An Interview With The CEO Of MakerBot

A few days ago, we posed a question to the Hackaday community. If you could ask the CEO of MakerBot a question, what would it be?

It’s an interesting proposition; there is no company serving the maker community – and those of us who refuse to call ourselves part of the maker community – more hated than MakerBot. They’ve patented ideas uploaded to Thingiverse. They’ve turned their back on the open hardware community they grew out of, They’re undercutting their own resellers, and by all accounts, they don’t know how to make a working extruder. MakerBot was the company that would show the world Open Hardware could be successful, but turned into a company that seemed to reject Open Hardware and Open Source more than any other.

Needless to say, the readers of Hackaday responded. Not with actual questions for the MakerBot CEO, mind you, but oh how you responded. This effort by MakerBot was likened to the hail Mary thrown by Radio Shack  a few years ago. We know how that turned out.

Nevertheless, questions were collected, The MakerBot CEO was interviewed by Lady Ada, and a summary compiled. You can check that interview, originally posted on the Adafruit blog, below.

MakerBot and Open-Source – There’s an opportunity to patch things up with the Open-source community, is MakerBot interested?

Jonathan said they’d like to promote the open parts of Thingiverse, the API, how those can be used. He was very interested in how MakerBot can communicate clearly what is open and what is not. He said they haven’t been very clear about this and part of this road trip is to address that. All summer, Jonathan will be meeting with customers, prospects, and power users to listen to their thoughts and learn about their needs. These meetings will give him an amazing view of the landscape and help inform our future plans. The tour will cover 22 states in about 12 weeks.

We suggested looking at some examples ( etc.) and talking to Open source organizations, people and projects to find out what’s important to them for 3D printing in general. Ladyada suggested open-sourcing the Gen 5 motor controller/driver PCB because it’s not protectable anyway – it would be way to say “this part is open” these parts are not. Also, previous versions of MakerBot are open source, we suggested that can be promoted and made clear.

MakerBot and Material lock-in
Should people be able to use material in printers that they own? There is a concern that MakerBot is planning DRM and material lock-in. Does the new CEO think that people should be able to use material in printers that they own? We understand the benefits to users in knowing where their materials come from and that they are all going to perform as expected, however, what about the people out there like our customers who understand the tradeoffs using 3rd party filament? In a recent Copyright Office hearing MakerBot was mentioned, a lot. A majority of our customers and community believe they have the choice to use their printer as they see fit. Regardless, we’re concerned that using copyright as the legal mechanism to force material lock-in is a bad-scene for the 3D printing ecosystem. Stratasys owns MakerBot and currently chips materials.

Jonathan said at this time he sees no value in DRM’ing filament for MakerBots. It would be expensive, hard to enforce, cause less sales – there’s not a lot of compelling reasons to do that.
We said Stratasys should not speak on behalf of MakerBot if they’re going to talk to the Copyright Office regarding DRM protection/issues because it’s not helpful for the MakerBot and 3D printing community.

He agreed and said he would talk to Stratasys about that including Johan’s help (PR manager).

MakerBot Replicator 5th gen
The MakerBot replicator 5th Gen units had some challenges and mixed reviews at launch, we know you’ve been working to fix the issues such as the Smart Extruders, we decided not to stock them at this time. What’s being worked on now to address the previous issues, what type of testing and assurances will the customers and community have that if they trust MakerBot again that they will not be let down? For resellers, would we be able to thoroughly test units before launch as part of a private beta program for example?

Jonathan reports a lot of progress with this and the quality has improved. Recently, they’ve seen a 74% satisfaction rate among Smart Extruder users and a 40 percent decline in Smart Extruder customer support cases since February 2015. Average support wait time is now 34 seconds. Six months ago, it was 11 minutes.

Analytics on Thingivese
We’d like granular analytics on our designs.
Eric will help make that happen and request what’s important to us to see for analytics.

Spam becoming an issue on Thingivese
Thingiverse has some spam issues… maybe a report spam button is necessary.
Eric said they could make the button bigger, etc and will work on this.

Promotion and celebration of designs on Thingiverse
Specific ways to get featured placement. Will email Adafruit to get our designs featured more.

Reselling MakerBot products
Generally speaking, dealing with the MakerBot distributor(s) was not as easy or as profitable as when we were able to purchase directly from MakerBot. For Adafruit we need better margins if we’re going to resell 3D printers. The return policies were not reseller friendly. Over the years the price of MakerBots seems to have gone up, while the price of other 3D printers of good quality went down, this made it a challenge to stock. For the Digitizer, MakerBot was selling them below the cost we purchased them, that was really rough on us.

