Makerbot Has Now Cut 36% of Staff in Last 6 Months

The CEO of Makerbot, [Jonathan Jaglom] announced this week a massive reorganization. Twenty percent of the staff will be laid off, management will be changed, an office will be closed, and perhaps most interestingly, the production of 4th generation of Makerbots will be outsourced to contract manufacturers.

This news comes just months after Makerbot announced its first 20% reduction in staff, and follows on the heels of a class action suit from investors. These are troubling times for Makerbot.

So Goes Makerbot, So Goes The Industry

In the last six months, Makerbot has closed all three of its retail locations in Manhattan, Boston, and Greenwich, CT. It has moved out of one of its office buildings in Industry City, Brooklyn as the company faces a class action suit from investors for possible securities violations. These are by any measure troubling times for anyone at Makerbot.

The 3D printing industry has been forced through the rollercoaster of the hype cycle in the last few years, and where Makerbot goes, media coverage and public perception of 3D printing goes with it. According to pundits, we are now deep in the doldrums of the trough of disillusionment. No one wants to make their own parts for their washing machine, it is said, and 3D printers are finicky devices with limited utility.

Despite these pundits’ projections, the 3D printing industry doubled in 2015. Multiple manufacturers of sub $5000 machines are going gangbusters, and seeing the biggest revenues in the history of their respective companies. By any measure except the one provided by Makerbot, we are still in an era of a vast proliferation of 3D printing.

Makerbot, for better or worse, is a bellweather, and public perception and media attention is highly dependant on the success of Makerbot. The Verge writes – incorrectly – “…The consumer 3D-printing market’s rise has slowed”, and Business Insider writes ‘consumers are beginning to lose interest.’ These are not statements backed up by facts or statistics or even hearsay; they are merely a reflection of the consumer’s disinterest in Makerbot and not of the 3D printing industry of the whole.

Unfortunately, we will not know the extent of how bad it is at Makerbot until Stratasys releases its 2015 financial report sometime in early March next year. Wohlers Report 2016, the definitive guide to the 3D printing industry, will be released sometime around May of next year. Keep one thing in mind: Makerbot did not build the 3D printing industry, and the public perception of Makerbot does not necessarily translate to the public perception of 3D printing.

52 thoughts on “Makerbot Has Now Cut 36% of Staff in Last 6 Months

    1. It’s not like nobody could see this coming. When you do a combination of backstab the maker community to start out with as well as be absorbed by an overhyped company (that might even be bought by HP) in the throes of abysmal stock performance as a result of more vast overhype (among other things), you know a period of consolidation is coming up where they streamline their operations and consolidate (or are made to). Plus, what new things have they introduced in the past few years anyway that actually significantly advance the industry with new technology? Everybody else has caught up to what they are doing and they haven’t exactly made things considerably easier or cheaper to produce for the average person who lacks the desire to troubleshoot their machine (which is hardly plug and print) or the ability to do more than download already made files because the average person isn’t going to learn CAD just to be able to print things. Stratasys bought the name because it had recognition and they wanted a foothold into the retail market to continue their growth and expansion. How is this not abundantly clear?

      What the industry needs to actually move forward is faster, easier to use machines that actually move the needle in terms of state of the art. Not spools of ABS stuck into poor quality machines sold over and over again for years.

      There’s a reason some people are investing heavily in the next generation of product and processes and frankly I am surprised that ABS printing technology as the state of the art for most consumer segments has persisted so long as it has or that Makerbot flourished as much as it did. Having done hardware and software development, it always takes longer than you think and costs more than you expect but there are several very well funded companies out there doing just that and they are making fairly significant progress.

      3D Printing isn’t going anywhere. It’s continuing to evolve and Makerbot just isn’t as big of a player as they once were is what this seems to suggest. I mean, they were bought out anyway, so it is just Stratasys now who owns the name. My only real question is did Stratasys actually get ahead of DDD here or did they make a mistake in this particular acquisition? Really waiting to see what HP does here.

