Pirate3D building success as Singapore hardware startup

Pirate3D building success as Singapore hardware startup

Summary: Offering affordable 3D printers for the masses, Pirate3D is bucking the trend from a recent wave of software and Internet startups from Singapore and says going the hardware route can be easier.


Amid a recent wave of software and Internet startups from Singapore, Pirate3D is bucking the trend by touting an affordable 3D printer for the masses for as low as around US$300. It also pays homage to one of Singapore's historically key economic pillars--manufacturing.

Their printer called the Buccaneer has drawn so much interest on Kickstarter it attracted over 3,500 who pledged more than US$1.4 million to the project--more than 14 times its original target.

Pirate3D was started last year by three graduates, Roger Chang, Brendan Goh, and Tsang You Jun, along with their professor, Neo Kok Beng. It has so far received US$589,000 dollars from investors.

"It's actually easier to pitch a hardware startup than a software startup, because when you go to an investor with a tangible prototype, it's something that they can touch and see. It's very much more real than if you went to them with a wire frame and present them with your business model," said Chang, co-founder and CEO.

He added there were also a lot less hardware startups than software startups, meaning they stood out more. "Because of that you're rarer, and investors know hardware startups have a higher barrier to entry for competitors to come in since you're going to need a lot of research and development to create these kind of devices."

Pirate3D plans to push sales of its printer eventually at retail stores. The Buccaneer has a profit margin of 30 percent, according to Chang.

For future versions, Pirate3D is looking at ways to make the printer more efficient, and cost effective, such as by moving from Raspberry Pi to BeagleBone Black for its electronics.

Chang explained the BeagleBone Black had a faster processer which would improve print quality. "What we found is that it's not really mechanics hindering the quality of prints right now but the electronics, because if you have a better processer and more memory you're able to buffer more memory for the extruder's movements versus what we have now with the controller board."

Kickstarter backers can expect delivery from December onwards, depending on their pledge package.

How the Buccaneer stacks up against another model on the market, when it is expected to retail for US$347 in December (source: Pirate3D)

Topics: Printers, Hardware, Start-Ups, Singapore


Loves caption contests, leisurely strolls along supermarket aisles and watching How It's Made. Ryan has covered finance, politics, tech and sports for TV, radio and print. He is also co-author of best seller "Profit from the Panic". Ryan is an editor at ZDNet's Asia/Singapore office.

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  • Pirate3d - does it even really exist????

    Ryan, why did you pick this 3d printer for your article??? I've been to their web site. The last time they posted anything in their blog was June 2013. They are not taking orders, but the sites states that PRE-orders are planned to start again in December 2013. One of the FAQs was "Can I see the printer?" and the answer was "No."

    Do any production units of it really exist? In the end, I seriously wonder whether the pirate(s) just grabbed the booty from their crowd-funding and ran.
    • Thanks for reading

      Hi Gsvanwinkle, a lot of the footage of the printer used in our video was filmed by ZDNet. We had a chance to see a production unit, now currently in Mark 4, at Pirate3D's office.

      I am assuming they are holding off on taking new orders until they clear the Kickstarter pledges which are due from December onwards. Seems like they are posting more regular updates on the project the Kickstarter site rather than their own page.
      Ryan Huang
      • It's a bit stupid not to update your own site...

        ...particularly, since the Kickstarter already ended and production is happening to fill those orders. You would think they'd have a ton of photos and videos posted on their site to build up a lot of orders.