inventory control. We loved hearing all about your success and lessons; thanks for all the details, and good luck with your move interstate!