Jan 25, 2017 | By Benedict

Serious questions have been raised about the status and legitimacy of the NexD1 3D printer. Commenters have alleged that Next Dynamics, the Berlin-based startup behind the 3D printer, has been deceiving Kickstarter backers, and that its PolyJet 3D printer may be far from completion.

Back in mid-December we posted a story about the NexD1, a new PolyJet 3D printer that was hitting Kickstarter to provide users with multi-material, multi-color 3D printing capabilities for just a few thousand euros. Now, however, that initial optimism has been shattered by allegations of fraud and deception. A number of red flags, including seemingly forged test prints and a lack of pictorial and video evidence of the 3D printer in action, have alerted backers to the possibility that the NexD1 is actually nowhere near completion. And with just over two days of the campaign left to run, backers are rapidly starting to withdraw their pledges.

This has been a long and drawn-out process with far too many ins and outs to detail fully in one article. We have, however, attempted to summarize the key events of the turbulent NexD1 campaign. Those looking for immediate updates can follow the comments section of the Kickstarter campaign, though we will likely post a new story once the campaign draws to a close and if/when further information comes to light.

January 6: Backer visit yields no evidence of working printer

The suspicions date back to January 6, when Kickstarter backer [KRS] went to visit the Next Dynamics office in Berlin. “It would be good to see the machine in action and the actual progress,” the backer said in a public comment directed at Next Dynamics. Over the period of Thursday 12 until Sunday 15, KRS did indeed make several visits to the office, during which he was able to meet most members of the team and see various pieces of 3D printer hardware. Worryingly, however, Next Dynamics was not able to show KRS the 3D printer in action. “I came to Berlin, being promised and looking forward [to] a demo of a revolutionary 3D printer and now I am obliged to report that I wasn’t shown it printing anything,” KRS told Kickstarter backers in the now-heated comments section of the campaign.

January 16: Next Dynamics posts photos of objects printed on the NexD1

Seeking to calm a growingly restless group of backers and commenters, Next Dynamics posted a third campaign update on January 16, containing purported pictorial evidence of the NexD1’s 3D printing abilities. “We wanted to share some additional high resolution close-up pictures of previous and new prints, that some of you asked for,” Next Dynamics wrote. “Also, some additional pictures showing the matte and glossy finishes up close, as well as some comparison shots.”

Nothing in the way of a high-quality video then, but a promising response.

January 17: 3D designer suggests printing “evidence” is fake, comments section explodes

It took just a day before that third update from Next Dynamics had been called into serious doubt—by a 3D designer named Bathsheba Grossman. Grossman, immediately recognizing the colorful print demonstrated by NexD1 as her own work, raised a red flag: although nobody was demanding that Next Dynamics show off their own CAD design skills by creating their own 3D designs, Grossman had posted the design on Shapeways, but had not shared the CAD or STL files.

The Code prize and Mosaic Egg #5 as they appear on Shapeways (top two) and Next Dynamics purported prints (bottom)

This claim from Grossman, quickly validated by the presence of her piece, The Code prize, on the Shapeways website, cast massive doubt upon the legitimacy of Next Dynamics’ 3D printing evidence, and upon its project as a whole. Because the design had been shared on Shapeways for physical purchase only, backers deduced that the Next Dynamics team may well have ordered a pre-printed copy of Grossman’s design via Shapeways before passing it off as their own. Next Dynamics claimed it had made its own copy of the design using CAD software, but the seeds of doubt had been well and truly sown.

Another supposed example of the NexD1’s handiwork, a 3D printed egg, was also called into question, it too being listed on Shapeways without the option to download. A video (below) purportedly showing the egg being printed was picked apart, with commenters noting problems with the item’s surface finish and layer lines, which suggested that the item had been printed horizontally, not vertically as the video showed.

Kickstarter Superbacker Andy T gave it both barrels in the Kickstarter comments section, reflecting and summarizing the thought of many others:

“I, or anyone, can buy Ms Grossman's beautiful creation, spray it with matte urethane and then use a mold of clear cooking GELATIN to ‘support’ it…There was an egg order, the artist has not released files, which obviously contain color information or there would not be a colored egg that is the same for every single order from Shapeways. There is zero motivation to create a sandstone finish, and it is way too coarse to be a support artifact. If it was, your watchstrap would have that sandstone texture—it doesn’t.

