TangiBot And The Perils Of Open Source Hardware

I’ve commented before on the terrible inefficiency and artificially high expense of the current crop of 3D printers. It simply doesn’t make sense to produce the plastic parts of 3D printer kits on a printer farm when there are literally thousands of Chinese injection molding companies that will make those parts cheaper. It looks like [Matt Strong] heeded my call and now has a Makerbot Replicator clone up on Kickstarter that costs $700 less than the official version. We assume the Makerbot lawyers are having a busy morning.

From the info on the Kickstarter page, [Matt] is used parts from his Makerbot Replicator to design a one-to-one copy. Every part and component on [Matt]’s TangiBot is 100% compatible – and seemingly 100% identical – with the Makerbot Replicator. Like the Replicator, [Matt] is offering a dual extruder version that allows you to print in two colors.

At the bottom of the Kickstarter page, under a section titled, “How is 3DTangible able to make a Replicator Clone?,” you’ll see [Matt]’s reasoning for cloning the MakerBot replicator. He says everything is open source, and, “MakerBot used other open source designs when designing and producing their 3D Printers.” We’ll agree that MakerBot used existing extruder designs (and improved upon them), but MakerBot was not this blatant in borrowing from the RepRap project.

For want of editorializing, I’ve complained about the stupid inefficiency of manufacturing 3D printers with 3D printers before. It was only a matter of time before someone realized current manufacturing techniques can be used to make 3D printers cheaper. [Matt] – dude – you were supposed to clone a RepRap. Makerbot has done some really incredible things for the community such as building Thingiverse and generally being an awesome cheerleader for the 3D printing community. Taking the flagship Makerbot printer and making it cheaper will not make [Matt] any friends on the Internet, but at least the laws of economics are coming to the world of 3D printers.

Thanks [Brad] for sending this in.

125 thoughts on “TangiBot And The Perils Of Open Source Hardware

  1. Uh, unless things have changed, why would their lawyers be in a tizzy? It’s open source. As long as he’s not using the MakerBot name or symbol on it, this is totally acceptable to MakerBot.

    (Whether or not he’s contributing to the open source world by simply making a cheaper copy and nothing more is another debate.)

      1. Re: Why on earth would they sell it for less?

        To maximize profit (for himself). If he can sell a a lower price (because of lower production cost), assuming the cost/demand curve stays the same (decent assumption), if he can provide more units at a lower price, he can increase his profits.

  2. MakerBot’s lawyers are probably doing nothing at all, and I’m sure the makerbot creators are happy someone is improving on their designs in some way.

    As long as this guy is keeping his improvements open source, and he does claim he will release his production tooling files, MakerBot can (and probably will) use that information to make their own bots better and cheaper as well.

    Win Win for everyone. Except the lawyers who don’t get to collect fees for IP Law shenanigans. Sorry bloodsuckers :(

    1. Actually, Mr. Strong didn’t improve on the design in any way. He’s simply selling a clone, manufactured in China (we all know how well that goes, typically), for about 1/3rd the cost. No innovation; no improvements; it’s simply a re-branded clone.

  3. I love how he mentions how he and “his team” (which are nowhere to be seen since his “team” is the factory in China I’m betting) can bring improvements like a touch screen and many other things to the printer yet he didn’t feel like doing ANY improvement on this product at all. I mean adding a better LCD is a pretty simple thing to do yet he didn’t even bother doing that.

    He goes on to mention how much cool new innovation he has brought to the paper cutting business, yet, once again, he brings nothing new to the Makerbot.

    This is a money grab, nothing else.

    1. you think cutting the price in half to make it more affordable is ‘bringing nothing to the table’?

      i’m sorry, but bre only got famous for his connection to make magazine, not because they had a lot to offer as regards new ideas. they did have the energy to run with it when no one else did, so props for that, but the ip was almost all other peoples work to begin with. i know, we discussed the designs for the initial makerbot.

      this is what open source is all about. no monopolies. if this guy can make them better and cheaper and more efficiently, then that is where the market will go. and why not?

    1. It’s cheaper because he doesn’t have to make back the money from R&D, also, all maker bot items are marked up a fair bit, compare some of the small parts for sale in the stores.

      I will overlook the price increase because that money is being used to improve the field and those developments have remained open source (which is why TangiBot isn’t buried in lawsuits)

      1. Actually there are several reasons it could be cheaper. If you layed out the laser cut panels such that when you cut one panel you cut the side of another that would drastically reduce your time and cost. If you selected a quicker commercial machine to cut it on your price goes down more. If you can cut it all on one machine and don’t have to switch out materials or a machine with a continuous feed mechanism the price goes down a lot as you reduce the amount of human interaction.

    2. Because the original copy is made in such an inefficient and overly expensive way. Makerbot to some degree let unrelated ideology drive method, not cost and best practice. Also, they simply have been unable to adapt conceptually to the scale of manufacture as it increased. As well, from my conversations with bre, they seem to have the idea that they simply already know it all and don’t need to improve methods or technology, and no one else could do better. They may also have just gotten lazy as no one was pushing them to get better, either, being the only game in town at the time.

      In any case, whether this hurts makerbot or just forces them to get off their butts and up their game is up to the Makerbot crew. We need to give thanks to this guy even if all he does is spur the Makerbot crew to evolve and stay competitive.

      1. Well it is cheaper to pay workers less than minimum wage and make them work 12 hour days and sleep in a bunk near the factory. This is often the reason why manufacturing is much cheaper in China right? Perhaps that is just a misconception of mine. So yes MakerBot is making their product inefficiently because they are paying New Yorkers a fair wage and expecting them to work only reasonable hours.

  4. I don’t see why you are complaining. The main problem with the makerbot was the quality of the production units. Bad electronics and bad tolerances made the kits nearly unusable for the longest time. If someone stepped up and made a good version I do not see the problem.

