The MakerBot Obituary

MakerBot is not dead, but it is connected to life support waiting for a merciful soul to pull the plug.

This week, MakerBot announced it would lay off its entire manufacturing force, outsourcing the manufacturing of all MakerBot printers to China. A few weeks ago, Stratasys, MakerBot’s parent company, released their 2015 financial reports, noting MakerBot sales revenues have fallen precipitously. The MakerBot brand is now worth far less than the $400 Million Stratasys spent to acquire it. MakerBot is a dead company walking, and it is very doubtful MakerBot will ever be held in the same regard as the heady days of 2010.

How did this happen? The most common explanation of MakerBot’s fall from grace is that Stratasys gutted the engineering and goodwill of the company after acquiring it. While it is true MakerBot saw its biggest problems after the acquisition from Stratasys, the problems started much earlier.

The History of MakerBot

Today, MakerBot has precisely two reputations. The most generous reputation comes from tech enthusiasts suffering from low information, that sees MakerBot as the Kleenex and Asprin of 3D printing. With more machines coming out on the market, this reputation is fading.

The second reputation is one of a poorly designed 3D printer. This reputation is deserved thanks to the horrible failures of the MakerBot Smart Extruder introduced a few years ago, but also touches on the technology the 3D printers of 2010 were built upon. Anyone who has ever been to a hackerspace has seen a MakerBot printer, but that printer was broken.

Five years ago, this second reputation would be completely incorrect. MakerBot was the darling of the Open Source Hardware movement. MakerBot was the poster child of a new economy where anyone could manufacture hardware, at scale, and ship it to thousands of consumers around the world. The future would put a 3D printer in every office, if not on every desktop. MakerBot would sell those printers.

The first MakerBot printer, introduced in 2009 – the Cupcake CNC – was among the first consumer 3D printers available. Compared to printers from just a few years later, the Cupcake wasn’t the best printer, but it was a game changer. Available as a kit for $900, the Cupcake found its way into hackerspaces and garages across the globe. MakerBot released their second printer, the Thing-O-Matic at the first Maker Faire in Queens, NY in 2010. Given the fact that I’ve never seen a working Cupcake, the Thing-O-Matic was a vastly improved printer with a bigger build volume. The Thing-O-Matic was the future of desktop manufacturing. It was the printer [Bre Pettis] brought to The Colbert Report. For a short time, MakerBot was 3D printing, and anyone who wanted a 3D printer for their workshop had exactly two choices: buy a MakerBot kit, or build a RepRap, with printed parts that were probably made on a MakerBot.

In late 2010 and early 2011, MakerBot was at the top of the world. No company could ever catch up, and thanks to the goodwill imbued to MakerBot by their support of the Open Source and Open Hardware movements, MakerBot was held up as a new business model. With MakerBot as the example, you could become rich and famous by building Open Source hardware and building on the contributions of your userbase. Although [Bre Pettis] is not the most eloquent orator, he makes the case for Open Source very clear in a 2012 video:

When we started MakerBot, we knew we were going to be open source hardware. We were inspired by Arduino, and we were open source software nerds. So, we knew the idea if we could make it and share it, we’d get more back from it. And I think this is something we learned as kids, that sharing is good, that if you share something you get more back from it, but we forget this as adults. So, with open source hardware we’re back to that. When you get a MakerBot, you’re not just getting a machine, you’re getting the knowledge of how it works. You’re getting the information about everything that puts it together. So if you want to modify it, or if you just want to learn about it, if you want to hack it, you can do it.

-Bre Pettis

Of course, even as a supporter of Open Source and Open Hardware, there were troubles in the House of MakerBot. [Zach ‘Hoeken’ Smith] and [Adam Mayer], the Woz to [Bre]’s Jobs, were cast out of the company. There was only room for one, and despite a strange affectation, [Bre] became the public face of MakerBot and a supporter of Open Source. MakerBot received $10 Million in VC funding in 2011, and the sky was the limit. With a large, enthusiastic community that was willing to develop improvements for the hardware, no company could match the potential of MakerBot.

Forgetting Open Hardware

Throw money at anything, and the vultures will start circling. MakerBot and the RepRap community had a friendly relationship, with MakerBot making contributions to the most popular 3D printer host software at the time. MakerBot created new tool heads for 3D printers, including a device that would print pastes. These designs were open sourced, and we all became richer. MakerBot’s contributions were held up time and time again as an example that Open Source Hardware could succeed.

In August of 2012, MakerBot’s resolve to democratize 3D printing would be challenged. The TangiBot was released on Kickstarter, and by any measure it was a straight-up clone of the MakerBot Replicator. Because the design files for the MakerBot Replicator were open source, the creator of this Kickstarter could simply send the files off to a contract manufacturer, beating MakerBot with their own design. To be fair, the creator of the TangiBot did improve on the Replicator design, making the PCB FCC compliant and using lock nuts, but by and large, this was a direct clone of the MakerBot Replicator.

MakerBot's Automated Build Plate. Once available as Open Source Hardware, the Automated Build Plate has been expunged from MakerBot literature, patented, and apparently forgotten. [MakerBot CC-BY]
MakerBot’s Automated Build Plate. Once available as Open Source Hardware, the Automated Build
Plate has been expunged from MakerBot literature, patented, and apparently forgotten.
[Image Source: MakerBot CC-BY]
Although the TangiBot Kickstarter did not succeed, MakerBot took this threat seriously. Even if the creator of the TangiBot ignored the unspoken rules of Open Source hardware, MakerBot thought Open Source was a liability. Previously Open Source designs, like the Automated Build Plate, a device that will remove a print from the bed before starting a new one, were expunged from the MakerBot home page, patented twice, and forgotten.

MakerBot turned their back on Open Source. Only a month after the introduction of the TangiBot, MakerBot announced their newest printer, the Replicator 2, would be closed source.

In June of 2013, MakerBot was purchased by Stratasys for $403 Million. With Stratasys’ earlier acquisition of Objet, it would become the largest manufacturer of 3D printers in the world. [Bre Pettis] would need to put in a few months as CEO of MakerBot and step down in September, 2014. The total take from the founders of MakerBot would be about $100 Million each for [Zach] and [Adam], and about $140 Million for [Bre]. While Stratasys’ purchase of MakerBot is frequently cited as the source of the Open Source frustration, this is not true. MakerBot turned their back on Open Source long before an offer from Stratasys.

The Stratasys Downfall

Before the acquisition by Stratasys, MakerBot sold an impressive 40,550 printers according to the Stratasys yearly report ending on December 31, 2013. According to the 2014 Annual Report put out by Stratasys, 79,906 printers had been sold under the MakerBot brand by the end of 2014. In a single year under Stratasys, MakerBot sold nearly 40,000 printers. A year later, in 2015, MakerBot sold only 18,673 printers, half of their 2014 numbers.

Sales numbers for 2016 are – of course – unavailable, but MakerBot celebrated their 100,000th printer sold on April 4th. From December 31st, 2015 to April 4th, 2016 – three months and four days – MakerBot sold only 1,421 printers, an average of about fifteen per day.

It is irresponsible to suggest MakerBot will only sell five or six thousand printers for all of 2016. Sales of 3D printers are remarkably seasonal, thanks to schools getting grants and back-to-school purchases. Nevertheless, it appears 2016 will be MakerBot’s worst year since 2010 or 2011. The writing is on the wall, and MakerBot will quickly be a footnote in the history of 3D printing. But how did this happen?

Although MakerBot reversed their stance on Open Source Hardware before their acquisition by Stratasys, that alone is not enough to kill a company. What did Stratasys bring to the table? Terrible engineering, ethically questionable practices, and patenting everything they could get their hands on.