      1. Several years ago I was excited about making replacement parts for my appliances as well. And I have a couple of things in mind even now. But I’ve held off taking the plunge… It was HackaDay that got me excited, and I’m pretty sure it was through HackaDay that my interest waned. I’ve read so many HaD articles (and comments) which told of problems in setup, calibration, plugged nozzles, closed sources, and the software development “chain”. I’ve read of the next best improvement (cost reduction, accuracy, reliability, etc.) is just around the corner, so I’ve waited…
        and waited….
        Now, I’m not so sure if I want another “trinket” cluttering my life. The local hackerspace has 2 3D printers, but do I even have the time to learn what it takes to design a part, upload the part to a printer, load the printer, and wait to see if the results will actually be strong enough, or match my design parameters, or even PRINT!

        1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_adoption_lifecycle and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovations

          Still quite early on in this process. Which is kind of sad, because reasonably good 3d printing *technology* has been around for a *long* time. Several decades. Until they become as easy to use and maintained as easily as your microwave, with extremely high quality, fair costs and an elaborate system of actually obtaining content without being a CAD engineer, the hype remains mostly hype and the industry as a whole will continue to grow but it will not quite be the “3d printer in every house” hype that some people believe in.

          There are, at least, some new technologies upcoming that have significantly fewer moving parts and should rapidly speed things up. Carbon3D, I am looking at you. Don’t screw this up. Considering how much and who is VC backing you guys, I expect great things.

          1. One of the promises of 3d printing is that it could “replace a machine shop” or at least do an approximately good enough job that we “no longer need subtractive fabrication”. Setting aside the fact that this is largely absurd as both tools have their place, that was a good bit of the hype. 3d printing is not going to become truly mass market until it is set it and forget it and parts almost always emerge correctly so that lay operators can utilize them without needing to be trained in how they work or how to calibrate them.

          2. Waterjet: That is already the case with the high-end ($$$$) machines. I run a $35,000 Dimension and a $250,000 Connex printer. Both of them are workhorses that essentially always produce exactly what you expect out of them, and require about the same amount of maintenance as a good CNC mill (ObJet) or much less (Dimension). Load the cartridges, send the print over, walk away and get the part out of the machine several hours later. You don’t need any super specific training to do this.

            I also personally own a little MendelMax printer. I had to assemble and program it myself, I’m constantly making little upgrades, and it requires a lot of tweaking and experience to solve the problems that occasionally crop up. But it produces parts with 3x the resolution of the Dimension at one-fifth the material cost, and the whole printer only cost $1600.

            The people saying a printer can replace a machine shop, outside of some very specific situations (e.g. maybe you only use your machine shop to mill low-res plastic objects less than a foot cubed), don’t know what they’re talking about. And the people who say 3D printing will replace all manufacturing simply don’t know anything at all. But as far as expensive machines used by large shops or studios are concerned, the technology is already mature.

          3. Polyjet technology is great output quality wise. I own several of them (and a Connex is not a $250k machine today) and understand the nuances of how they can be. The heads are vastly more expensive than they need to be and have you ever replaced a Y drivebelt on your Connex? It’s a multiple hour job for a tech that requires taking half the machine apart! Thoroughly cleaning the head beyond wiping the printheads is a huge pain. It’s not truly plug and print at least not for many successive print jobs.

            Much of the maintenance requires a technical background. The output quality is pretty amazing though. The ease of use and automation of routine cleaning, automatic calibration and being a true plug and print machine: not quite as much. There’s still plenty of room for improvement there and these are 150k, industrial machines with encoders, servos, precision rails and other high end, high accuracy and high use hardware components.

        2. I would learn CAD atleast, its not at all as hard as it might seem. Watch a few Youtube tutorials and you’ll be able to make anything after an afternoons practice. The hard stuff is the stuff that has always been hard, like gear interface angles and tooth profiles and ‘details’. But actually modelling a part is easy, just get a good pair of callipers and measure away. Then you can send stuff to a printing service if you don’t want to muck about with your own machine.