Jonathan did channel sales and will specifically address this on the road and with us if we choose to stock MakerBots again.

General questions and comments
Are there areas you feel you can make the most improvements in user experience and printer output? Do you see any major technological changes in the near future or small incremental changes? What Stratasys technologies do you see making it into the MakerBot lineup of products? We’d like to see more MakerBot blog posts, people from the company making and sharing things, MakerBot has a long history of not only making 3D printers, but content themselves – we’d like to see that again.

We talked a lot about ideas and how MakerBot can state what it’s cause is and getting more of a face out there for this “relaunch” of sorts. Blog posts, videos, covering the 3D space. We suggested they consider “Make a Difference with a MakerBot” – Jonathan was receptive to the suggestions and is totally OK with talking to us again about these ideas if MakerBot wants to jump back into the 3D printing community.

Jonathan specifically said patents are necessary, but not the only way to win, it’s about innovating fast, great service, support etc. Specifically you do not maintain leadership through protection, you maintain leadership through innovation, specifically in the world of high tech. He pointed us to this video as an example of his thoughts in the space where he said the same thing.

Related to patents, we’d like see a defensive patent pool that manufacturers can opt into. That would be really great, we didn’t get a chance to bring that up in the meeting, but we’re mentioning it now here.

-Ladyada and Adafruit

118 thoughts on “An Interview With The CEO Of MakerBot

    1. Former MakerBotter here. The MakerBot CEO is going to get in trouble with Stratasys board big time for even talking to Adafruit about Open Source and filament protection, I give it 6 months before a new CEO is announced.

      1. Would takes as long as 6 months to replace the CEO? That would imply that the Strasys board wouldn’t see the infractions as serious as you characteristic they would.

        1. I would prefer micropayments or something like that. I will never, ever remove adblock for anyone. advertisers have lost their chance to ‘be good netizens’ and life is so much better without that advertiser NOISE. so, even for a good site like this, I will never run without adblockers. BUT, I would like to support HAD. micropayments really were never given a fair chance with webmasters and marketing types and that’s such a shame.

          I have not checked (maybe I should) – but is there a ‘subscriber’ option where you can donate and maybe even NOT have ads shoved at you?

          1. I’m against the Patreon/GoFundMe model for Hackaday. I recognize that it is a legitimate model for content creators, but I feel it’s limited to people who aren’t served well by Google or other ad networks, and don’t have the resources to do ad sales. Hackaday has the resources to do ad sales, so no Patreon.

            From the bloggers and vloggers I’ve talked to that are currently using this model, it’s working out great for them. I don’t have anything against it, it’s just not the right fit for us.

            If you want to support us, buy a t-shirt or something.

          2. i wouldn’t say Hackaday has the resources to do ad sales. I’d say that Supplyframe, Hackaday’s parent company, has great relationships with companies that are relevant to Hackaday readers. The Supplyframe crew have spent years building those relationships are able to highlight how the Hackaday community is relevant unlike any other, and that advertising here is a way to support that community.

          3. I think animated GIFs are worse than ads.

            While ads still need a lot of work to become more targeted; like not continue to advertise a product you’ve just bought, the ads still pay for a lot of the web services we might take for granted everyday, and so for this reason, I’ll rather not use or promote ad block.

          4. brian, I really don’t need more tee shirts ;) and you would not make as much from a sale of a costable physical item as you would from a pure donation.

            I guess thereis no ‘donate button’ on this website since you suggested buying an object, as a way of supporting you. maybe think about having a donate button, as well. what could it hurt; and maybe it will work out well for you guys to have both ‘item sales’ as well as pure donations.

          5. @Brian Benchoff

            Someone just said “take my money” and you said “I don’t think that model is good for hackaday”

            Just have a subscribe option with no perks or benefits and a link to the adblock plugin?

          6. @professorK:

            There are people who complain about the free content we provide. There are already too many overly-entitled readers.

            There are also portions of the Internet that see Patreon as online begging and something you just don’t do. Go look over at the GamerGate factions spread around the internet, and you’ll see a lot of them criticize people for having Patreons. This would be the ‘ethics in journalism’ part of GamerGate that are against models that allow writers to be paid for their work. It’s not everybody, it’s not even the majority view, but it’s there. Patreon and GoFundMe are just giant, ugly balls of wax that no reasonable person should touch provided they already have an income stream.

