RIP Tiko?

Kickstarter is a great adventure in the democratization of business finance.  Not everything on Kickstarter succeeds, to say the least.  I’ve backed a couple of projects over the years, and actually received my rewards.  There’s one project I was watching over the last year, that I did not invest in, the Tiko 3D printer.


It was fun watching this story unfold.  They ended up being a year late with their delivery, went through many trials and tribulations, and essentially failed to deliver in the end.

Looking at this picture now, in retrospect, we can assume that it was a complete fabrication.  Having printed such an engine block on my very commercially available printer, I know that they could not have possibly generated those pieces given the state their printer was in.  Without a cooling fan, they would not have been able to generate the intricate detail, and with their components overheating, they would not have lasted through a print.

But, that’s retrospective.  When you’re watching the train wreck happening, you’re rooting for them, giving them the benefit, and hoping they’re actually doing as well as their arrogance would lead you to believe.
For those few thousand who received their units, I’m betting it will turn out to be their MakerBot Cupcake.  A first printer, not many good prints out of it, then they’ll move on to a real printer, and this becomes salvage in a couple of years.

The saving grace is it was only around $200, so from that perspective, anyone who backed the project was only out a fairly small investment.  That amount of money is probably easily spent on getting coffee every morning for half a year.

They did show that you can come out with stylish looking things.  I’m sure someone else will attempt something similar, having benefitted from Tiko’s mistakes.  They’ll come up with a better solution for cooling the internals, they’ll add a door, they’ll put the filament outside the box, they’ll make it bigger, they’ll add a parts cooling fan, and it will come from AliExpress still for $200.  It will support Simplify3D, Cura, and Slic3r instead of their custom slicer, and the world will move on.

Tiko as a company has not thrown in the towel and said “we’re out of business”, but they have essentially put everything on hold as they’ve run out of money.

And so it goes.

Another project I’ve been following is the GlowForge 3D laser “printer”.  That machine is similarly way overdue, and they have a similar vibe of secrecy about them.  This time I am holding out hope that they do in fact deliver.  You can actually cancel your order up to the last moment before it’s delivered, but again, while you’re watching the train wreck, you’re hopeful that they’ll pull it out in the end and everything will be alright.

So, come on GlowForge!  I’m rooting for you.

It’s kind of like watching the Truman Show.


These are a few of my favorite things

I’ve always dreamt of being an “industrialist”.  Unlimited capital, applied to projects of my choosing, transforming the world as we know it for the betterment of mankind…  and then life intervened.  But, thank goodness for KickStarter.  Since I discovered KickStarter a couple years back, I’ve had the pleasure of investing in a few projects.

I’ve backed simple things that I like, such as the because they improved on a couple of designs that I pioneered.  Then I invested in the InkShield, because I’m pretty sure this will help make 3D powder printing cheaper/easier some day.

I like this form of investing.  It allows me to lay out small amounts of money, less than $1,000 and get something in return, and possibly fund a new startup.

My latest funding effort is going to be the Teensy 3.0.  Then Teensy is a tiny little dev board that contains a 32 bit ARM Cortex-M4 CPU.  You can look at the kickstarter to get all the fabulous details.  What’s so special about this device?  Well, first of all, the Teensy can run ‘Arduino’ code, which is good for all those Arduino hackers out there in the world.  It can act as a USB client device, which means if you want to do automated testing, you could program this thing to be a mouse or keyboard, plug it into your machine, and have at it.  But wait, there’s more.  It’s got IO pins up the wazoo!  It’s got A/D and D/A, with at least 13-bit usable resolution.  You can overclock the thing to 96Mhz, which will make it useful for some things, like generating audio if you like.  It’s got timers, SPI, I2C, I2S, IR modulator, touch sensor inputs.  What more could you ask for in a $22 package!!  Forget the 8-bit Arduino at $35.  This is a much better starting point for many projects.

One of the cool things is you can program it in straight C, which is one of my platform choices.

I can imagine teaming this little thing with a Raspberry Pi for some awesome real world interaction.

One odd curiosity that’s in the device is a real authentic ethernet hardware address.  what’s the big deal?  Well, having an ethernet MAC address is necessary to do any sort of IP based networking.  Although this is not a cryptographically secure means of having an identity, it’s certainly a start.  Assuming the user has not changed the MAC address, you can use this little bit of information to identify the device, which might come in handy for some applications.

It might be very interesting to have some nice simple crypto routines readily available for this thing, possibly written in some nice tight assembly?

There are tons of other little boards that I’ve purchased and played with over the years.  These are a few of my most recent favorites.  It strikes me that with the capability and low price points that we’re seeing these days, my software efforts are going to increasingly be about connecting these small specialized modules together in interesting ways, rather than trying to build giant monolithic systems.