          1. Easy for you maybe but you are an early adopter. Do you remember VCRs? Most people couldn’t figure out how to or cared enough to even set the date or time although it really wasn’t that hard. Now, similar devices simply pull time from the internet and also possibly has internal, extremely low current batteries that last a long time and the operator no longer needs to bother. It just happens automatically. This is the same path that 3d printing is likely to take. The “average” 3d printer user is unlikely to want to spend time installing, learning and using specialty CAD packages, let alone calibrating a machine. Even measuring parts accurately so they mate together requires some fairly specialized (to the average user) equipment right now. My argument is that for 3d printing to truly become mass production, they need to come down in price and go up in output quality.

        3. Ren: “but do I even have the time to learn what it takes to design a part, upload the part to a printer, load the printer, and wait to see if the results will actually be strong enough, or match my design parameters”

          Foolproof methods of maintaining the machine, processing parts, achieving reliable strength, etc…that’s all trivial stuff that has already been solved by the expensive commercial machines, and can be easily improved on desktop machines with further development. No, the big one here is the first one: creating parts in the first place. If you can’t tell the machine what to build, 3D printing isn’t going to help you one bit, and CAD literacy is not a skill possessed by the average Joe.

      2. http://www.bizjournals.com/newyork/news/2015/10/23/stratasys-may-have-seriously-overpaid-for-makerbot.html

        Stratasys has announced as part of its preliminary third-quarter financial results that at sometime over the next two weeks it may have to write down the value of its MakerBot property by almost half what it paid.

        While Stratasys’ CEO attempts to maintain a positive tone in the company’s statement yesterday, such a massive write-off is unmistakable evidence that at the time of the acquisition there was a huge bubble in the 3D printing industry.

        The company expects to report a GAAP net loss as high as $190 million, or $3.66 per share. Of that loss, as much as $180 million will come from a write-down on the New York City-based MakerBot property which Stratasys acquired in 2013 for about $400 million in a stock deal.

    1. I dunno, even back when they where open source they where still one of the most expensive of the hobby level 3D printers. Not exactly the best place to be, especially when the premium seemed to feel like it was more because of branding.

      1. I bought a 3D printer back when they were still open source. I did a lot of research. I saw a -lot- of people with Makerbots that had been tinkering with their machines for years and still not gotten satisfactory prints.

        I’ve never understood why so many are so fascinated by Makerbot.

        1. It’s the looks and media hype. The replicator is a nice looking box. People saw MakerBot and reported on it. They were the driving force that got people interested in printing at home. You can spite Bre all you want, in his early days he was like we all are. What happened was he became successful, then too large. He sold off, probably because he faced financial woes on the waves to come. Any company must do what is necessary to survive. It’s all about profits, padding the wallet. Greed ensues, you lose friends and family. Bre then stepped down to do what he really loved because he couldn’t run a company anymore. You can call it reorganization all day but the truth is, they are now a label that Stratisys is using to target hobbyists. They can’t sell $250k machines to a highschool student or college grads. They don’t need offices or brick and mortar stores to sell printers the way people will buy them: over the internet. MakerBot is officially a label, no longer an entity of their own. This will continue until Stratisys no longer finds monetary use for MakerBot and discontinues the name entirely. Thingiverse will shut down. We, as the maker community, will be unaffected because we already lost them long ago.