The first days of 2014 saw the introduction of the first MakerBots designed under the auspices of Stratasys. These were the 5th generation of MakerBots, in the tradition of all hardware manufacturers at the vanguard of a new technology, three products were offered. The ‘good’ printer, the Replicator Mini, is a no-frills machine with about the same build area as the original MakerBot Cupcake. The ‘better’ model, the updated MakerBot Replicator, showed a tremendous influence from the earlier, 4th generation printers. The ‘best’ model, the Z18, was a monster with more than a cubic foot of build volume. All three printers in the 6th generation featured a Smart Extruder, a proprietary device that squeezes filament through a nozzle.

MakerBot sold the Smart Extruder – a part that should not fail – in packs of three.

By any measure, the Smart Extruder was a terrible design. In every other RepRap-based printer, the extruder is the one part that should never break. Nozzles are consumables, yes, but the Smart Extruder was a complete failure. Estimates for the mean time before failure for the MakerBot Smart Extruder were between 300 and 500 hours. Assuming a single print can take an entire day, the $175 smart extruder would only last for a dozen or so prints.

The complete failure of engineering of the Smart Extruder was the source of a class action suit against Stratasys. Stratasys investors allege the 5th gen MakerBots were rushed into production, generating a bevy of negative feedback, warranty claims, and returns. The lawsuit alleges misleading positive claims about the reliability of MakerBot printers were used to artificially inflate Stratasys’ stock price.

Although the problems with the Smart Extruder are the most tangible, MakerBot failed on several other fronts. The MakerBot storefronts in New York City, Boston, and Greenwich were shuttered in the past twelve months. One of the first actions taken by MakerBot after its purchase by Stratasys was to patent several designs based on designs uploaded to MakerBot’s object repository, Thingiverse. Although the abdication of Open Source failed long before Stratasys took the helm, the new owners certainly didn’t reverse course. MakerBot and Stratasys are now reviled by the entire 3D printing community, not only for continuing the turn on Open Source seen under [Bre]’s leadership, but doubling down under Stratasys.

Where MakerBot Stands Now

2015 was a tough year for MakerBot. In April of 2015, MakerBot laid off 100 of its approximately 500 employees and closed all three of its retail locations in Manhattan, Boston, and Greenwich. Last October, MakerBot laid off another 80 people and shuttered one of its Brooklyn office spaces. This week, MakerBot laid off the remaining manufacturing staff and will begin to outsource manufacturing to China.

Stratasys, and by extension MakerBot, is a publicly traded company. Therefore, financial statements must be released to the public every quarter. The financials and sales figures are in the toilet, but even more damning is the value of the MakerBot brand. Like every aspect of a business, the value of the brand and reputation is tracked as an asset, and is called “goodwill” in company reports. For every quarterly report Stratasys has released after the acquisition of MakerBot, a goodwill impairment charge – a markdown on the value of the MakerBot brand – has been recorded. Including the 2015 yearly report, Stratasys has taken a total goodwill impairment charge of nearly one Billion dollars for MakerBot. Keep in mind Stratasys acquired MakerBot for $403 Million in stock. Stratasys has written off nearly double the value it paid through the failures of the MakerBot brand.

MakerBot is a dead company walking. Yes, the newest version of the Smart Extruder is more reliable, with most extruders printing successfully after 1200 hours. Thingiverse, a MakerBot property, is still the most popular object sharing repository on the Internet, but others including YouMagine are making inroads. What does the future hold for MakerBot? It will linger on as Stratasys division of consumer 3D printers, but it’s extremely doubtful MakerBot will ever be held in as high a regard as in the heady days of 2010 and 2011.

153 thoughts on “The MakerBot Obituary

    1. I think you missed the point. Stratasys paid 400m in stock and wrote off 1billion in losses. They made 500m on the deal in tax avoidance. Its been a huge success for them and pushed anyone with money to buy their printers instead. People without money don’t count to Stratasys. Their brand is untrammelled by this fiasco.

      Its only us that lose.

      1. “Their brand is untrammelled by this fiasco.”

        While I agree that the brand awareness and association for making generally decent commercial machines is not tarnished in the sense that customers will suddenly associate them with Makerbot, have you checked their market cap lately?

        Their market cap is 1.41B now. It has dropped to roughly 20% of what it once was. Yes, they had a huge goodwill writeoff but they still produce vastly overpriced machines and still only have, what, two core (but aging) commercial quality technologies?

    2. The company behind it all is Objet from Israel who acquired Stratasys from Minnesota then used that name as the name of the company. They have since replaced all top MakerBot management with Israelis. These people have devastated MakerBot intentionally causing huge losses that will likely be used to offset gains for years to come

  1. Having followed the whole Make `zine from its inception through abandonment in disgust (terrible articles and worse awareness of life beyond Brooklyn, though both have since gotten better), this is more of a case study of how to create a near-vaporware product, market it to pieces among the technically uninformed, and cash out before reality catches up with the operation.

    Sadly this is the market model that many people aspire to – you can find its counterpart in many industries from tech to biotech to “financial engineering”.

    1. This is very very true.

      I’ve been involved with numerous startups through my uni’s entrepreneurial club. So many people just want to develop a beta, get some VC, market it to hell, and get bought up. They have almost zero intention of developing anything.

    2. It’s not entirely clear from your comment what you’re implying, but I want to point out that Make:, Makezine, and O’Reilly Media are not related on a corporate level to MakerBot or Stratasys. Bre Pettis had some articles in Makezine, and I believe the Maker Shed once distributed some MakerBots.

    3. This, i never made a connection between make/makerbot and the term vaporware, but now that you mention it, it sounds like a perfect match. Anyway, i always felt like they where overly enthousiastic about tutorials copied from instructables and adafruit, and the printers have always been shit, at their best moment, they where not much more then 2k versions of your average reprap, with ‘a fancy body’

  2. You can’t say that Stratasys doesn’t know how to make a reliable extruder, their dimension and fortis machines are incredibly reliable. It makes you wonder what happened with the failed smart extruder, I suspect the Stratasys engineers did not play much of a role in that, it was probably a poorly managed effort of the original makerbot crew.

    Obviously I am speculating, does anybody know whether the engineering of the two entities was effectively merged, or are they totally separate teams?

    1. I don’t think Stratasys has anything to gain by making consumer printers reliable and inexpensive. If they do, it erodes their high end professional market. Because of this, I doubt they leveraged their existing engineering team to contribute to MakerBot designs.

      1. This attitude is what will bring the collapse of statasys as a whole. Ignoring an immerging market due to hubris and allowing these companies to catch up is the writing on the wall do allot of companies.

        Intel (ignored arm for profits in x86), Nokia (ignored Android and iOS as it had better hardware) Blackberry, Yahoo (when Google was up and coming), Blockbuster(when Netflix got started).

        “Undermining your core business” is exactly what your compressors want to do, you should look for a way to profit from vl doing the same to your self. A small business is perfectly fine making 50% of the profit the fat cats do, especially for volume of sales.

      2. I hate that I can’t delete the extra VI…. But I will add something any how…

        Tldr if statasys doesn’t invest in low cost high quality primers, other companies will, this will allow others to undercut and run them out of business.

          1. they wwere going down that route too with their printrbot metal. i had a friend who built the simple and it sucked so she laser cut all the parts and its super solid so at least there is the ability to get those files.

          2. Printrbot is probably one of the best starter printers with a good community backing. I started with the very first kickstarted printer and went through the growing pains with that piece of junk. But it got to a point where it worked well, and I was happy with it. I moved on since then and I have the printer torn apart in a box. Maybe I’ll put it back together.