    1. Me neither. Specially if the copy is cheaper. Competition in manufacturing is always good for the consumer.
      He is releasing a cheaper clone now. And if the company takes off he can make a better model later (something with a touchscreen, etc.)

      1. Yeah, about that touchscreen…

        I see the benefit of it in a Cricut since the one touchscreen replaced a number of buttons and dials from the previous model, ergo easier to design and cheaper to produce. It also allows for better interactivity with the user. For instance, these models don’t connect to a computer, they have a cartridge with preloaded patterns. As seen in the video, you can replicate a pattern on a single sheet for better efficiency and use of materials.

        I just can’t understand how a touchscreen would enchance a 3d printer, which is connected to a computer. All of the design, layout, n-up, etc. is done on a much larger screen. Can anybody help me out?

      2. I’m going to have to disagree with you, there. Competition, as far as price only, is NEVER a good thing when it comes to the customer, since it will drive manufacturers to develop products with cost, instead of value, in mind.

        If you look back at old eletric drills, those were manufactured to last; durable, usually made of metal, and yes, expensive. In the drive to make them available to the masses, cheaper and cheaper materials were used, until we’re left with the products we have today: cordless drills made out of mostly plastic and a few metal bits with the motor included. Yes, they may be cheaper, and available to the everyman, but they only last about 4-6 years, whereas my dad has a drill he bought in the early 80s (half-metal, half plastic) that still runs like a champ. Every cordless drill he’s purchased in the past 15 years has died after 4.

        If this drives Makerbot to innovate and “validate” their price point, that’s fine. If it simply drives them to move manufacturing overseas and drive costs down, well, that didn’t accomplish much.

      3. @Thom:

        Let me rephrase that then: Competition was good for the consumer. Opening the doors to slave-labor from China and allowing companies to ship jobs overseas is what messed this up.

        If regulations and taxes hadn’t been taken off in the name of the “free market” (put the shackles back on it!)then there is a limit to how low they can go and the public benefits.

  5. I agree Maker bots are getting rather hi priced at $1800 for the replicator. I would expect something of more commercial quality at this stage of the game.

    Still it wont be long before the Chinese will be offering Makerbot clone kits on eBay.

    Although the Makerbots are open source I doubt its for the commercial gain by others.

    Not that it would stop me buying Tangibot :)

    1. I figure in a year or so they should start making their own knock offs. They already wised up to the price of the plastic for the printers :P

      I don’t like buying stuff from China, but a dual extrusion MB clone for $500~$700 may make it too tempting to resist.

      1. @ccox:

        I don’t like the cubify. You have to “activate” the hardware before you can use it. ???? Do the cartridges also have a chip to see if you are refilling with unauthorized plastic? That company wants to run the inkjet printer business model.

      1. The UP! is not a reprap at all. It’s nowhere near the same class of machine, is fully proprietary, and while it does the same thing that’s like calling MacOS the same thing as Linux.
        That said, there ARE chinese companies selling knockoff reprap ultimaker, and makerbot machines. “Mbot” for example.

  6. I’d say his improvement to the MakerBot – if this pans out – will be that it’s available at a cheaper price.
    It’s already well-known that hobbyist 3D printers are better suited economically for one-offs and very limited runs. There’s nothing stopping Makerbot from getting their parts mass-produced as well. Maybe they will, as a result of this. Competition = innovation and better prices, everyone benefits.
    And as for it being a “money grab”, so what, and how is that different from the other printer manufacturers, as noted in the opening blurb?

  7. He is helping the proliferation of 3D printers by making it cheaper than the “big guys”. I’d say that is an improvement right there. If anyone is getting angry that he “copied” MakerBot then uh..yeah, welcome to Open Source. Isn’t this exactly what we wanted? You’re getting a MakerBot…but *cheaper*. Win-win for the consumer, right?

  8. So when someone clones some unknown Russian’s cool shiny LED ball design and converts it in a Kickstarter project, harvesting money off someone else’s ideas — it’s okay, it’s open source pal, we gave you a credit *pat on the back*. And when someone clones a Makerbot — it’s a blatant ripoff.

    Interesting, note taken.

    1. a) we didn’t clone it, we made our own ball shaped led and gave credit to the guy who gave us the idea, released all the source code and designs to the public before we kickstarted it.
      it was a totally different design and incorporated a bunch of new features. we’ve made lots of blinky light stuff, and its a natural progession

      b) there was no money being made, it was simply a lots of people want one, the only way to reduce cost is to make lots of them. these things are like $350 in parts alone.

      i have to laugh at the making money part, we put a bunch of money into building the prototypes, the first runs had errors in the pcbs that meant we dumped the who lot, sent them off to evil mad science labs for them to give away for people to learn to solder on.

      even after the kickstarter didn’t go through we made improvements to the design and kept releasing it, and have continued on and made an RGB version.

      as far as i know the original never released designs or code, we open sourced the whole thing for everyone to duplicate and improve at will, how this is a bad thing i have no idea.

      no on owns the rights to making a led toy shaped like a ball, or a cube, triangle or anything else. and it most definitely was not a clone so stop with the FUD

      1. “i have to laugh at the making money part, we put a bunch of money into building the prototypes, the first runs had errors in the pcbs that meant we dumped the who lot, sent them off to evil mad science labs for them to give away for people to learn to solder on. ”

        People who have never tried to commercialize a design (which seems to be many of the people commenting here) have no idea how much it actually costs to do so. These are the same people who complain when an electronic kit with 100 RGB LEDs costs more than $20.

        I’ve been following your project and I enjoy seeing the periodic updates and improvements you’ve made. I wish you guys the best of luck with it.

  9. SeemeCnc is already making a H1 with injection molded parts, and they make them here in the U.S. Selling price for a basic kit is about $400. I got one. It went together pretty well, and works great. Can’t understand why anyone would spend 4 times as much to get a working 3D printer…

  10. Same problems with the Arduino. There are a million and one clones out there that properly respect the licensing and trademark, but that hasn’t kept Arduino brand boards from selling like hotcakes. With development hardware and tools you could argue that expanding the experienced user base with some clones and derivatives is good for business. Ardupilots and Printrboards have introduced many people to programming for Arduino that wouldn’t have otherwise considered it.