          1. I first encountered makerbot in the early days, Chuck Pettis was demoing an early makerbot cupcake and acting brazenly as if makerbot had single handedly invented home 3D printing, I pointed to the exposed logic board that clearly had reprap printed on the silkscreen. and asked if they’d care to mention adrian bower or the reprap community? he walked away in disgust, actually abandoned his booth rather than acknowledge me. Second time I encountered them they were showing off the replicator 1 at Hope 9, there was a kid nearby was there with his mom showing off a pursua mendel they had built together, I still have their card, robinson industries, I overheard the makerbot sales people talking smack about the kid and being dismissive of the reprap project when people asked how they compare. By this time the sales people for makerbot were blow-ins and had little experience actually designing or making a 3D printer from scratch, just school kids working a summer job, but their attitude came from up on high. fast forward for bre pettis’ keynote speech at the OSHW summit. a few weeks before someone tried to do a kickstarter for a half priced replicator clone, the KS failed thanks to good will from the community (and the support of HaD), but Pettis used the the opportunity to close source the replicator 2 (the electronics/internals still being heavily derived from reprap), later revisions he systematically closed off more and more of newer versions. but that day, using the keynote slot at OSHW to turn your back on OSHW was the start of the companys decline. A couple of years earlier Lady Ada launched one of hobby electronics most successful businesses by embracing what Pettis rejected. A year later makerbot sole out the company and their remaining principals, they fired everyone related to reprap, and with them anyone with the engineering experience to develop cost effective low cost 3D printers. What followed was a clusterfuck of over-engineered products like the smart extruder that reek of boardroom interference and lies to investors. Bre Pettis also took the opportunity to talk shit about SLA 3D printing, claiming that he bought a form 1, printer 1 model, it broke, and that “it’s not for me”. Now to anyone else that’s just him talking about a competitor and doing business. but to me it echoes chat his dad and his sales staff said about the reprap project that they stole from stole from to begin with.

  1. It seems like MakerBot shot themselves in the foot all on their own though in ways that demonstrate their own problems, not those of the industry at large. The 5th Generation Replicator was/is simply a dud. While some companies would have eaten the cost of redesign and repair/replacement, MakerBot instead decided to deny and stall, allowing buyers’ dissatisfaction to grow and bad word-of-mouth to spread. I have no idea how they got so many 5-star reviews on Amazon; many are the reviewers’ only reviews… something stinks.

    1. I was dissatisfied with my Cupcake. It has a DC motor, they used a cheap chinese DC motor, it has problem, they knew it and keep shipping those crappy DC motor. Mine failed, it has a short-circuit and stop the printing. I asked them for a replacement, no way! they knew it failed, they knew it was their fault, but for some reason I was denied a replacement, or some money back so I could buy a new one. Their solution was that I should order another DC motor from them. G-R-E-A-T-! When they switch to closed source I stop giving a fuck about that company. They grew from the community (cupcake has a ton of community-developed upgrades), they had thingiverse (which was great),… and then…

  2. Sure, Makerbotch was riding the leading edge of 3D printer popularity, but bellwether?? I think there is truth in saying that some people have discovered that 3D printing is (currently) somewhat finicky on a better printer (problematic and disappointing on lesser ones) and requires tweaking, thinking and 3D drawing skills to be useful. This is not news though, it’s just a realization by those new to it who have succumbed to the sales pitch.

    But the drowning of Makerbeotch can pretty definitively be connected with a fat black magic marker to terrible management. It can pretty much be encapsulated in three letters – B.R.E.
    The rise of Makerbot was a result of a good idea developed by the right group of people at the right time, Kind of like the Beatles. But it went sour pretty quickly and I don’t see it having much at all to do with “market forces”. You say Makeritch is a bellwether, then go on to describe how the market doubled this past year. So it appears to me that Makerblot is failing, as I would expect them to with the way it has been run, despite the market growing around it.

    I won’t miss them, and I’m looking forward to watching the further development of 3D printers in the coming years. There will be a tipping point on reliability and price someday soon and that will be an interesting thing to see.

  3. They went closed source and failed to remember that many of their best engineering feats came from the community as fixes. No community and no free engineering. Lulzbot has gotten tons of ideas and fixes from their open source designs and community and the latest Taz 5 is rock solid because of it. Good in house design + good community engineering feedback is a winning formula.

  4. Makerbutt f*cked the pooch bigtime with their overpriced, underperforming recent models. That’s a death sentence for any manufacturer who lives in such a niche sector, it’s doubly so for an entity spewing so much hype and hubris.

    Here’s hoping the others in that sector fare better. I’m particularly fond of PrintrBot myself, but i’d love for them all to thrive.