      3. As camerin hahn said, the incentive long term *should be* ensuring the viability of their company. The problem is that consumer printers haven’t caught up yet so in the short term Stratasys doesn’t want to go making Makerbots too reliable. I just think it’s puzzling that they keep the brand alive at all, why not just shut it down? Is there a real reason to keep the thing going?

      4. MakerBot is positioned as the lower end printers alongside Stratasys’ line. The lowest end Stratasys printers are still more expensive than the Replicator and I think the Z18. IMakerBot is sold as a segue into Stratasys higher end 3D printing.

    2. Reliable my ass.

      I own a Stratasys Mojo and my last job had a Stratasys Dimension Elite.

      We average one “shit the bed” head need replacing failure on the Elite per year. And that’s when the machine decides to print. The firmware is so buggy that about 15% of the time, the machine just crashes and shuts down when you send it a job.

      The Mojo integrates the print head into the cartridge – so for every material change you get a new print head. Completely proprietary system, they even use a non-standard (1.3mm instead of 1.75mm) filament diameter to prevent people from trying to reload the cartridges and at $400 / cartridge it is hands down the most expensive FDM / FFF material you will ever buy. I’ve had a 10% dead-on-arrival or dead-first-print failure rate in the last two years I’ve owned the machine.

      The only reason SSYS is so successful is they’ve had a 20+ year head start and multiple patents locking down their technology. The Dimension Elite is now what, 10, 15 years old? It took the Reprap community (Tauman, et al) releasing nylon as a print stock before SSYS got their act together and released a nylon filament – and even then you have to pay for a license to use it, on a machine you already own.

      I can’t wait to see both companies die.

      1. Interesting, I am obviously giving my anecdotal experience. Have used a dimension as well as a uPrint from Stratasys and comparing them to a Makerbot Replicator 2 (before they were bought) and the 3d systems cube, I can say there is no comparison. The Stratasys machines did go down sometimes, (they are machines with moving parts) but I found they worked for extended periods of time without a need for screwing around. The other two could not be relied upon to print for more than an hour at a time without a failure, no exaggeration.

        1. I’m with you. We have a Stratasys at work and I have my own in the basement. The only problems I ever have with it are filament jams, and that’s because I’m using dirt cheap filament. The extruder has never ever clogged on either printer. The system has never “crashe[d] and shut down” and the heads have absolutely never had a catastrophic issue. We’ve had our Dimension Elite running without a service contract since 2008.

    3. Stratasys generally left the old MB crew alone for the first prototypes of the 5th gen system, but engineering lost a large amount of quality mechanical engineers due to politics and acquisition. Once that turned over, the designs and decisions turned over to guys and gals who were just not up to speed. Poorly managed? You could say that, I guess – but I would attribute a lot of the failure to the management that would not make smart hiring decisions that followed the departures of the better engineers and lack of any real guidance. When you let the product be run by average folks, with no guidance, you’re going to get poor results. We all saw it coming, and when anybody voiced any concern the only answer was that to tunes of deadlines and ship dates.

      I’ll leave myself anonymous for obvious reasons.

    4. Long time Ultimaker employee here.

      Naturally, we took one of these machines apart. And, while I’m not with Makerbot during the development. The design itself shows a lot of signs that 2 things happened. It looks like a lot of different teams worked on different parts, without looking at the whole. Focus on features instead of reliability.

      WiFi didn’t work on the first version, and was unreliable after the first update. Extruder jamming completely. UX which looked like a touchscreen but wasn’t. Custom designed stepper motor drivers (WHY?!?)

  3. Comparing Hoeken and Adam Mayer to the Woz is a fucking joke. The stepper controllers took PC molex connectors which supply 12V and 5V. Yet there was a genius decision to put a 7805 on the board to drop the 12V signal to 5V.

    The engineering was never good on the makerbots and it was good decision to kick these two out.

    1. Fully agree with you. At the early stages of MB (i am a Cupcake CNC owner) i’ve always tried to take some influence in the electronics design to make it better, more reliable, and closer to something that could pass at least some CE/FCC compliance testing. Nobody wanted to listen to what i had to offer, so i soon stoped contributing and made my own boards at home to get what i wanted. If you look at more recent designs of Mr. Hoeken, he still produces the same crappy circuits and layouts today that maybe somehow sometimes kinda seem to work, but really show no sign of any engineering or design skills…

    2. I agree that it’s a joke but so is most of how the whole “Make” movement is done these days. There’s been plenty of people who I’ve met who have programmed an Arduino and then turned around to claim they’re masters of embedded system design.

      This is the problem with most new over-hyped tech and the people associated with them. Lots of things like incompetence, lack of skills, or improper hw/sw can get masked as “style” or ‘customer cost savings” when really it’s all the same thing. Lies.

      The bigger problem is, most of society doesn’t scrutinize these “tech entrepreneurs” who do the equivalent of a pump and dump or short sell stocks. The thing looks flashy to an investor or two in a VC meeting and BAM. Patents lock 90% of people out who care to do anything to progress the technology. Great example is heated build chambers in North American 3D printers thanks to yours truly Stratys.

      I never really liked Petis. He seemed like an over zealous flashy full lying sack of shit. I remember wathcing one of the makerbot printer demos and never liked the entire brand to begin with…it was more a brand than anything.

      “We offer the best printers out there” -> Sure but 90% of your design was based off Reprap which is open source…and leveraged most of the work of others…yet their printer costs the most compared to other known working printers.

      Good riddance!

      1. I never really liked Pettis either. He just reeked of smug brooklyn hipster, and the move to close source the designs in 2012 made it clear he was really only into using ‘Open Source’ as a branding strategy more than anything else.

      2. I got that same scummy vibe, but back when MakerBot was the darling of the OS community, I was quickly branded a hater and shuttered so only yes men and people who didn’t question quality of the products lingered.

        I’d also like to add that when I bought my CupCake, it was mainly because at the time, MakerBot offered a complete kit whereas RepRap had loose instructions that involved finding someone with a RepRap.

        Many years ago, I recall seeing some of Bre’s articles and videos on Make and I recall thinking that he was all hype and talk, the “hacks” he spoke of weren’t really hacks or barely fit the definition, and he was trying too hard to push the “geek” look/hype over actual understanding or inspiring to learn things.

        Over at the forums(not sure it’s still accessible), there were a few rockstars that emerged, customers who bought a CupCake and fixed it and shared their expertise with others, because MakerBot CS agents were spread too thin, not empowered to answer problems on the products they were supporting. Bre even made a post about how his favorite type of customers are those that solve their own problems for him(MakerBot). These generation of people quickly turned to hate MakerBot some years after… and I always wondered how they lost the chance to build up the community+company by losing the faith from it customers.

        Over at glassdoor, there were some eye-opening testimony from employees about the craziness that went on inside, so maybe they had other concerns in mind.

        https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Makerbot-Reviews-E480203.htm

  4. As an employee of MakerBot during a very critical time between 2011 and 2014, this article is very disappointing and loaded with misinformation. Please, do some research before you write. There are now literally hundreds of ex-employees who can shed some light on what happened to MakerBot. Talk to them.

    Hint: the reality is much worse than you make it out to be.

    1. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story! Better than I lot I’ve read though.
      It will take an employee’s writeup (more likely, the combined work of multiple) to tell “the real story.”

      I don’t think there are many voices openly representing the R&D and Engineering departments, so most of what gets blogged about is guesswork.

      1. brockhold, I’d love to see us get together and tell the story. When do you want to start writing and who else do you think we can reach out to ? I can think of a few great editors/novelist we can rope into the project and two awesome guys who might be willing to finance it..

