Back in June of 2012, I was kicking around the idea of getting a 3d printer, and I came across a Kickstarter for a model called the Vision 3D Printer. The “Bigfoot” version promised a 12.25 x 12.25 x 12.25 build volume, all for the low, low kit price of $1700. ($2100 fully assembled.) Delivery scheduled for August of 2012. Now, I found the Kickstarter on the very last day, so didn’t get a pledge in on time. I emailed the creator (Matt Underwood), and he offered to place an order for me to be delivered at the end of all of the backers, just toward the end of August. After careful consideration, I sent a PayPal payment to a complete stranger. Hooray!
If only it were that simple… Months went by with very little communication. The printers were promised to ship in September, October, November and December, but there was always a delay (illness, supplier issues, etc). Eventually, 2013 rolled in and there were more and more delays. People eventually started getting their printers after the new year, but it was going slow. Very slow. Without being an actual Kickstarter backer, I had no voice on the site itself, so I felt frustrated and alone. Finally, around March/April of 2013, I gave up on waiting and tried to contact Matt himself. I called Matt and his phone frequently went to voicemail, but I persisted. I eventually got him for the first time. We spoke for around 45 minutes, and I must say, his lack of communication/business skills aside, he’s a bright guy. He appears to know lots of stuff about 3d printers, and engineering in general. He assured me that my printer was going to be ready in about a week. I was excited to hear this, as I had an event coming up in May, and had agreed to print some small keepsake figurines with my fancy new printer.
May’s event came and went, and communication with Matt was difficult. I’d manage to catch him live maybe once out of every twenty calls. When I talked to him again, he smoothed things over and said that if he didn’t have my printer ready he’d ship me a loaner printer (one of the smaller versions he uses for production) so I could complete my order. Success! I’m excited. … Another week went by with no communication. I finally went ahead and told him that I’d come to his facility in Illinois if it would be easier for me to make the pickup. We agreed upon Memorial Day weekend. As the weekend approached, I wound up with a little extra vacation time, and I decided I’d take a trip that weekend, missing out on my chance to meet the eccentric genius. When I talked to him about it, he said that my printer was going to ship that week, so I told him not to worry about the loaner printer.
Matt disappeared for more than a month after that. I guess he was spending week after week working too much and ended up hospitalized. He learned a hard lesson about learning to rest. Still though, it was another two months before I finally tracked him down again. I emailed him, called him, and left messages in every shape saying that I’d be in his town one of two upcoming weekends. He agreed to either have my kit ready or have a loaner. He’d walk me through printing and I’d be on my way. I was so READY this time.
On August 18th, more than a year after the Kickstarter’s anticipated ship date, I arrived at Matt’s facility. I toured his Fortress of Solitude and got to see his printers in action. I have to say… these things are pretty damn nice. Especially when you compare them to other “consumer” model printers like the Makerbot. I was definitely excited to be learning from the master, and at least I’ll get to take a printer with me.
Stick around. This story will continue from the first time I gain entrance to his fortress. I’ll take everyone through my printing experience, both successes and failures. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, and I’ve only just begun.