    Likewise RepRaps, Printrbots, and Repliclones expose more people to the concept of FDM, and even RepRap enthusiasts will often recommend Makerbot as a printer with low barrier to entry. And people with any kind of 3D printer will be more inclined to create models and put them on Thingiverse, where Makerbot makes some dough from ad revenue (turn off Adblock sometime and see…)

  11. Are you kidding me?
    You think he should have cloned an inferior design just so Makerbot can continue raking it in?

    You obviously don’t understand the open source concept, and you should STFU with your crappy editorializing till you gain some insight.

  12. This whole article is so ridiculous. I have been building RepRaps for four years now, and have watched MakerBot go from making the rather low quality Cupcake all the way to the current Replicator. The Replicator is still not one of the better RepRap-based 3D printers IMHO.

    How is selling a Replicator clone harmful to MakerBot in any way? They already sell more than they can produce. Besides, what has MakerBot done for the community besides Thingiverse? Their printers don’t bring anything new to the community. Their promotion of 3D printing is great… but that’s about it.

    Injection molding is not the way to go for producing RepRaps in my opinion, as it prevents the rapid iteration that makes RepRap what it is. Sure it is more efficient and economical, but prevents you from keeping up with the RepRap community, as it changes and advances so rapidly.

    1. “What has MakerBot done for the community besides Thingiverse?”

      They’ve put a friendly face on 3D printing, that you can point people to. They’ve supported community-based events, did a hackerspace tour, are attempting to capture art and museum pieces with 3D scanning, support Maker Faires (and makers) support user groups (even when the groups aren’t exclusively MakerBot owners) and if you’ve dealt with them, they’ve a bunch of really nice people. and yeah, Thingiverse is also pretty awesome too.

      1. Agreed. MakerBot may not be as good as some of the RepRaps running out there, but if someone wanted to spend endless hours tweaking a RepRap to be perfect they wouldn’t buy a MakerBot in the first place.

        MakerBot has streamlined and simplified 3D printing for the average person. They provide excellent and friendly technical (and moral) support for their customers, and have always been strong supporters of the open-source hardware community.

  13. My problem is that he’s asking for crowd sourcing funding for this – to the tune of half a MILLION dollars. Let’s be frank here – you can buy a Epilog laser cutter for $20k and all the tools for the injection molding on MakerBot costs maybe $10k, $15k tops from a Chinese molder.

    At the same time, he’s not adding any value. It’d be one thing for him to improve on the design (more injection molded parts, tighter tolerances, etc), but copying a design nut for nut, bolt for bolt while asking the internet to help you out by chipping in is just a really douchebag move.

    And while he’s not violating the letter of the law on the Open Source license (I’d argue that he’s certainly violating the spirit of it) he *is* using the Makerbot trademarked name in his campaign. That makes him even more of a douchebag IMHO.

    -=- Terence

    1. its nice to see at least one other person with a level head on this… most people fail to see the big picture of what makerbot does and has done for the community, and how this directly takes away from some great supporters of the community and does not ADD anything… yeah making it cheaper, bravo. if you did any actual reasearch thier are much more cheap solutions that people have even mentioned in this post, but taking away from a company that pours nearly all its funds into community outreach development and support is totally against the ideals in my understanding of the open source community. its a direct clone that sucks from the people actually doing the work, putting more weight on them to support people who never bought their product and they are being paid to do so.

      seems most people here giving a cheaper price to something honestly not that expensive is more important than enriching the community and helping it thrive.

      short term – more people buy printers, maybe a couple hundred or a thousand.

      long term – support is handed off to people who did the work, wasting thier monetary resources in terms of labor, while cutting direct profit already.

      forcing makerbot to further innovate is a nonsensical argument – they churn out revisions constantly… they have 8 extruder models that have been revised and sold over their lifetime. thats more than one revision a year – more than most companies products that are at this price point.

      1800$ really isnt as much as youd think. if you need a printer that badly, im sure you can be creative and find other ways to get one. a 3d printer is a great prototyping tool, and taking full advantage of the machine IE printing your own designs, revising and prototyping – youll likely be using a computer at a similar cost already. otherwise you are printing a limited selection of parts other people made and it is hard to justify printing trinkets and toys on a 1800$ machine.

      everyone needs to really be aware of the whole picture before they just say no legal issues no problem..

      yes it is legal, but do we really live in a world that if something is legal, its is just okay and merits support?

      maybe i am more frazzled than others, maybe people just dont get it… but i really do believe that this is more detrimental than it is advantageous to the community.

  14. Isn’t it a problem that he is not licensing the MakerBot name, but he is constantly using it in his promotion of his product. I know he doesn’t call it a MakerBot. But he says, since it is identical in design is has the same exact quality as a MakerBot. He uses their name in the title of his kickstarter. This is something MakerBot may have a problem with. Their design is open source, not their name.

    He is using the credibility of MakerBot to sell his product. And he is doing it without any licensing agreements with MakerBot. If there is something wrong with his manufacturing chain and he makes crappy 3D printers, this could reflect badly on MakerBot, because he is claiming that the designs are identical and therefore the quality is identical. A digital design does not equal the quality of a real three dimensional product. The manufacturing process matters and it impacts quality, He does not have MakerBot’s manufacturing process, he should not be claiming that the quality will be identical simply on the design. He can make all kinds of statements about the quality being better because his manufacturing process is superior. But the way he is saying it now, I think MakerBot will have a problem with this.

  15. Actually I have another theory on this. The goal of the kickstarter is really set ridiculously high. High enough to think that he actually doesn’t want this campaign to reach it’s goal. If it does, fine, but it is hard to imagine that it will. He is probably doing this to gauge interest and also to see MakerBot’s response, before he funds this through non-kickstarter means. How does kickstarter feel being used in this manner?