      1. I like how you instantlly assume everybody that worked there is as big of a sellout as the face of the company is/was haha. That said, i too would love to hear the inside story from actual former employees, lets try prevent biographys though :P

    2. As a journalist in 3D printing i’d like to hear it … I don’t doubt MakerBot has been a disaster on many fronts, however I think that the error was in Stratasys buying it, everything else came as a natural consequence

      1. Nope. SSYS was a victim, just like many of the former makerbot employees. It was a mistake for them to purchase the company but one they were duped into making and they’re only doing what they have to to recover from spending $400M on a company that was worth far less than they were led to believe. Makerbot’s downfall was guaranteed by the two former CEOs long before it was purchased by ssys. Seriously, there are former employees who reported directly to both bre and jenny, who sat in on business meetings with many of the companies that makerbot “partnered” with for the sole purpose of increasing the company’s perceived value on paper, employees who had a unique and slightly privileged view of events. We’re out here. Stop speculating and blaming ssys and find us if you want the real story.

        1. I suspect SSYS’s intent was to strangle their most likely competitor on the low end from the beginning. They just miscalculated on the impact it would have on the rest of their business.

          1. Ding DIng WHoot WHoot!
            You win the booby prize.
            (“follow the money”– Deep Throat)
            Look at the technical analysis on the ssys chart, it’s a freak’n money machine if you know how to play it.

            And what about Kurzwiel’s axiom that as tech advances exponentially the price descends linearly?
            Given the choice between VR + AI or physical prototyping why would the consumerat want all those un-recyclable chatchkies collecting dust and adding to the plastic juggernaut in the Pacific? (that’s a photo I’m waiting for, some oceanographer pulling out junk from the ocean with the makerbot logo on it, poor turtle). Consumer 3D printing is a dead-end, like the middle-class that’s supposed to buy them.

            How many of you have a free 2D printer with your purchase of a system?

            They say there’s intelligent meat down here.

            Tootsie
            Jolly

    3. Someone needs to make this happen, there’s always lots to learn from failure and it’s far more interesting than everyone just diving in to kick the dead horse and gloat.

  5. I think that Statasys bought Makerbot to intentionnally kill it. At the time they bought it, it was the most renowned brand of low end 3D printers. Their line of reasonning must have been: The quality of their printers can only get better with time and it could attrack some of our customers. Better to kill it now. If the shares options they paid for are all Makerbot shares and not Stratasys shares it won’t have cost them much as philippe write above

    1. Yep, my thoughts too.

      MakerBot sales were killing Stratasys sales. For every MakerBot sold, and there was A LOT of them, that was potentially one less uprint/dimension/fortus purchased. If you assume even 10% of MakerBots were purchased by companies who would have otherwise bought a dimension, that is something like $120 million in revenue that Stratasys lost. If things kept going the way they were, Stratasys would have continued to lose tens of millions every single year and its worse than that still, since this is only considering printer cost. If you remove the profits they make on their filament, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were losing $50-80M a year when MakerBot was at their peak.

      They bought Makerbot to kill them. They didn’t want MakerBot to succeed because even if MakerBot did continue to do really well, the profit margins were still incredibly small. Seriously, the profit Stratasys make on proprietary filament for the mojo for one year of average use is probably in the order of 3x the profit on selling a single MakerBot which is loaded with customer support costs and warranty repairs etc after selling it. How else can anyone explain MakerBot gutting the replicator 2x design, removing many critical features that users loved, adding proprietary filament and then jacking up the price massive amounts. Surely after such a huge cash injection, they could flood the market with lower cost printers and own it?

      What they didn’t expect however is the rate at which so many other companies caught up including Formlabs, Zortrax, Lulzbot and Ultimaker. Killing MakerBot was a smart business move if they were literally the only competition which to be fair, they were at the time. Fast forward a year and removing one company had little effect on businesses looking to buy a 3D printer. They didn’t care about the smart extruder, it wasn’t worth their effort to fix. The only time Stratasys started to care about MakerBot was once they realised that killing MakerBot didnt increase sales of their more expensive printers at all, other brands were filling up that space and removing further sales. Since they had no power whatsoever over the other brands, the only way to keep earnings up was to try and save MakerBot but it was too little, too late.

  6. As owner of both a Cupcake and a Replicator2, their mistake was abandoning their open source. When it becomes no longer a DIY fixable item, the loyalty went out the door. I now recommend reprap based printers to those who want them.

  7. Eh Makerbot has always been way overpriced IMHO. There was always an equivalent at some fraction of the price. The major thing they had going was marketing. Everything under the sun for quite some time was Makerbot this and Makerbot that, blaw blaw Makerbot. To the point where I started to avidly loath the term Make/Maker. I still kinda cringe when people use it.

    And then they really torpedoed themselves in the foot by going closed source.

  8. Bre Petis can suck it. I own a Cupcake CNC. It worked great until it blew a FET (1 week). Their solution was to mail me a couple of surface mount FETS in a plastic bag. Not even an anti-static bag. Issue 1: I’m a hobbiest how do I replace a surface mount part? Issue 2: all the FETs they sent where damaged.

    1. For 3D printers, I tend to recommend students use a standard RAMPS v1.4 with an Arduino loader on a Mega 2560.
      These kits are inexpensive, documented in detail, and has code widely used by other hobbyists (even the design quirk errata is documented).

      If the printer comes as a kit, than it is worth having an extra controller around for repairs. Otherwise, you may need to redo the same repair again in the future, and the proprietary/closed board you have may no longer be in production. This happens to big CNC machines all the time, and with the DMCA it became 10 times worse…

      I have dev’d more mcu brands than I care to recall, but still prefer the standard RAMPS 1.4 system on a Prusa i3.
      YMMV

  9. Sigh… I wished Stratasys would have let Makerbot go the way of the Dodo, if they are outsourcing manufacturing to China., that way talk about Makerbot should have been over with. I had always thought the expectation that open hardware would be like freeware/shareware/ pen source software unreasonable, because the are fundamentally different. Writing s free software is a leisure time activity, so is designing open hardware. Things get different when it comes to manufacturing open source hardware, because manufacturing entails investing tangible assets. Time is a tangible asset if how you use time to earn something, that’s why used the term “leisure time” in regard to time spent on contributing to open source. Not that I’m saying that time is wasted if it doesn’t bring in income, it’s not wasted if it brings a sense of relaxation from the necessary daily grind. I have always felt that the market for home shop 3D printers was limited and I still believe it is, no matter how expensively the can manufactured and still be long term reliable. The DIY community can, and will still go about doing their thing building the printers, but they will not benefit from the economy of scale commercial production home shop machines could bring.

    1. Came here to say this.

      Watched it last night already knowing some of the hatred against makerbot for going closed-source and such, but didn’t know very much else. It was good to watch, then woke up to this in my inbox, they go together nicely

  10. I tried my hand at using the cupcake but the results were abysmal. I was convinced this machine was engineered just to troll me. The more experienced 3D printing experts around me were able to tweak the thing enough to eek out a successful job. They take a bit of babysitting but I can honestly say that I have witnessed a cupcake print successfully.

  11. No surprise here. Apart from the closed source fiasco Makerbot was also a victim of the hype around the Maker ‘movement’.Every Maker Faire had a new Makerbot being demoed and the snarky sales staff would throw pitches like ‘just press this button and you will get your part made’.
    That and the fact that the overall 3d Printer market could not make inroads with the common populace outside the maker community is directly responsible for this. A few other printer manufacturers like Solidoodle , Zeepro, InventApart(Rigidbot),Hyrel have closed down or downsized operations.

  12. The WHY is simple. Investor money = COMPLETE loss of control.
    You don’t loose control when they own 50.0001%, you loose it when you give up >0.000000001%.
    You then have a fiduciary obligation to that investor. If a competitor approaches the board with a buy offer greater than projected earnings…. it doesn’t matter how much of the company you own. If you don’t agree, the investors can and will boot you. Bye bye Hoeken and Mayer.
    Moral of the story is to only take on investors if you’re looking for a quick exit.
    It’s not a world for open source ANYTHING.

