A crowdfunding campaign in early 2013 for the world’s first 3D printing pen raised $2.3 million on Kickstarter. More than 130,000 units of the 3Doodler have been sold. Earlier this year, a second campaign for a new, improved, slimmer 2.0 version, raised $1.5 million. We connect with 3Doodler co-founder Max Bogue to hear about his experiences.
DC Denison: You’ve created more than a dozen toys, but 3Doodler is the first one to really take off. Is everyone is a doodler?
Max Bogue: Everyone is a Maker. As a species, we make things. We started out making spears and bows and arrows. There’s something internally that drives us to make and develop and to fix and to solve things.
3Doodler sparks imagination. It eliminates the barrier of software and hardware. What you have in your mind, you can physically create. And everyone has their own style, like everyone has their own handwriting.
DC: 3Doodler was invented in Artisanʼs Asylum, a makerspace in Massachusetts. How did that influence its creation?
MB: It gave us a lot more freedom. We had people around that we could ask questions. At one point, we had a simple technical problem. Half a dozen people there could look at our circuit diagram and say, you need a 5K instead of a 10K resistor. Everyone has that creative spirit. It led to a better product from day one.
DC: What’s the most unexpected thing that people have done with 3Doodler?
MB: The number one thing was how the visually impaired/low vision community used it. They wanted to write braille with it and to do raised line graphing for math class. Our initial response was, you can’t do that — it’s not accurate enough. They proved us completely wrong. That was powerful. It’s not just some crazy cool piece of tech, it’s transformative in someone’s life.
DC: Artists have really embraced it. There’s lots of 3Doodled art on Etsy, for example.
MB: Yes, we weren’t expecting that. But I’ve discovered its appeal in my own projects. I get into detail that I never thought I’d do before. I downloaded the Brooklyn Bridge plan and 3Doodled it for a Museum of Modern Art window. Now I have such a new understanding of how the bridge works. The same goes for a suit jacket I made. I went to a tailor and I got the patterns for a suit jacket, doodled on top of the pattern and then peeled it off the paper, and joined the pieces together. I now know more about how suit jackets are constructed than I ever wanted to. It gives you a crazy, intimate understanding of how things are made.
DC: How long before there was a Chinese knockoff of the 3Doodler?
MB: [Laughing] Maybe six months. We’re aware of them — it’s always the way with any successful product that there will be copycats. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Do you have an anti-knockoff strategy?
MB: We have a certain amount of intellectual property protection, but I believe in our community, and we believe in innovating. One of the things we have is the ability to innovate. You have to keep continually innovating. Our new version 2.0 is an amazing example of that.
DC: What’s your advice to Makers who would like to go pro?
MB: My main piece of advice is to work for a company that makes products that reach the market. Learn from them.
It’s one thing to make a prototype, and another thing to bring the prototype to market. Making a prototype is the first 5–10% of it; the next 90–95% of it is a whole other world. Having a great idea is the start. Being able to execute the idea — that’s probably one of the hardest parts. A lot of people get caught up in the initial concept, which is wonderful. But once they’ve run a successful campaign, they get bogged down in the manufacturing. It’s really important to understand the entire process.