The LazerBlade, a laser cutter/engraver created by Melbourne-based startup Darkly Labs, has been a runaway success on Kickstarter, raising ten times its goal amount with a few days still to go. Domenic Di Giorgio is the founder of Darkly Labs, and he told Techly though he had great faith in his product, the level of success has been a very welcome surprise.
“We had a great deal of confidence in the project but never expected it to reach the level it has has on Kickstarter. Our rewards have needed to be replenished many times over and now extend out to deliveries in December 2014.
“We are cautious with the number of units produced early on and have limited them to around 200 per month. This is something we be working on increasing and hopefully meeting the Kickstarter demand sooner than expected.”
At the time of writing, the campaign had earned pledges of $444,739 from a $45,000 goal. Do the extra pledges mean Darkly will be expanding operations?
“We are planning on devoting the majority of the extra funds raised into further developing the LazerBlade. Adding safety features, refining code, software and the overall user experience. We are also working on creating an online hub for users to share ideas, projects and also get help as needed.”
On Kickstarter, Darkly describe the as LazerBlade as “an entry-level laser cutter and engraver kit, developed to fill the gap in today’s world of affordable desktop rapid-prototyping machines”. Coming in A4 and A3 sizes, the laser can cut and engrave on paper, film and thin timber, and engrave on harder surfaces such as acrylic and wood thicker than 1 millimetre.
“We have been developing the LazerBlade for nearly 12 months. It was very clear early on that the key to producing an affordable system was to side-step the traditional CO2 laser approach and focus on a laser diode based system,” Di Giorgio explained. “Hence we devoted a great deal of time exploring what was possible with current laser diode technology.
“From there we designed the mechanics, creating prototype after prototype, simplifying and improving the design with every iteration.
“In conjunction with this was developing our control code and working with the third party software developers. Vectric and John Champlain saw the potential in the project, creating versions of their software designed with the LazerBlade in mind.”
While Australian customs are strict on the importing of lasers, Di Giorgio assures us the LazerBlade is kosher at the border.
“Lasers are an area Australian customs controls very strictly, especially with respect to laser diodes, which are small enough to be used in hand held devices. Our diodes and modules fall into the legal category with importing by customs.”
Still, he says there are some unique challenges to being a part of the maker movement in Australia.
“There are some challenges that have come up being in Australia, particularly with respect to where the majority of our business is coming, namely the USA. This has meant we have had to find solutions to things such as our shipping charges, in order to keep the product at an affordable level.”
So does that mean a move away from Melbourne is on the cards for the future?
“We love Melbourne. All of the team have either been here all their lives or spent a significant amount of time here.
“For the most part, we have found that location for a startup like Darkly Labs is not as important these days as it used to be. We are just as comfortable working with local manufacturers as we are with our overseas developers.
“We would love to see the local tech community grow and start to work together more. The maker movement is helping with this in the US and hopefully will have a similar impact on us here.”