The Buccaneer is a 3D printer designed by Singapore startup company Pirate3D Inc. Pirate3D is co-founded by Professor Neo Kok Beng (Adjunct Associate Professor at National University of Singapore), and 3 university graduates - Brendan Goh, Tsang You Jun and Roger Chang. It started off its campaign on Kickstarter, which quickly gained traction. It has been recognised by Siliconangle to be one of the most successful 3D printers on Kickstarter. However, it met with several problems throughout its production process. As of March 24 Pirate3D was not able to complete the shipment of the Buccaneer (cold bed) to their backers. They also never send out a message which stated they successfully completed their kickstarter campaign and fulfilled their pledges. It also launched a social project, Touchable Memories.
The Buccaneer arose because Brendan Goh and You Jun had to prototype designs for school projects frequently and the large costs led to them experimenting with the then new 3D printers. They shared costs with Roger Chang to purchase a 3D printer by Ultimaker. Experimenting with the printer sparked the idea of setting up a 3D printing company. However, they were advised by Professor Neo Kok Beng to instead build a better printer for sale.
On 30 May 2013, the project was shared on Kickstarter to raise funds. The initial target of USD$100,000 was achieved within 10 minutes. The campaign passed the USD$500,000 mark in four days.
On 29 June 2013, the Buccaneer’s crowdfunding campaign ended successfully with raised USD$1,438,765 and 3,520 backers. As the campaign managed to meet their stretched objective of USD$500,000, 10 units of The Buccaneer 3D printer would be donated and trainings in 3D technologies, design and apps development would be conducted to selected African institutions.
However, despite a successful run at the campaign, many controversies surfaced due to the delays in schedules, discrepancy in actual specifications from proposed design, and delays in refunds.
The company admitted to cash flow problems in October 2015 and further clarified things on Kickstarter a day later a follow up article was published from these postings that went into detail on the history of the company and where the 1.4 million in Kickstarter funds went.
As of August 1, 2016 no additional information about the company has been shared with the backers or with the public.
1. Delays to heated bed & product
The first batch of 3D printers were expected to be delivered in February 2014. However, in July 2014, Buccaneer’s founder gave backers the option between receiving a lesser quality machine on an earlier date, or receiving a quality machine fitting of their proposal on a later date.
Backers were disillusioned as they perceived the company as being incapable of delivering its promises on numerous occasions.
2. True specification differ greatly
Backers of Buccaneer from Kickstarter were furious to have found out that specs of the Pirate3D machine differed significantly from specifications in Buccaneer’s proposal. The ABS support, automatic bed, automatic bed calibration, automatic filament feeding and air filtration system they had promised to incorporate were excluded in the final protocol. Investors from Kickstarter were disappointed at the direction the machine was headed to and have since demanded for a return of their invested funds.
In a public statement from Buccaneer, it stated that delays to the heated bed were due to serious reliability problems. Heat generated from the heated was disintegrating the internal components and parts of the machine, which caused rapid deterioration of the device. Hence, there was substantial downtime to reconfigure and dispatch their heated bed version.
In response to this public outcry, Buccaneer has plans to develop a software patch for the ABS, and also include a heated bed in subsequent shipments for the April batch onwards. Buccaneer also allowed a refund for backers.
3. Delays of refund
On 13 September 2014, many customers raised unhappiness with Pirate3D as Pirate3D issued refunds that are dated two years later. In light of delay of shipments, Pirate3D offered customers a choice between a refund of payment or to continue waiting for shipments. Customers who chose the refund were promised to have their money returned within a year. The next day, Pirate3D promptly issued a statement, attributing the slip-up to a technical error in their script used to calculate refund dates. The emails were then sent out without prior screening. A public apology was later issued in Twitter. Emails to correct the situation was subsequently dispatched. However, refunds has never been fulfilled by the company.
4. Delays in product delivery
Buccaneer faced lengthy delays in its product delivery, which led to public outcry. A public statement provided by Buccaneer quoted the following reasons
The Buccaneer is a machine that can be easily setup. Users have to download The Buccaneer application to create objects with it. The application allows users to easily edit and create basic objects, without having to learn how to use a 3D modelling software. Users can select whether to hook the printer to a PC, or to work from a mobile device. Once the setup and designing is done, the image can be shared with peers, or be sent to The Buccaneer for printing.
Pirate3D launched "Touchable Memories", a social experiment, targeted at people without vision. It is a 3D printing project which prints regular photographs into 3D sculptures using The Buccaneer.
This project helps the blind to "see", by allowing them to interpret photographs and experience them in their own way, similar to how Braille allows the blind to interpret written text.
Touchable Memories was captured into a documentary which tells the story of five people from different parts of the world, Gabor, Mario, Meritxell, Yassine and Daniela, who have become visually impaired over time. The documentary was shot by Brazilian filmmaker Marco Aslan.
The project was to create awareness of the endless possibilities of using technology to make lives better.
The Buccaneer 3D Printer was awarded the 2014 "Best in Show" during the CE Week, the Consumer Electronics industry's new technology showcase and trade conference, held in New York City.