    1. Well, if Kickstarter had any sense, they’d pull the plug on the guy’s project. How would you like to be seen as the crowd funding site that allowed you to raise money to knock off someone else’s hard work? For a site that’s for funding “Creativity”, there’s nothing creative here.

      BTW, I am pretty sure that Cricuts are built in China. So all that team of “expert engineers ready to tackle the task”? How much are you willing to bet that the dev team is Chinese?

      Funny how people scream about the Chinese knocking things off, yet here’s an American guy asking for half a million bucks to ship American jobs overseas (Makerbots are 100% built in New York).

      -=- Terence

      1. The goal is just suspiciously high. Look at the highest funded projects in the technology area http://www.kickstarter.com/discover/categories/technology/most-funded
        Yes, quite a few raised over $500K in 30 days, but most of them had their goal set at $25-50K, and no one had the goal set over $200K.

        I know that 400 units at $500K comes out to $1250 a unit, but how does building 400 get you all that much of a manufacturing discount? I thought price breaks for large manufacturing volumes, was in the thousands to 10 thousands type of volume. Perhaps that is a misconception.

        Still the goal is high enough to wonder if he actually wants this to be funded.

      2. Terence, I’m not in the US and so have no patriotism for US manufacturing. I say have the stuff made at the best quality and price you can, wherever that may be in the world. By the same logic, why not sell it only in the US also? Artificial protectionism is not progress, and is already back to bite those who believe that the world owes them something.

        Why are manufacting jobs more important than other jobs? What you fail to think about, is that if it’s manufactured in China, at reasonable cost, then he’ll be able to fund more local non-manufacturing jobs, than would have otherwise been possible, if he so chooses. I don’t understand the common US hate for Chinese people. “They’re stealing our manufacturing jobs!” Stealing implies something being taken that someone else has a right to. Why do US folks have more of a right to a job than anyone else?

        Anyway, in everything other than super high tech and certain luxury goods, ignore eastern manufacturing at your peril. I’m not worried about manufacturing; the big problems will come when China et al, learn design and marketing; that’s when we’re all screwed. Until then…

      3. @maloushe:

        It is not really hatred for them, but to the greedy idiots who bought our government to pass laws to de-regulate the market so they can ship jobs there. China produces cheap junk to make things worst.

        You are probable too young to remember and you hint it with your comments about entitlements, etc., but it used to be EVERYWHERE in the world that imported products had a higher cost than local products. Even here in the US. ALWAYS. They had to pay tariffs and taxes.

        Globalism isn’t progress. Globalism is a system that is destroying the world economy (among many other things). The sooner it is attacked the better (may be too late already)

        Capitalism needs to be regulated and protecting the local economy comes first. Imported items should be symbols of status for rich people, not cheap junk that undercuts local manufacturing. This applies to every country. That’s the way it used to be and countries prospered for centuries that way. There can be no “free market”. Put back the shackles on it.

  16. I was actually interested in this until he mentioned being involved in the Cricut. I own one and it worked well with a program called Sure Cuts A Lot (http://www.craftedge.com/products/products_scal.html) that allowed my to generate my own cutting designs.

    Until Cricut sued them and forced them to stop supporting the Cricut. Now I can only cut the shapes Cricut decides are OK.

    I’d rather pay more to a company that has a great track record supporting open source and open hardware than to some guy involved with the Cricut. At least I can be confident the extra money I spend on MakerBot will go towards advancing openness and usefullness.

  17. I was under the impression that the Replicator DOES use injection molded parts and not 3d printed ones.
    So where did that come into the picture?

    This one probably costs less because there’s no development costs or employee wages.

  18. After seeing reprap stands at hacker cons on 2 occasions, both times I hinted about how 3D printing is a great idea, and where did they get the idea from etc. and both times they only acknowledged RepRap after I mentioned it. They are entitled to fork the machine and promote and sell it, fair play, it’s all open hardware. Makerbot are to be credited with thingiverse and design improvements that have been incorporated back to the reprap, but the prices on their site are clearly overinflated. eitherway makerbot is a strong, reputable brand, and they will remain successful.

    I just ordered my first 3DP kit from http://reprappro.com/

    but have no beef with RepRap clones such as the Makerbot or TangiBot but prefer to follow the original branch so long as it holds to the open source model.

  19. When I was in school there was a lot of emphasis placed on the difference between engineering and inventing. I was told that anyone could be an inventor, all that it required was creativity. Engineering, the reason we were there, was different. Engineering is the ability to design a product to specific parameters (weight, strength, fatigue, COST, etc…) Without engineering a product often becomes heavier, slower, or costlier than it should be.

    Those who say that Matt hasn’t invented anything new are probably correct. He has spent his time engineering. As a result he has been able to bring down cost. Ford did not invent the assembly line or the automobile. But because of his contributions most of us have cars.

    1. But that’s the problem – he’s specifically not doing any engineering here. MBI did the engineering work to design the replicator as a product. He’s literally taking the plans and saying “look, I don’t need to spend money on R&D, since I am copying MBI’s plans exactly – and I can pass that savings on to you.”

      This guy likely isn’t doing anything illegal, it’s just unfortunate for the opensource hardware community, as it makes the business model more difficult to make succeed. If this guy is successful, it will be harder for MBI to amortize their non-recurring engineering costs, and they will have less money to pour into future engineering efforts. This guy doesn’t seem to plan on adding any engineering value to it, he just wants to siphon off some of their market and capitalize on their brand.

      1. It seems what the “open source hardware community” whats, then, is a closed source business model.

        If you publish your designs for anyone to use, some people will use them. It’s really not a difficult concept, but apparently the OS community cannot understand this.