  13. I blame two things. First, Bre Petis is a smug jerk who didn’t know when to shut up.
    Second, most folks don’t need a 3D printer. There really isn’t much of a home market. Those that wanted them bought or built them. Now, even the fence sitters can get an XYZ printer for under $300. After you print a bunny and an octopus, what do you do with it (at least often enough to justify the real estate on the desk/bench)? Unless prototyping is a regular activity, there’s no real use for a home 3D printer beyond the whizz-bang novelty.

    1. I haven’t purchased or used one yet, but I had dreams of making replacement parts for broken plastic items around the house. Over time I realized that designing such a replacement part, whether it is just a plastic handle or more complicated like a gear was going to be a long process. Sears just wasn’t going to place the design of each Kenmare washer/dryer/dishwasher part on the web. And after the design(including learning a CAD program, then there is the slicing, followed by iterations of failed prints…

      1. I will say that failed prints have lessened. (They still happen from time to time.) Mostly because of people experimenting. The primary print failure problem is adhesion failure.

        I switched to hairspray and my failure rate is very very little now. I started a 20 hour print a while back, and aside from putting hairspray on the bed, and checking the print head, I haven’t done anything to it, and haven’t watched it. (To be fair I just did check on it, and it’s doing fine. about 20% done, but it’s in another room.)

        A well tuned printer can do that. However, to get something well tuned you need to either get a really good one. (Only two commercial ones that I’d consider well tuned out of the box so far that I’ve used: Flux and Ultimaker 2.)

      2. I thought the same thing and built my own from junk I had lying around and it produces quiet reasonable prints but apart from a few prototypes for a friend who’s into cad design stuff it just sits and gathers dust. It’s easier to grab a bit of aluminium dremel and hack simple part up.

    2. I think my homebrew cnc+Ramps system has paid for itself in custom brackets, replacement knobs, and other small tasks like replicating interior car door lock pulls for a restoration. I own a couple of project cars and classic boats in addition to building underwater robots so I think it’s about the lifestyle. If you live in an apartment with the basics and go to an office every day to do repetitive work there is probably little need for in-house additive manufacturing in your life.

      The biggest time saver is when I make molds for cast metal artistic and mechanical items. In CAD I can make a mold plug that’s exactly the right size for the shrinkage of my intended alloy. Need to cast a part in 7000 series AL instead of the 6000 you did earlier? No problem,a few clicks and overnight I have my 7000 series mold plug.

      Not to offend, but I have a hard time finding enough time to do all the things I want to try and cannot understand how anyone could see a creative tool like a 3D printer or cnc mill and not find inspiration in endless projects.

  14. I used to believe that anyone could 3d printthings but have now come to the realization that 3d printer people are like music people or math people or athletics people…you have to want to deal with the quirks of the form.

    3d printers go down. and when they do you need to, 1st, “want” to figure out why and fix or improve it. that “want” thing makes it more than just a means to an end.you want to do it because you have something you want to say with it. most people do not. its only a small subset of people who are obsessed with this form of expression, so making it “push button easy” is disingenuous because if that type of ease is a prerequisite for someone, they are going to be PISSED when they realize that these things choke from time to time. 3d printing is a specialist art at this point in time.

    so then within this specialist community, who contribute to the community as a whole, when you obviously steal shared designs then patent them, this community is the people that new people ask when they are interested in getting started and now the “experts” hate your company. we its just stupid.

    and with the open source knowledge i/we have, i can build a reprap for about $150 in an afternoon. and the cost is still dropping. overpriced reprap knockoffs, cant compete.

    i second the comment above that stratsys bought makerbot to kill it. and although they think they are immune to the repercussions, i smell a kodak moment looming…

  15. I knew this story, but it feels weird still.
    I’ve worked with a certain brand of FDM printers in the past (clue: a KS’d one).
    And now i’m working in another brand, this time testing prototypes of some new technology.

    And now i’m reading this (known) horror story.

    But yet I want to buy/build my own 3d printing :3 This is how i know I like it and i’d work on it.

  16. I’m more interested in the future, rather than the past.

    For all the worry over Chinese clones, when makerbot does export manufacturing to china, the machines will either work in some capacity or they won’t (‘working’ being a pretty low bar at this point). If they do, then I figure stratasys will try to market to professionals as a sort of lower-end industrial product. They’ll also probably lock down thingiverse to only run through makerware. If the machines turn out to be Chinese-made crap instead of American-made crap, then I figure Stratasys will just skin makerbot and use the brand name alone, sometime off in the future, perhaps when/if challenged by other companies. Either way There’s actually an almost-certain chance Thingiverse will be locked down in some way, perhaps with a subscription fee.

    What I’m really interested in is the future of patents like the heated build enclosure and ejection platform, which have really no business being anywhere but open source. (these things were out during the open source era right? do we have the source files anywhere?) I’d rather not wait around for a couple of decades for the patents to expire since stratasys sure as hell isn’t about to give them up. I’m wondering if we can submit archives of the page, especially those containing evidence of source file releases as a form of prior art to the patent office to invalidate those patents sooner (without some and their company having to fight it out).

    1. MB hired a barrage of patent lawyers back in Nov 2012 and must have by now cleaned up any traces of prior art from all of the mediums it owned and previously controlled.There was a blog (by some reprap source that I can’t find right now) that pointed to the precise job descriptions for legal professionals they wanted and this (the prior art obfuscation/workarounds) was one of the criterias in the JD !

    2. Ask, and ye shall receive I guess:

      https://web.archive.org/web/20111029083739/http://store.makerbot.com/automated-build-platform.html
      https://web.archive.org/web/20111106054043/http://wiki.makerbot.com/abpv1
      https://web.archive.org/web/20120505114754/http://wiki.makerbot.com/abpv1

      And I quote:
      “The design of the Automated Build Platform is 100% open source. What this means is that we’ve released all the CAD files used for parts and the documentation under free licenses. The majority of the files are DXF files created by QCad.”

      Eat your words, makerbot.

      Only some of the source code links still work though. The zip file is toast (makerbot-ABPv1.zip, possibly never posted), but these links work:

      The store:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20111029083739/http://store.makerbot.com/automated-build-platform.html

      Assembly instructions:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20120512012711/http://wiki.makerbot.com/abpv1-assembly

      Blog post on assembly:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20120703060029/http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2010/09/21/things-i-learned-assembling-my-automated-build-platform/

      Another in-depth page, full of information:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20120513211053/http://wiki.makerbot.com/abpv1-usage

      The SVN with files:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20111116181634/http://svn.makerbot.com/tags/automated-build-platform-v1/

      The thingiverse:
      https://web.archive.org/web/20111203142949/http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4056
      https://web.archive.org/web/20160124041510/http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4056
      https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4056

      The bottom link(s), and I quote, notes that even to this day:
      “Automated Build Platform by makerbot is licensed under the Creative Commons – GNU GPL license.”

      I’m no patent lawyer, but I figure that blows a pretty clean hole through their patent. (though I’m definitely no expert on the intersection of patent and copyright) Anyone skilled in patent law care to shed light on the situation?

      Oh, and https://web.archive.org/web/*/http://svn.makerbot.com/tags/*

      -M

    3. I think that you are confusing patents with copyrights. Since Makerbot did release it’s designs as open source they can’t really sue you for copyright infringement when you use them. They can sue you for patent infringement though because the patent covers the idea of the automated build system. Prior art would require proving that someone else had the idea before them, not just that they at one point let everyone see the design.