      1. I have the original Printrbot, the one that used printed parts for the structural pieces. It still works to this day and was cheap. It’s not pretty but it taught me a lot about how the technology works. I upgraded to a better printer but I still have a soft spot for that little thing.

  5. I love my Replicator2 but it’s getting on and when it finally needs replacing, I won’t be getting another Makerbot product. Everything i’ve read about anything after Rep2 is just a disaster and it’s exacerbated by the fact that they decided not to own their mistakes and/or adequately fix them.

    4 people in my office have bought 3D printers in the past 3 months and none of them are Makerbot; the consumer 3D printer market isn’t in decline…Makerbot is in decline because it charges prime+ prices for a sub-prime printer. I’d buy another new Replicator2 at $2K if I was looking for another printer. That’s on the high end of a consumer printer, but a brand new Rep2 is a solid machine (mine’s got over 1200 hours with only minor, operator-induced issues). I won’t pay almost $3k for an inferior printer in their 5th gen model.

    1. Our little printrbot simple (circa sprint 2014) has over 1600 hrs on it. If you count the fried board(which they sent me a replacement for free) and a heating cartridge issue(both from operator-induced issues), it’s only cost us ~$400 total. It still prints like a champ and is printing every single time I come into our maker space…

  6. 3D printing is growing. I see it everyday from my YouTube channel. It reminds me of the early days of computers BASIC and then DOS. You had to know all the geeky commands. The Xerox parc gui interface gave us Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac and computers became easier less geeky. 3D printers will get there. Just needs a killer app like VisiCalc was for AppleII.

    1. Yeah, like a program that will process photos of the broken part, and with a few measured dimensions, reconstruct th part in software ready to be sent to the printer. (Just a suggestion)

  7. Makerbot having trouble has nothing to do with 3D printing as a business or even 3D printing for consumers. It’s a stock bubble crashing, nothing more. If there are any investors who can’t interpret this graph, I suggest asking a 6th grader for help:

    Stratasys was massively overvalued because everyone bought into the 3D PRINTING WILL REPLACE ALL OTHER MANUFACTURING hype. Zoom, whoops that was a stupid prediction, crash, while the actual development of the technology continues pretty much as usual.

    As someone who operates half a dozen different printers on a daily basis and teaches the topic at the university level, I predict that 3D printing won’t become an every-office-place technology any time in the next twenty years. There simply isn’t the demand for it. Look at high quality photo printers: supposedly they were going to be the death of photo labs, because everyone could print photos at home*. Didn’t happen, because as it turns out, getting photo-quality output from a printer is a pain in the butt and it’s not really that cheap. It’s technically possible to do at home, but no one wants to bother other than the dedicated geeks and hobbyists. Exactly what we’re seeing with 3D printing.

    However, look at what happened with special-purpose printers like high end photo inkjets that can print a meter wide with a dozen ink cartridges. Those printers really did revolutionize the printing industry by allowing small service bureaus, with trained technicians and a relatively small investment, to duplicate what formerly could only be done by industrial printing presses with millions of dollars of capital. This is where cheap desktop 3D printing stands to make a difference. Why try to maintain a 3D printer at home for the 3 times a year that the average person would want to use one, when they could go down the street and pay someone else to print the light switch cover or dishwasher piece for them?

    In my opinion, if you want to see the real effects of this 3D printing boom, start watching for the local Kinko’s to install a PolyJet.

    *(well, and hardly anyone prints photos any more now that they can just show them off on an iPhone. But of the people who still do want physical photos, they’re doing them at Wal-Mart, not at home).

  8. Is there by now something like the ultra low cost, free shipping from China type webstores but for smallish 3D printed parts? A user would upload a design (perhaps partly made from some standardized templates) and get a low cost part in the mail a week or two later? Seems like most if not all steps in that process can be automated: website takes user design file, shipping adress and payment, an automated system prints, packs and a shipping company takes it from there. The customer could even get automatic photos or webcam live feed of the printing process in order to cancel if anything goes wrong and to know if a reorder is needed.

