Pirate3D building success as Singapore hardware startup

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.

Pirate3D building success as Singapore hardware startup

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.

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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)