  17. I think that the history of new technologies is full of cases more or less like MakerBots. I guess the fact that it collapsed and both Stratasys and the industry as whole are still doing pretty damn good shows how strong a trend 3D printing is in general

    1. What are you talking about ? Consumer 3D printer manufacturers like Solidoodle , Zeepro, InventApart(Rigidbot),Hyrel have closed down or downsized operations.Stratasys and DDD stocks are down and out since their 2015 highs with deteriorating net income and poor growth in EPS !

      1. Probably because (a) even the best 3D printer isn’t ready for the average consumer and (b) the average consumer doesn’t really need a 3D printer anyway. It will never be a mass-market product.

        1. Yep.When the turning lathes came out nobody thought ‘hey! i want a smaller version of this at home to create decorative pillars!’.Some people do have small woodworking lathes in their garages but not at the scale that 3d printers were hyped up.

  18. The business operation of MakerBot has a lot in common with RAMBUS. Intel, Micron and others got together to design a new, faster RAM system for desktop computers, open spec and royalty free.

    But one bunch quietly is patenting all the open stuff then when the companies go to manufacturing, RAMBUS Incorporated pipes up “Pay up, suckers!”. RDRAM has a very short life in PCs (Intel’s first RDRAM motherboard ships with one memory slot that doesn’t work*) and the companies get together again, minus the a-holes, and with firm open standard agreements in hand, develop DDR that soon stomps RDRAM into the dirt.

    Meanwhile, RAMBUS Inc is slinging patent infringement lawsuits, which only finally got settled in 2014, with Micron, Hynix and others still having to pay RAMBUS Inc. hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties for obsolete patents, despite several previous suits in favor of RAMBUS Inc. having been overturned.

    Very persistent patent trolls, making out big time.

    *How does a company like Intel ship a product with that huge of a defect? The first generation Pentium F00F bug was obscure and really only affected a tiny fraction of users, but a memory slot that doesn’t work affects 100% of purchasers of the product, and should have been dead easy to discover during QA on the first production batch. Apple also screwed that pooch in a product that never shipped, the never seen, never mentioned “Super Cube”. I know about it due to a conversation with a Micron employee who worked in their compatibility testing lab. Rather boring job, plugging in every supposedly compatible RAM module Micron makes then running lengthy tests to see if it fails. He’d just abandoned the test program on the Super Cube because Apple sent word to Micron and other RAM companies that the product was canceled, so quit the tests. So it didn’t make it to engineering sample stage where the non-working RAM slot would have been fixed. The quartet of dismantled Super Cubes (one died due to a mainboard failure) are possibly still sitting in a cardboard box in a Micron warehouse. Why dismantled? They’d take computers apart then spread the pieces out with the mainboard mounted to a board so it would be easier to insert and remove RAM modules. Most manufacturers didn’t want their sample systems back, but also forbade Micron from selling or giving them away, but they also couldn’t simply destroy them in case more testing of new RAM was needed. So, toss the pieces in a box and file them on a shelf. There was some fun to the job, he got to see all the new goodies months before the computer press even got a whiff of news about it. He had hands on 1Ghz systems at least six months before PC Mag etc even hinted that speed was coming soon.

    1. yeah that happens. friend worked at a certain unix firm south of the bay area in california before they became patent trolls and claimed they owned unix and hence linux… anyway he had a system in the office that they were testing at the time that was an 8 socket 486 system.

  19. I’m continually amazed by how many people don’t seem to grasp the idea that once you open-source your product under an appropriate license, ANYONE is free to manufacture it EXACTLY AS IT IS, and sell it cheaper than you do if they can. There is no “rule” whatsoever, written or unwritten, real or imaginary that would require anyone to CHANGE that design in order to start selling it. If you can’t grasp the notion that having open-sourced your product you can only possibly make money either on the physical fabrication (you wont – nobody can beat China at that, full stop) or on related services and support (not exactly a bulletproof revenue stream, that) than maybe, just maybe open sourcing is NOT FOR YOU.

    Now, just to be clear, I’m a big fan of everything open source, I’m not advocating against it in the least; but I’m fed up to the hilt with all those weasels all too eager to ride the popularity of the “open source” buzzword, only to cry foul as soon as anyone actually takes up on their offer and runs with it. One could of course try to use a “non-commercial” licence, but that’s actually the worst of both worlds – it prevents anyone from selling anything that might have improved on your product but it does nothing to hinder unscrupulous agents who most definitely WILL sell clones of your stuff (if it’s any good), they’ll just make sure to stay out of your (legal) arm’s reach. If you do open source your product AND try to sell it at some convenient multiple of its BOM cost, then I’m sorry to say, but you’re doing it horribly wrong…

    1. There’s an OSH product I integrated into a larger product design. The originating organization refused to honor the terms of their license and publish all information to reproduce the product because I was not a contributor to their project. The blatant racism, sexism, and lack of ethics turned me off well before the refusal to release the design. They are based in Australia and claim non-profit status in the US even though they have no such status. I redesigned my entire product to exclude all open source influence. A couple of hundred thousand dollars in losses was my signal to leave the amateurs and con artists behind and do my own engineering never touching open source again unless it’s a mature product I want to disperse for the public good. Glad to see BB write this up on HAD without regard to editorial influences of SupplyFrame who has OSH at the heart of their marketing strategy.

    2. Perhaps you miss that the idea of Open Source Hardware actually becoming true makes the very idea unsuitable for business purposes.

      Perhaps you miss that with other companies regularly cloning and selling for a lower price, putting noticeable efforts into development makes no longer sense. The value of engineering becomes neglibile.

      Perhaps you miss that a company developing something has zero interest in somebody else “improving on them”, because that means the company is going out of business. That’s why non-commercial licenses make a whole lot of sense.

      That said, Open Hardware is nice and well suited for hobbyist or publicly funded developers and that’s where it actually shines.

      1. All that’s true, yet it’s not entirely impossible to make money on open source outside the sphere of services and support – you just need a few specific conditions to apply. First, your profit margin has to be small – you have to sell whatever you make at a very fair price, or others might start to notice and undercut you. Second, the reason they wouldn’t notice you outright is because you need to make something relatively niche, _not_ anything with mass appeal: development board good, glowing key-chain gizmo bad. The latter can be sold by the millions, the former cannot: less mainstream interest to clone you. Third, because of the non-amortized design cost, the engineering effort involved must indeed be relatively low – designing a custom PCB and tweaking an existing distro to support your thing with the small changes that you might have made to the reference design can just about be squeezed in.

        What do you get when you add all that up? Companies like Olimex who manage to ride that thin red line, making money on manufacturing of open hardware. So yes, it’s possible – but it certainly isn’t as “comfy” as making a fully closed product. Assuming you don’t get cloned anyway, that is. And if you make anything reasonably popular and sellable, that’s a mighty big “if”…

        1. Thanks, Max, that’s actually a nice description and mostly matches what I observe and experience. It’s a very thin line.

          Good thing is, the “Open Source” term is mostly worn out as marketing buzzword. People return to see it as one indication of quality among others and no longer yell “foul” just because a design isn’t published in all details.

      2. Come on now. Do you know who surpassed the sales volume of Makerbot 3D printers in Q4 2015?

        It was Lulzbot, an open source company that stands true to the ethic.

        This has historic significance.

        Allow me to repeat. This has historic significance.

  20. After seeing Bre’s OSHW presentation at the inaugural World Maker Faire in NY, and hearing his repetitive “Make it and share it” & “Open source everything!!” … It is wonderful to see that even he has turned into a “patent” – sellout. Hope his follows your everywhere you go Bre, enjoy the shamedollars.

