Photo: (From left to right) John Mardlin, Dr. Charles Mire and Andrew Finkle of Structur3D Printing.

The secret to a successful Kickstarter campaign: Nutella.

Not exactly, but it sure did sweeten the deal for Communitech HYPERDRIVE company Structur3D Printing, who celebrated last Wednesday as they closed a successful campaign.

The campaign was to fund the mass production of the Discov3ry paste extruder, which is an add-on for 3D printers, an inexpensive option to use household materials for printing.

Setting an initial goal of $30,000, they exceeded that within the first two days.

The results speak for themselves.

“We raised $126,000 from 511 backers, and that translates into 387 units of our extruder, sold worldwide,” says Charles Mire, co-founder and President of Structur3D Printing.

Mire points to the activities leading up to the campaign as the reason for what he calls “a grand success.”

“It wasn’t just like suddenly, ‘We’re here’…We had a working prototype and samples made using that working prototype,” he says.

Another factor for the guys, known for printing fun shapes out of such household materials as icing, was having a spot at Maker Faire held in San Francisco in May.

They delighted attendees by printing the Maker Faire robot, Makey, out of Nutella, and showing the versatility of the unit.

“Introducing the product at Maker Faire a few weeks before we launched our Kickstarter campaign allowed our target audience – 130,000 of them – to see our product, watch all the cool stuff it does, handle the samples,” Mire says.

Funding ideas is just one purpose of crowdfunding campaigns like Kickstarter; the other is validation. Structur3D couldn’t have asked for better sources.

“We had people such as Michael Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, say, ‘Now, suddenly 3D printing makes perfect sense,’ ” Mire says.

Not to mention the nod the startup received when Prime Minister Stephen Harper toured the Communitech Hub in June.

“The group seemed genuinely impressed with the product in the same way that many of our customers have liked our product,” Mire says. “To have the Minister of State (Science and Technology) [Ed Holder] swap business cards and discuss real interest in our product, that was nice.”

Mire and his team didn’t expect the level of response from some local companies that couldn’t wait to get their hands on the units.

“All we essentially had was our alpha prototype unit, which is a very industrial model, expensive to make and certainly not in a mass-market form factor,” he says.

Filling early orders for four eager customers was a silver lining for the team.

“We got some insights into just little things we need to pay attention to, and try to finesse our design a little more for the broader market,” Mire says.

Now that they have the funding, Structur3D will focus on filling Kickstarter orders. It hopes to start selling units directly as early as January 2015.

But that’s just the beginning for Mire and the team, who are material scientists first.

“We plan to aggressively move into the materials space and become known as the material suppliers for 3D printing,” he says about plans to create some signature compounds.

Being part of Communitech and the HYPERDRIVE program have been instrumental in getting Structur3D to this point, says Mire, who felt the added pressure not to disappoint the community.

“Getting into the HYPERDRIVE program really bumped us up tremendously, because it was a larger amount of funding and office space,” he says. “It was an acceleration program and there was lots of mentorship – very much hands-on – where we didn’t feel like we were doing this alone.”

About The Author

Trish Crompton
Digital Journalist/Social Media Manager

Trish Crompton brings her passion for technology and digital media expertise to Communitech's External Relations team. Trish was born in Sydney, Australia and has called Waterloo Region home since 2008. She is a marketing graduate of Conestoga College.