    1. YMMV, but for most of my 3D prints it’s an iterative process of print-tweak-print-tweak-print…..It would suck to design a part and then 3 weeks later receive it and learn that you need to shift that hole 3mm to the left. A huge part of the draw of 3D printing is the rapid results.

      It all depends on what you want to print and how confident you are in your design from the get-go, but I think there are quicker/easier ways to get parts made on a 3D printer without going to China

    2. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist. There isn’t a growing demand for it, most people who needed one off pieces end up buying a printer because the cost of a manufactured part makes up a large percentage of what it would cost to own a desktop printer. It really isn’t that hard to learn how to operate a 3D printer. If you can justify the cost of a printer, which is rapidly getting cheaper, you can spend a month learning all the quirks and you’ll never look back.

  9. >Twenty percent of the staff will be laid off, management will be changed, an office will be closed, and perhaps most interestingly, the production of 4th generation of Makerbots will be outsourced to contract manufacturers.

    When the outsourcing starts and/or the H1B’s roll in, it’s a tell-tale sign that the company’s days are numbered. If they are “lucky” and sellout to a bigger company like HP, only top executive management will benefit. Everyone else will be washed out. Makerbot, like so many others contracted the awful tech/silicon valley broken record mentality that has spread like ebola. Hype and hype the company, milk the employees (make them “agile”) for everything they’ve got, then if your company doesn’t get bought out or IPO’s during the fad, scrap staff and aggressively outsource to be “more attractive” to prospective buyers, dump the company, then bail… all translating into higher CEO pay and a bigger golden parachute.

  10. I wish i was suprised by this… but yeah everyone saw this coming miles away. Makerbot started as a promising prospect. they were one of the forerunners. they came with a OK designed 3d printer that was open-source so everyone was able to cooperatively fix the flaws. it was pretty neat back then.

    Then came the corporate interest into view. Suddenly makerbot turned from a ok, community supportive startup into a community backstabbing mediocrity. The machine became closed source, they started including and not so long ago even Patenting community creations without their consent, Quality cheapened further with more emphasis on Design then function. To me it seemed that they wanted to become the Apple/Beats of 3d-printing. the one giant that dominates and bullies the rest, but they failed miserably. Now it is a mere matter of time till they inevitably go bankrupt or get bought up.

    I disagree with the mention of makerbot’s demise influencing 3D-Printers. far from it. That is like saying how smarthphones would be doomed if apple were to fall. There are many small Printer startups that through the power of crowdfunding all have managed to create 3D-printers of all walks of life and quite a few of good quality that now pop-up on webstores allover the internet, ready to fill in the void left by makerbot as if makerbot never mattered. Sure the media may spin tales and it may scare of big companies, but the existing consumer 3d-printer industry isn’t made out of big companies. mostly small indie startups.

  11. I don’t buy that Makerbot is a harbinger of the industry. When the average sell price was going down, Makerbot chose to release a more expensive machine that didn’t do it’s fundamental job as well as the previous model. Bells and whistles don’t mean much if the machine malfunctions more readily and is harder to service or more expensive to service when it does malfunction.

    I’m not aware of whether they’ve actually fixed the problems of their disastrous smart extruders. They basically made the things disposable, being hard to repair and such. I don’t know how many customers would want to spend $175 per extruder. A smart extruder is reported to have a 200 hour service life, though I don’t know if that’s true.

    I don’t know if the typical buyer cares that Makerbot is closed hardware, I think they care that it works well, and it doesn’t appear to do that.

  12. If I read the lawsuit correctly – the company was purchased with mad money. The investors lost control, and going to a proprietary product in a pool of low level innovators, caused them to lose their soul. Well OK, without a new open source non-proprietary follow-on product, they are dead. Dead Jim, Dead. I think it will be all over before Christmas. If I had invested, I’d take the $30 share price and cash out before it is $2 (which happens really fast).

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