  21. Their 4th gen printers were more reliable and offered better bang for the buck (I own one). Their 5th gen printers are very unreliable in comparison (I’ve had two, both failed in various ways within a month). What MB has going for it, in comparison with many other, well-regarded consumer/prosumer-oriented printers, is that their tool suite is well integrated which reduces the learning curve dramatically for newcomers. Those who are sufficiently savvy will figure out any printer and toolchain combo, but others will get frustrated if the toolchain involves several third party products and is not well documented or supported.

    This field is, if anything, still in its early days. My public library has a Makerbot for the general public to use largely because it’s the closest to plug-and-play.

    MB can still recover, though likely will need new ownership, clear vision and fresh, new enthusiasm. They will need to focus on value, ease of use and let others go after the rest of the market.

  22. I have a supply of broken smart extruders that exceeds most retailer’s supplies! I could have predicted the downfall of Makerbot over a year ago. As an educator, Stratasys has some great educational material on 3D printing. If they could market this better, they would be able to fill a niche educators have been looking for!

  23. “Anyone who has ever been to a hackerspace has seen a MakerBot printer, but that printer was broken.”

    WRONG!

    After 2 years of modifications and upgrades, I have my Makerbot Cupcake with Gen3 electronics and an MK4 extruder head printing….well…. as good as it will print.

    I’ve taken my Cupcake to the HackerSpace expos and showed it off.

    1. Yes, I thought something similar when I first read it. I have made succesful prints on a ‘Cupcake’. In fact.. that is the only printer I have ever used… the Cupcake at a local hackerspace.

      Then I really thought about it. I know the electronics have been replaced and the new firmware is not Makerbot. So have the extruder and hot end. I’m not sure how much of the various rods, gears and belts were per-original-design but I know it’s less than 100%. The only thing I really know for sure were part of the original cupcake design is the wooden box!

      So.. sure.. you can print something on a Cupcake….ish….thing… uh.. yah

      1. As Ronald Reagan talked about the Soviets wanting to “grandfather” in some technology into the Arms Limitation Talks,
        “It’s Grandfather’s axe, the handle has since been replaced twice, and the head replaced once, but it’s Grandfather’s axe!”

        B^)

    2. See, that’s the thing though; Anything Rep1 or earlier, I can believe it. It’s the Rep2 and beyond where it becomes easy for the printers to just exist in a constant state of FUBAR.

      I’ve got a Replicator 1 dual clone… (While it may not made by MakerBot, it’s basically made to the original specs…probably more or less from the same parts that they would’ve sourced…. It just cost a hell of a lot less.)

      I’ve only had two major problems with my printer; a thermocouple failure in the left extruder…(which I chalk up to either a defective TC or mechanical damage from inadequate strain relief.) And a serious jam that may or may not have been caused by the PTFE tube, but I’ll never know because I wrecked it getting it out… This was after hundreds of prints, many of which were PETG, which I print at 265°C, so it was starting to show signs of heat degradation.

      The only real upgrades I’ve made to the printer are a borosilicate glass bed over the heated build platform, and a printed replacement top-plate for the extruder assembly that added improved strain relief and M6 threaded holes for fittings on the filament ports. (For some nice teflon bowden tubes, mostly to limit extruder dust contamination.) Other than that, I’ve got an active cooling duct that I printed but haven’t installed because I have yet to populate the fan MOSFET on the PCB, and I’d also like to do an acrylic enclosure, and metal reinforcements for the bed. So nothing really game-changing, no real overhaul of the whole printer or anything. Just a tune-up and some accessories. Damn, if I had the money, I’d buy three more! :D

  24. Yet another bitter post from Brian Benchoff spitting on Makerbot. I don’t know what kind of personal issue he has with Bre (“not very eloquent) Pettis but it seems to be a serious one. Redundant articles covering once again the same story he has told thousand times. The problem with the Replicator is a story of “this is why we can’t have nice things”. They made the decision of changing their licensing guidelines when they faced the serious threat of an unfair competitor. We may not like that decision but we don’t know how we would have reacted if we had faced the same situation. All the bitterness is unnecessary. We should be grateful for what they did in the early days. They made the extruder with steppers, the conveyor belt, and they were the first to produce a cheap and friendly kit to build a 3D printer. I owned a bits from bytes reprap and it was a serious BITCH to set up. The cupcake would take some 2 hours to assemble and it worked fairly well out of the box, that was unbelievable in 2010.

  25. Its a real shame to hear all the hate for Bre, I have to say. I don’t think it helps anyone to call him names or generally degrade him as an individual – everyone who has a stake in this game knows that mistakes are made, and that you learn and move on. No doubt, he waded into a muddy field full of mines, and a few of them blew up in his face. When there are millions – no BILLIONS – of dollars on the line, the chances of having a few slips is a lot higher – especially when you surround yourself with people who are also trying to make a quick dollar on a cult-like phenomenon (and Bre definitely had his cult moments).

    In the end, though, the 3D printing market is thriving. There are more ways to get a part 3D-printed now than ever before, and its affordable. Its within the reach of school-kids, teachers, hobbyists and educators. You can easily build yourself an amazing new device with not much more than a few spare weekends and the purpose to do so. This is fantastic in so many ways.

    As an RC hobbyist, I can’t really say how much I might’ve saved on parts for my planes by printing my own … for sure, I’ve built and flown aircraft that wouldn’t have been possible, really, unless I’d had access to the 3D printing world. It has definitely expanded my reach and focus for this builders hobby, anyway.

    I look forward to seeing what happens with AuroraLabs when they get their beta printer out in the next few months. I think there is still huge room for improvement in this market – printing metals being one of them, and doing it at the sorts of scales that we’re used to with ABS, etc.

    I’m also still waiting for someone to put an input hopper on a 3D printer so you can just chuck in the old parts, grind them up, and use them to print something new. To me, that’s a target that should be really in focus these days .. not all this cult nonsense. So there have been some personalities in the field – hey, this is a sign of a healthy and active culture.

    1. It would be interesting to see an analysis of Makerbot’s closed source designs and the old forums, git-hub commits, emails, etc… from the open source days. If a significant portion of what Makerbot treats as their personal private intelectual property was sourced from the free donations of people who were in good faith assuming they were contributing to the community then I don’t see how one could justify sticking up for Bre Petis. If that is the case then he is no different from any thief, liar or maybe someone who hosts a false charity just to pocket the money.

      On the other hand, if there wasn’t really much to Makerbot’s product designs that didn’t originate at Makerbot itsef or if the contributed stuff was all eliminated and replaced with new, Makerbot owned designs then I agree that the hate is overblown.

      Either way it’s still a dick move to patent an idea but then not even sell a product based on it. So.. for the duration of the patent nobody can [legally] make buy or sell an automated build platform just because Makerbot says so?

    2. Great Article. I have been on the outside of the “maker” market, hopefully looking in, for awhile now. I stopped looking when Home Depot, Lowe’s and my public library offered prints for cheap. I have seen quite a few industries, from the inside, that follow this less-than-profitable trajectory, and it seems the start-ups just don’t do the research most times to avoid the same pitfalls. Damn shame, but probably for the better. BTW, what is the business world equivalent of the Darwin Award ?

    1. Did that effort involve replacing a significant portion of it’s parts with ones of a different design?

      If so then what’s your point? I could print beautiful objects using a dead horse as a printer once I have replaced enough of it’s parts with something more suitable to the task.

      Sorry, I’ve never seen an unmodified Cupcake so I couldn’t tell from your picture.

      1. No, not really. The original Extruder head (MK3 was upgraded to the MK4). I got some new stepper motors, and then a new stepper motor controller (all from Makerbot). I did upgrade the power supply as the original blew.

        I also went through a number of build platforms… even the Automated Build Platform that was mentioned in this article (man, that thing really sucked balls). So I eventually upgraded to the Heated Build Platform (from MB too!) and that is what I’m using to this day.