  20. After seeing Makerbot stands at hacker cons on 2 occasions, both times I hinted about how 3D printing is a great idea, and where did they get the idea from etc. and both times they only acknowledged RepRap after I mentioned it. They are entitled to fork the machine and promote and sell it, fair play, it’s all open hardware. Makerbot are to be credited with thingiverse and design improvements that have been incorporated back to the reprap, but the prices on their site are clearly overinflated. eitherway makerbot is a strong, reputable brand, and they will remain successful.

    I just ordered my first 3DP kit from http://reprappro.com/

    but have no beef with RepRap clones such as the Makerbot or TangiBot but prefer to follow the original branch so long as it holds to the open source model.

  21. I just wrote a long post on the difference between engineering and inventing that wordpress lost when I failed to remember my password. So here’s the 2 min version.

    There is a difference between engineering and inventing. Matt has done engineering to decrease the cost while providing, theoretically, a product that performs equally. Those who say that what he did was not inventing are probably right. To say that isn’t a significant contribution is just wrong. Remember, Henry Ford did not invent the assembly line or the automobile but his contributions to the industry weren’t insignificant. Cost is a very real engineering concern.

    1. Sorry, I disagree. The only cost savings comes from moving the manufacturing to a country where labor wages are cheaper.

      I’ve covered it fairly well here on my blog:


      The design is fundamentally limited by the construction method. No amount of process control on the assembly line will get you better build quality based on the laser cut parts. This is a fundamental design issue, not a manufacturing issue.

  22. Brian [the article author] missed a much better option than this one. The folks at SoliDoodle (Sam Cervantes, former COO of MakerBot started the company) have a nice 3D printer with a metal frame, heated table, 6″x6″x6″ print area, etc. for only $500. Seems like they are doing it better AND cheaper by using traditional parts sources.

  23. Why are so many people upset about this? Makerbot was always open source, part of he idea being that if someone can make it more efficiently they can (and apparently will).

    This is the the same with the Arduino clones. The Boarduino does nothing except strip things away from the original, driving the price down. No one gets mad at the guy that does that. I applaud this Makerbot clone guy for driving down the price and making this technology more accessible to people without much money.

    It doesn’t really change the fact that the printing material for these things is very expensive. As Michal Zalewski convincingly argues on his website (http://lcamtuf.coredump.cx/gcnc/), subtractive methods are cheaper and more precise. If people really want to save money getting into this kind of hobby they might be well advised to look into a CNC mill instead of a 3D printer.

    1. I’ll tell you why *I* am upset with this. 3 reasons.

      1) Kickstarter is about funding *creativity*, and there is nothing creative about copying someone’s hard work. As a knock-off, it offers no value add except making the printer cheaper, and he’s doing so at the cost of defunding a company that has done a lot for the 3D Printer community.

      2) This is moving American jobs overseas. Where do you think his “network of professionals” are based? Cricut machines, I’m pretty sure, are made in China. So it’s essentially a money grab, because for how much money he’s asking for, he’s not being transparent about how he’s spending it.

      3) His previous experience with Cricut in this instance isn’t winning him friends. Cricut sued the crap out of 3rd party software manufacturers who wrote software that interfaced with their cutters. So now you can only cut shapes that Cricut deems okay. And now this guy wants to knock-off a Makerbot?

      I’d rather pay more money to support someone with a track record of being open and giving back to the community, than someone who just takes.

      -=- Terence

      1. I’m as opposed to intellectual theft as anyone, but they must have known this was a possibility (even a probability) when they developed their machines open source.

        Now second, I think everyone’s who’s interested in 3D printing should be in favour of lowering the barriers for entry in order to make it a more common activity in the world. That’s not going to happen when it costs $1800 for a printer. You say he hasn’t improved the machine, but if he has made it cheaper THAT is a significant improvement.

        I’m not an American, so American patriotism is not a factor in my views on this. To me, if people can make a product of the same quality but for a third less money it’s a no brainer. If Makerbot’s only defence is a “made in America” sticker they’re in trouble, in my opinion. They should be using their scale and first mover advantage to become more competitive and driving down costs, not patting themselves on the back and milking a product that borrowed heavily on the work of other people in the first place.

      2. Good points Terrence. I think if he had said “I love the MakerBot Replicator, but felt like I could improve it” things would be a bit different.

        I’m also assuming he may be planning to push off any support he may need to do to the MakerBot mailing list, or other channels. I’m sure MakerBot will love doing support for a company/guy who kicked out a clone of their machine.

        Part of what you get when you buy a product (in theory) is support for the manufacturer. RepRaps are often cheaper because if you build it yourself, you yourself (or the RepRap ICR/forums) are the support.

    1. Hate to have to point it out to you.. but those are distros and not Linux.. there are very few forks of the actual kernel (Linux) itself and the ones that are worthwhile usually end up back in the mainline at some point i.e. Android.

      Still pretty stupid to write a pissy article about people copying stuff that they have a license to do so.. Some of the articles here are embarrassingly badly thought out/researched. Sometimes I wonder if some of the Hackaday hacks(pun intended) have ever done anything remotely close to a “hack”.

  24. The Chinese versions:

    Basically as soon as the Chinese get interested enough they’ll bury the competition because unlike most Western countries they still actually know how to manufacture things and ship them on time.

    Hipster Kickstarter business models are cute, but waiting months for products and listening to endless excuses from the founders gets old.

    1. ” unlike most Western countries they still actually know how to manufacture things and ship them on time. ”

      Yeah, but they’re still at the “We’re out of electrolytic fluid? Put some soy sauce in that capacitor and call it good” stage of shipping whatever they think will fool you.

      Japan was there once, and I’m not sure the USA has ever been out of it, aside from implements of steel and things that go boom, bang or whoosh.

  25. Doesnt this assist with the aim to “democratise 3d printing”, as per the stated aim of open source 3d printer designs?