“As far as recreating the egg, right down to the exact same color gradation, it seems like you are digging your own grave by claiming a recreation to me. You have limited resources, yet are off duplicating an original copyrighted work of art with complex geometry...that would peg anyone's bullshit detector even if it is what you did.”

January 19: Next Dynamics says it will print items of backers’ choosing

By this point, more holes had been spotted in the project, and backers were strongly advising others to avoid backing the campaign or to withdraw their pledges. Following the suspicions over the Code prize and egg 3D prints, backers had challenged Next Dynamics to release the CAD files for those prints—an action that would demonstrate that the items had not simply been ordered off Shapeways. Their response was divisive, citing copyright problems as a reason for withholding the files: “Before we can share the print files with you, we will have to check the situation regarding the copyrights, because some people are expressing problems with this.”

The Berlin-based team did, however, promise to deliver a new update in which they would print new objects of backers’ choosing.

January 24: Next Dynamics posts videos of 3D printer in action, backers remove pledges in huge numbers

On January 24, Next Dynamics finally posted videos of the NexD1 appearing to print three objects chosen by backers and commenters. Many, however, were still not convinced, and the incredibly late timing of the post has hardly given backers time to assess the evidence fully. “Jet printing during simultaneous x / y axis movement, how is that possible?” wondered KRS, the backer whose visit to the Next Dynamics office was the catalyst for the mass investigation.

NexD1 prints "Benchy." Convincing?

Yesterday also marked the highest reduction in pledges from backers, with a net loss of €67,590 throughout the day reported by Kicktraq, a useful site that monitors crowdfunding progress. A further €9,393 has already been removed today, January 25.

By mid-January, much more money was coming out of the NexD1 capaign than was going in

January 25: Campaign looks set to be funded

Despite the enormous question marks hanging over the NexD1 project, the campaign still looks set to surpass its €200,000 goal, with the current tally standing at more than double that figure. (Interestingly, the total funds raised stood at over €550,000 on January 16, before the serious allegations started being made.)

Given the huge problems reported with the Next Dynamics campaign, some will be wondering how the project still has so much money in it. Unfortunately, faith and optimism perhaps are not the reason. Rather, it is suspected that many backers are simply not aware of the current issues, since there is no way for the skeptics to contact each and every backer to alert them of the red flags.

Others have speculated that there may be darker forces at work behind the large total raised. Much earlier in the campaign, a “backer” named Alexander Straub commented: “Love the campaign and just backed a further printer…it can help me so much in my daily work as a Maker.” Only Straub wasn’t a backer at all. It later emerged that the commenter had actually invested in the project, and was basically part of the Next Dynamics team. When (real) backers discovered this, they were understandably outraged, with some speculating that there may have been others like Straub posing as “backers” to make the project appear successful while ensuring its funding.

Although the campaign will run until 15:21 CET on January 27, backers are warned that they need to remove their pledges at least 24 hours before this time to ensure that Kickstarter does not “lock in” the funding as the deadline approaches. And while we simply do not have the evidence to say that backers should definitely avoid Next Dynamics, the evidence is very much stacked up against the German startup.



Posted in 3D Printer



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Jens Galsgaard wrote at 1/26/2017 12:46:23 PM:

The campaign was suspended by Kickstarter today

C wrote at 1/26/2017 12:14:50 PM:

First Created. Technology. Skip.

Tom McBaum wrote at 1/26/2017 9:14:10 AM:

Funding has been suspended!

Lukas wrote at 1/25/2017 3:49:14 PM:

You forgot to mention the Live stream that was scheduled, but was cancelled just h or so before it was to start. There was also a question from a backer: 1) What kind of drivers are you using for the stepper motors? 2) And does the motion system use belts or something else? To that there reply was: Next Dynamics Creator on January 2 Our latest version uses a linear magnetic motor, so no use of stepper motors and belts. For this we have developed our own closed loop driver system based on AMS sensors and a STM32 / Mosfet driver. This is also a really important point to achieve the current resolution and speed. And in the movies they relesed yesterday it is clearly seen that belt is used for the x axis.

Kevin Holmes wrote at 1/25/2017 3:25:33 PM:

good job, best summary of the campaign issues I've seen so far

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