        So yeah, I guess I did go through a few upgrades, but I still consider it to be a functioning Cupcake. It uses all the same Gen3 electronics, and all the same hardware — although I did have to print some rollers and other components to make everything function well.

      2. But it was a big pain in the butt. I worked on this thing (off an on during my off-time) for nearly 2 years before I got it working decent enough. It’s still not great. It’ll never be great. It uses 3mm filament which leaves large lines in the final product. Even with me cranking down my SF settings, (printing around .15mm) it’s still a bit rough. I did the SailFish firmware upgrade and can print at pretty decent speeds — 50mm/s. (much better than the 15mm/s I was printing at before)

        Now, I mainly use the Cupcake as a show-piece. Several months ago TSA lock-keys were leaked to the internet and then uploaded as .stl files. I grabbed out the printer and tried to print them — but I lack the durability, detailed quality, and strength needed to make the keys work.

        My printer is as good as it will be. I have #1676 out of 2500. I know most of them don’t work, so I now keep this as a collectors item. The lame thing about it is… The software runs off an old desktop tower that I’ll also have to keep around for the sole purpose of making prints. I could try and move the software to another PC… but I had tried that before and ran into issues… so I’ll just keep that big tower laying around too.

    1. For $2,499 _on sale_?! Hell, I sure wouldn’t. For that much, you could buy FOUR Chinese-clone Replicator 1 duals AND a Chinese 40w laser engraver! Not even kidding. (Alternatively 4 printers, and the parts to upgrade them all to their full potential.) When you get one of those Rep 1 clones tuned up, they’re decent workhorse printers!

      1. They are/were(?) going for $799. I’ve only ever printed anything on a Replicator 2 before at my local library and for that price, seems really good to me, considering anything close is $1,000 or more usually… and why take chances on a different brand, when I know that I like what the Replicator 2 can print?

  26. In November of 2012, I was flown to New York to meet with Bre, tour the office, sign some papers to do contract work for MakerBot and present a project I designed and built for them. A working Thing-O-Matic adapted to look like R. Maker, the MakerBot mascot I designed. http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:55207

    I was given the tour by a long-time employee (I respectfully won’t name) who had watched people come and go and see the company change over time. His advice to me…”run.” Don’t work here. If you have the hope of accomplishing all of the projects and ideas you have, it won’t happen here. Once you are in, you get to watch things get decided for you and you are over-tasked with so much crap that you will never get to do what you were promised when you were hired. I met so many nice people there who were young and ready to shape the industry but the folks that have been there for a while (the few that were left) seemed defeated and apathetic.

    After the tour, Bre’s assistant drove me to where he was. Bre was busy talking to the media about the opening of the first retail store so I only got to shake his hand once and say “hi” before I had to catch my flight home.

    I left New York with the promise that I had endless contract work ready for me so I naively quit my well-paying job of seven years and got ready to start work. For a month, I heard nothing from them. So I started pestering. In the middle of January they finally let me know that they had an internal restructuring and that they would no longer be needing my services. They added that I was welcome to work entry-level at HQ if I would move from Seattle to New York.

    I put a couple more designs on the Thingiverse since I felt is was still a good social network of sorts for getting attention and I am still considered one of the more popular contributors with some of my designs showing up in their advertisements and in hte documentary Print the Legend. From 2010 to 2014, I have had five MakerBot 3D printers; all gifts from MakerBot. Not a single one functions today.

    When I refused to move to New York, I dodged a bullet. And although I am overall in a better place now, I still regret not heeding the advice to “run.”

  27. Ahh the Strat guys, they rank right up there with Microwank. However, here is my take. At my former job we had a BST768 with a serial number that start with ‘p’ with I was told meant prototype. As of this year, a BST 768 with ‘break away technology’ is longer supported. If the S man decides that they don’t want to sell me foam trays or cartridges, they can.

    I have had the back of that thing opened on more than one occasion, it has a gigantic mother board that sports a…

    wait for it… 80186…no shit. It has a DB9 serial connector. It is built like a brick chicken coup and the S guys offered us 8 grand to turn it in so we could buy a 40 to 50 grand unit…that will run like shit.

    How do I know it will run like shit? Because I worked for companies that had the newer units that used the so called water dissoluble crap. That dissolved like crap.

    I worked with really freaking cool inkjet printers that spewed out liter after liter of 1,000 dollar of liter of liter liquid in the form of an Objet printer. The BST never went down until we had a lightning strike that hit a tree on the property. The Objet is like a Kartrashian. I sat broken longer that it did anything good, but it did make some pretty bitchin’ clear parts…at the cost of a grand a liter…

    Oh and you can’t drink it LOL….I mean a grand a liter? WTF?

    1. I have a theory on why you didn’t like the Stratasys: They don’t make water-dissolvable support. It dissolves in hot NaOH.

      I’ve used three separate Stratasys machines – a BST768, a SST768, and a Dimension Elite. They all worked flawlessly for years. I don’t have any vague catastrophes like the ones you’re talking about.

    2. Sorry you had bad experiences with Stratasys. I use both and Objet Connex 500 and Fortus 500m every day at work. Both are extremely reliable and regularly left unattended for 24 to 48 hour builds. Like any machined they require regular maintenence/cleaning.

      The Objet has been running the same heads for over 5000 hours and still prints like new. Cartridges are 3.6kg. I do believe they are more than one liter, but i agree that $1300 is pretty spendy. Keep the heads clean and calibrated and its happy to print for the weekend. Come Monday morning and you have a very detailed and accurate part.

      The Fortus only requires a regular dusting to remove purge bits from the build area. The only issue is the occasional filament misload due to bits staying behind in the feed tube and getting stuck. Only a couple of minutes to remove the bits and it’s good to go. The support dissolves easily in an ultrasonic bath of NaOH, though you do want to remove the big chunks first. Nearly everything is automated, including mid-job reel changes.

      I enjoy working with both machines. Both are miles ahead of our 20 year old SLA500.(I do wish that one would go away).

  28. I have a Replicator 2X. I print for hours at a time and exclusively with ABS. I have made a simple modification on the carriage, by adding a bolt, to improve the grip on the belt. The biggest improvement to printing success was to buy aftermarket high lubricity nozzles from Performance 3 D. It has quirks. I have mostly figured them out.

    I print production brackets for internal use. I print promo items to give to clients.

    Their tech support has not been very technically astute in the past. Not sure about it now. My worry is a board will die and I will be left to buy a used unit on line.

    In Canada they have a hard working group who seem to be heading forward.

    Most of the printer brands out there have drawbacks, Some are technical, some are logistical, some are price issues. Most are people issues. Long on enthusiasm, short on the required skills. This is a technical business, and the business will live or die on the continuous technical improvements of the products.

    This is a young industry. I feel Makerbot have been working on solutions. They claim to have improved on the SmartStruder. Others have copied the idea of a replaceable unit. I am not sold on it. The power-on-and-use clients probably feel more comfortable with the instant exchange part.

    The look at the current and past state of MakerBot has been interesting nonetheless.

  29. I live in Europe. From the start Makerbot was a big american brand and their products were seen here as high quality. Ok I heard about this open source failure but It looked as a typical business strategy. Now after reading this story I’m really sad. The big name is almost gone.

  30. Just pointing out that your estimates of the amount of money the Pettis and his co-founders made off the Stratasys purchase seem… dubious. The implication seems to be that there was just $60M payoff for the angel, seed and venture investors in exchange for the >$10M they put in. I guess that’s possible, but it seems unlikely.

  31. Did the person who wrote this article actually talk to any of the MakerBot founders because it is full of inaccuracies. The number one inaccuracy is how much money each of the founders actually GOT. Did you not think they had investors from early rounds of funding that got some of the Stratasys buyout?

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