    I also suspect not everything on thingiverse is an original design, perhaps some items might even be reverse engineered commercial products? The horror. Soon ppl might be making spares in their own homes, rather than buying the commercial versions manufactured in American factories… Using printers which have a reduced price entry point.

    “What if you needed a new toothbrush and all you had to do was hit print?” Oral-B are quaking

  26. I’m in two minds about this:

    Firstly, American jobs:
    I’m not American, makerbot is largely based on the reprap work, which was started in the UK. Personally I don’t complain about British tech/jobs going to america, same as I don’t think anyone in complaining about the Italian jobs going to america where arduinos clones are concerned. You can’t have it both ways.
    (so the American jobs thing for me is a complete non-argument.
    Secondly technology. When makerbot started out what exactly did they bring to the table? Nothing other than a rigid box really. There wasn’t really any change in the technical aspects to the repraps, all you really got was a nicer looking machine that you didn’t have to put together yourself! But you paid a premium for that. This guy is reducing the premium.
    It’s not hurting makerbot, I will not be spending $1800 in a 3d printer, I might spend $700. If makerbot can’t reduce their price then they already lost my sale.
    The technology that this guy is bringing is the economy of scale for mass production.
    Thirdly, support. Whoever is suggesting that this guy is going to leech from makerbots support, how do you know this? Is that just a guess? Who is to say he’s not offering his own support through a free medium such as Facebook or google groups?

    There is an aweful lot of assumption and shouting out here,

    I don’t see the problem with this at all,

    First we had reprap.
    To get 3D printing you needed a good amound of money and a lot of skill.
    Makerbot came along and made it so you needed a lot of money, but no real skill.
    Now this guy has come along and made it soupy don’t need as much money. This is a good thing!!

    The only thing I don’t get is, who will buy this. Sure it’s a cheap printer. But if you want a cheap ready made printer you would be far better buying a steel framed solidoodle 2.

    The money grab thing for me is a bit of a who cares. Well not so much who cares, but you’d have to be a hypocryt to mention it. If this guy can produce the same machine as makerbot at over a thousand dollars less then it seems to me that makerbot are the ones creaming the fat profits, not this guy!

    1. The solidoodle is a nice machine but one that still needs work, according to a recent blog post. In that post it was stated that you shouldn’t go over 200 degrees as the hotend mount would melt? I thought the hotend had to go to 250 for abs?

      I would also add that makerbot seems to have got a lot of inspiration from the ultimaker and others for the new machine and parts.

      1. But why does no one mention the original inspiration for all this technology?

        No one even remembers that all of this started with a freak frosting accident by a pastry chef who had been piping decorative scrolls on a cake and suddenly decided to try and make a coil of rope as a decoration.

        And now the various factions all think that their “brand” of invention should be considered sacred and seminal – when hundreds of others were building similar machines and mechanisms by the score.

        RepRap and all the others are simply part of progress, and will soon be dusty forgotten toys (like wire recorders and coherer based radios) as one or two well-heeled brand-savvy entrepreneurs sweep in and take credit for the past.

        It’s why Steve Jobs made 10,000x as much as Steve Wozniak off his involvement with apple, and the bad news is that open source has no special dispensation to avoid marketplace exploitation.

        The good news: In a few years, you’ll be throwing these away when your kids get bored with them.

  27. This hilarious comment on the kickstarter page: “The fact you can make it cheaper proves they are price gouging.”

    Right, that’s what it proves. Whatever you say, chief.

    The fact that this Kickstarter guy is selling a product without having to actually develop it first has nothing to do with the lower price point. Because development never costs money. Yes, he keeps saying he’s adding value, but he has yet to put a finer point on what that value actually is.

    1. What value does he add?

      He will do what all intelligent businessmen do:
      Use other people’s money to turn someone’s “made with love” dream into a sellable commodity.

      Once that commodity is selling (and beating everyone on price), he’ll pocket a tidy profit and then sell the company and designs to someone who smells opportunity. He might even keep a little equity.

      He can’t help it if the open source guys don’t know how to raise capital, or how to market or what to do with it. He’s just seeing low hanging fruit. Look at Spark Fun – from amateur overpriced hobbyist stuff with a slogan to multi-million dollar retailer in a decade.

      I think it’s pretty cool.

  28. Polarised views will never change, but this argument was always going to happen some time. It’s a shame that TTam, PTerrone, and CAnderson (all well known in the OS hardware community) seem to be lending their weight to the “this is bad” camp.

    This is a fundamental problem with OS hardware – period. As long as I don’t put anyone else’s logo or name on it, it’s perfectly legal to offer my clone for sale at whatever price I feel happy with.

    There’s *nothing* in any agreement that says I *have* to improve the design, so why are people so upset that this guy’s not done so?

    That said, none of this argument would’ve happened if he’d simply added his touch screen – what a shame.

    1. I’m honored that you think I’m “well known” in the OpenSource community. I just got my start in it a few months ago. I don’t consider myself “well known”.

      There is more to life than chasing the bottom line. I think I outlined it pretty well in my blog post here:


      If it were just about the bottom line, and who can do it cheaper, the system will be rife with labor abuse and other issues. And, really, why would people keep contributing to OSS when it can just be knocked off by the next guy that comes along?

      Take a look at the Chinese (disclaimer: I’m Chinese). Take a look at how much innovation you see from Chinese products. Take a look at how people always sneer at it and say “Oh, it’s cheap crap made / knocked off” in China. They are a country with relatively lax IP protection and so anything that’s nicely engineered just gets knocked off. Is this where you’d want to see the OSS community headed?

  29. I did not realize the open source community was so cut throat and focused on the bottom line. “If they can make it cheaper than who cares how they do it, they got my money!”

    That’s the spirit of Open Source right? It’s all about money. Nothing at all to do with fostering a community of builders and makers that can work locally to make things for themselves.

    Isn’t that how MakerBot is running its business? In the spirit of making things locally and supporting a community of builders and makers. Who cares that it happens to be in the US, it could be any country, it is not about patriotism. It is about a company trying to make something locally, themselves, and provide it to makers. They don’t want to rely on the world wide manufacturing chain and be subject to the world political environment.

    Isn’t TangiBot doing the exact opposite? Placing his entire business concept on using resources on the other side of the planet. The exact opposite of making things locally for yourself.

    Wasn’t the point of Open Source that people can build things for themselves and not have to rely on some giant world-wide manufacturing chain? MakerBot is trying to do that. TangiBot is doing the opposite. Wouldn’t people want to support a company that operates in the same way that the makers and builders that buy their product do? How quick many people are to just reduce the spirit of the Open Source movement to being all about money. Who cares about the other details.

  30. I fully acknowledge that what he’s doing isn’t illegal. Heck, I don’t even think it’s really all that immoral. It _would_ be immoral if he failed to acknowledge his design sources, but he does so repeatedly — so much so that he seems to be leaning on them a bit.

    The real sticking point for me is that he doesn’t seem to be creating any new sort of value aside from cost savings. While I recognize that lower cost is a valid goal, it’s rarely enough on it’s own.

    If your whole business model is predicated on winning the price game, you’ll end up losing. The only people who don’t lose in that game are the big, big players who can absorb large fluctuations in the market. By ‘big’, I mean Sony or AutoDesk big, not MakerBot big.

    Currently, the home 3D printer market is all smaller companies. MakerBot is the biggest (at least in terms of media exposure and name recognition), but they know they’re not big enough to survive the razor-thin margins of a price war. As a result, they’re products are priced higher above cost, but at the same time they’re using that income to grow their service and design departments.

    The other red flag for me about this kickstarter is that it just seems to be him. For the product he’s offering, at the price he’s offering it for, there’s no way he could do it by himself. He makes references to his team, but who are they? What will they be doing? Before I kick in any money, I want to know who is going to be using it, and what they’ll be using it for.

    You might suggest I just take his word for it, but… who is he? I’ve never heard of Matt Strong before — and he’s asking for half a million dollars! Tim Schafer was able to get away with that (and thensome) because folks knew who he was, and we all know Tim Schafer knows how to make (damn good) computer games. Even with that level of celebrity, Schafer still took the time to introduce us to his team and outline his development plan in detail. More recently, Neal Stephenson did the same thing (episodically) with Clang. If Tim Schafer and Neal Stephenson have to do it, then Matt Strong has to do it too. It would be unfair to expect Mr. Strong to match the Schafer/Stephenson production levels, but he should be able to match their enthusiasm (enthusiasm is free, after all).

    As of right now, I won’t be giving him a dime. That said, if he provided more of the details that I’ve outlined above, I would certainly reconsider.

    1. Of course he can, one person can. That is why people are upset, because with such a high goal also he’s going to get a big profit just cloning an existing design. Nothing technically challenging at all, just logistics an travels to China.

      When buying parts in the thousands the cost plumets very quickly. Thousands of steppers, controllers, hundreds of boards. Plenty of manufacturers to choose at that level and open doors.

      His work is going to be to source the parts, order the boards and make all them assembled.
      Then fill a container with the completed machines and ship them home.

      My guess +200K profit even badly managed shouldn’t be less than +100K and kickstarter is going to bite big also on this.

      1. “Of course he can, one person can.”

        No he can’t, and since he’s repeatedly mentioned his ‘team’, he’s obviously not even trying to.

        Further, if he doesn’t have this supply chain stuff worked out beforehand, then his kickstarter deserves to fail. If he does have it worked out, but he’s unwilling to share that information with his (anonymous public) investors, then he shouldn’t be on kickstarter anyway.

      2. But makerbot have sold 1000s of the replicator yet kept the high price. I am guessing its less to do with r&d or costs and more to do with the most they can make quickly.

      3. Several people, some even featured in hackaday have successfully developed stuff in China with much less money and at a much smaller scale than what he will be dealing with for this thing.

        When you are buying +2000 stepper motors at once paying them out of the pocket you get the stuff done for you. And done quickly.

        So, why he can’t?

      4. @robert:

        “But makerbot have sold 1000s of the replicator yet kept the high price.”

        1000s? I doubt it. My guess is that they’ve sold hundreds, _maybe_ 1000 tops (and that’s a big maybe), but hardly 1000s.

        As to your second point, the Replicator was released in January of this year. You seem to expect them to drop the price after 3 or 6 months. If they actually did that, a lot of the folks who bought at the original price would be really pissed off, and rightly so. To appease that group, they’d have to either offer them rebates, or just ignore them and risk alienating them. Dropping the price after a year or so would make sense, but not before then.


        The fact that it can be (or has been) done by others does not mean that HE can do it. He’s the one asking for the money, so he has to make a compelling case for himself. I don’t think he has, and so I see no reason to donate to his cause.

  31. I feel like the ohw license has always had an unspoken “no dick moves” clause that has prevented direct profiteering from succeeding, even though it’s legal. The customer base is educated enough to know a dick move is happening, and doesn’t reward it.

    I’m surprised that this kickstarted-copy play hasn’t happened sooner though. Unlike the Arduino, the per-unit margins associated with the Makerbot are large enough to overcome this dick-move barrier:
    -someone with few resources can make a small number of profitable units. (selling 400 pirated arduinos isn’t worth it)
    -The savings are high enough that the consumer is willing to overlook the lack of integrity.

    Sad, but understandable. Unless the oshwa can codify “no dick moves” into the license (I don’t see how,) there will continue to be an intrinsic disincentive to releasing high value kits as open source

    1. no dick moves?

      you’re aware that probably 90% of what any 3d printer manufacturer is using has been figured out and researched in their home, or in academic institutions.

      people have been putting their time and effort into research and putting new ideas in the community.

      to me, the biggest dick move is taking all this hard work, and then putting out a nearly two thousand dollar product.

      Contrast that with the efforts of Adrian Bowman at RepRap who has been known to produce parts for sale at cost price, just to be able to get kits out to people.

      Makerbot made that “dick move” first when they set the price tag of their machine,
      I’ve a funny feeling that they’ve also broken the unwritten rules, (as written by PT on make a few months back on Make) regarding “if your project uses open source, then you should also open source” so that’s another “dick move” right?

      1. yeah I suppose that’s a fair way of looking at it. shoulders of giants and all that. this particular instance stood out to me because it seemed that he’s made 0 changes to the hardware and (not sure about this) his main savings reduction is coming from not needing to recoup any R&D expense. But with makerbot’s $10 million VC, who knows what expenses they’re trying to recover.

        My angle is that of an ohw producer (ospid.com.) I put out a kit using a 2.6 multiplier in order to cover costs and pay for prototyping and new batches.

        while I know it’s a possibility, it’s my hope that if someone puts out a carbon copy that’s 20% cheaper, few people will buy it. Based on what I said above, I assume that they know that if they do, it would hamper and possibly even stop future improvements to the design.

        now if someone IMPROVES on the design, that’s a different story. then the consumer is rewarding innovation, and I can’t take issue with that. the product will continue to improve, even if it winds up not being because of me.

        so that’s where I was coming from. and arguably a different scenario all together. “dick move” might have been a bit over-the-top. ;)

    1. Perhaps not, but it’s struck me many times in the past, watching shopping channels (isn’t TV terrible these days?), that the Cricut people would be really suited to try launch a home 3D printer. They might well re-use a lot of the tooling they make the Cricut with.

      The Cricut itself’s only a nozzle and a Z-axis away from being a 3D printer. Almost!

      And there’s whole TV channels dedicated to “crafting”, which is basically just hacking for girls with card and glue instead of solder and aluminium. There’s a shitload of money in the “crafting” market too! Maybe a couple of tweaks and a shimmy into that market, will be the beginning of consumer 3D printing.

  32. Quote: “Taking the flagship Makerbot printer and making it cheaper will not make [Matt] any friends on the Internet,..”

    Based on the majority of these comments, I’ll have to disagree with you. Looks like the community feels improving an OPEN SOURCE design for manufacture (DFM) IS a tangible improvement.

    I for one agree. If that’s what he’s doing I’ll donate 30% of his goal right now just to spite fanboys of personalities like Bre.

    Now if he’s just some idiot that thinks making something low volume in China is cheaper than the states…damn.

  33. What happens when the open source community takes IP from a commercial product. This has happened with the makerbot and more importantly the leader of the open source reprap movement when the lifted the design of the new hotend from the UP! 3d printer.

  34. It certainly seems like a scummy thing to do just because the design is IDENTICAL. But yeah, this is more or less how open source hardware is supposed to work. (Though in the SPIRIT of open source, you really should do SOMETHING to improve upon it, or otherwise make it ‘your own’, I mean JEEZ!!)

    The way I figure, if someone wants to re-use a design of mine, and they can make it cheaper and/or market it more effectively, I’ve got no one to blame but myself. (And no reason to take action unless they use my name/logo/etc as well!)

  35. To all of those talking about economics of scale making this possible.

    If he would do single unit run, then his cost to produce would be around $500 making him $700 profit ;-)

    If you apply large scale, he can get down to lets say $300 a pop :-)

    If he would sell for $700 I would eat his “I just want to bring 3D printing to more people!”

    So yes, it is just money run, dont get fooled ;-)

    BTW where was everyone while Botmill did the same thing to RepRap?

    Josef Prusa
    RepRap core dev

    1. These numbers are roughly almost half of the high volume manufacturing cost that I calculated.

      May be he won’t be able to build them at the best case cost and must agree with you that the profit in any outcome will be huge.

      But also all this is clearly revealing to everybody the unjustified and overinflated prices that Makerbot has been/is charging for the machines once they are being built well in the thousands.

      And I specially like the subtlety of your last line. ;)

      All the rage we have seen here and even on Kickstarter with people signing on as a backer, posting negative comments and then removing their backing seems that is not as much as the “comunity” as is from involved parties that, well never really cared about what happens to RepRap.

  36. For how “open” Makerbot pretends to be, their open source sure is lacking for the Replicator. As someone who’s tried to plan out a build, you’re not going to find any of their source. Oh, yeah, you might find some STLs and DXFs on Thingiverse, but that’s hardly source. No source CAD files. They’re missing an awful lot of parts like the MK8 extruder. The BOM is non-existent. There’s a reason why Makerbot doesn’t release a kit, and it’s all about keeping these things under wraps.

    It makes sense when the product is under development if these sorts of things are unknown, but they’re building and shipping these things today, in their offices. This means they DO have documentation, they’re just not sharing with the community.

    The Tangibot shows why it’s futile to hide documentation, whether you pretend to be open source or if you are unashamedly proprietary. How many of his $14K+ pledges so far are from folks who would have built it themselves if what was already known was simply shared?

  37. A lower price is an improvement!

    Simply making a cheaper copy is a good thing. More 3D printers in more hands. I presume the pioneers of home 3D printing had this as their aim to start with, to get printers built and into our hands. Hence they went open-source.

    It might annoy business plans of would-be competitors, but so what? Henry Ford didn’t invent the car, but he’s the reason so many people have one. I want to be able to afford a 3D printer, and the geniuses who started the open-source-3D-printer thing want me to have one. This is great! He’ll make a friend of me if I end up getting one.

  38. Just Google “Open Source Hardware Definition” and you will come across the OSHW Definition v1.0 – http://freedomdefined.org/OSHW

    “4. Derived Works
    The license shall allow modifications and derived works, and shall allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original work. The license shall allow for the manufacture, sale, distribution, and use of products created from the design files, the design files themselves, and derivatives thereof.”

    Take a look at that last sentence… What Tangibot is doing appears to be part of the definition of open source hardware.

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