            Then there’s the argument that Patreon and Subbable and GoFundMe are unsustainable. The argument goes like this: Google/Youtube have servers to pay for. If Youtubers/twitch streamers make enough money from Patreon to earn a living, they’ll turn off ads (which I could actually see happening). Youtube/Google’s income goes down, and ads are forced on content producers. Then we’re back to where we started, only now content subscribers need a subscription to watch ads. That’s how Hulu works, not us. Now, Hackaday is lucky that it doesn’t need AdWords or a monetized Youtube to survive. We’re doing okay, but if we produce videos and put them up on Youtube, why would we encourage something that forces ads on people, then beg for subscriptions?

            Oh, even if Hackaday had a Patreon, where would the money go? If it goes to the overlords, they would just add another line to their balance sheet. Money is fungible, and there’s no real, direct relation to Patreon donations and what kind or quality of content we produce. If it goes to individual writers, you’re getting into some severe ethical issues that I don’t even want to think about right now. If anyone has any papers on media ethics and Patreon, please email them to me.

            Brave New Media Frontier, I tell you huat.

            Now, if we’re talking about integrating the profiles with the blog, and having a subscription option to not show ads on the blog… that’s an entirely different story. In fact, I’d prefer the blog comments and .io have the same login, and eventually we’re going to get around to that. Whether we’re going to have a subcription option to turn off ads… well, most of you already have adblock enabled.

            Just buy a gift card from the store and don’t spend it. I’m sure saying that is making an accountant rip their hair out, but that will remain the easiest way to just give us money, and will remain so for a very long time.

  1. What a bizarre interview. What’s with all this “Jonathan reports” and “Jonathan sneezes” rephrasing of the interviewee’s statements? I’d like to see his exact wording on these questions because Limor’s restatements just sound like bland, ineffectual dodges instead of the usual bland, overzealous dodges we’re used to seeing from Bre.

    That said, none of these questions were that amazing or hard-hitting anyway. Thanks for wasting my time, Hackaday.

    1. +1
      for each question.
      Pretty unsurprising answers to some pretty flat questions.
      It does more to expose what’sername’s moneyball thinking than illuminate any revelations about a Makerbot “new direction”.
      I predict a Radio Shack parallel trajectory, and I’d love to be correct because the world simply does NOT need Makerbot. It is increasingly irrelevant. Let it die as it so deserves and make room for obvious betterness.

      1. my post is long so here’s this first:
        Bottomline: Limor, please continue to engineer, make money, spread knowledge and most importantly inspire people to create or even just try. You and HaD do a great job of this, keep up the good work. Please don’t be part of these summarized interviews again.

        now the meat:
        This is just like watching a movie preview, then seeing that the only good parts put together equal almost enough to make the preview. But thinking back,

        the only good part was: “He said they haven’t been very clear about this” True, so true.

        This is not an interview. We were told this was going to be an interview. A watered-down non-specific summary of an interivew is NOT an interview.

        I like HaD, I like Limor and all that she and the Adafruit staff do. I’m a huge advocate for people to concentrating on what you do best and then doing it very well. Interviews by Limor and promos of interivews by Limor are not what Limor and HaD do best, please learn from this and leave these interviewish tasks in the past.

        Does that mean I don’t want to read another interview by Limor? Yes, if it means that, when put into this position again and she chooses to release the interview in this format instead of standing up to the Makerbot PR dept and saying “This is not how I conduct and release an interview, I will not release this and you do not have my permission to release it by any other means”.

        Do I blame her and HaD? well I’m not sure on that one, time will tell, we need to see if this stuff becomes the norm. Clearly this was not an interivew by any definition, it was a summary of an interview. An interview requires quotes from the person being interviewed. No quotes = no interview.

        and this:
        the readers of Hackaday responded. Not with actual questions for the MakerBot CEO, mind you, but oh how you responded.”
        Actual questions were asked – specifically about their extruder and the plastic tabs used in it’s design. Sorry, Brian, don’t fault the readers when they did deliver on what HaD requested. Just because you didn’t get a page full of “Real questions” doesn’t mean you got none.

        As for Makerbot and it’s CEO, it appears Stratasys was not pleased to hear of this and corporate Stratasys PR people stepped in, the summary of the interview was the result.
        This reminds me of a certain U.S. politian’s “listening tour” a few years back in that, I think Jonathon wants appear to care and appear to “connect with the people”, not that he or Stratasys really want that but they want to appear as if they want that. The reality is that this summary, if it had any relevance at any time, is now completely void of all relevance due to the fact that Stratasys will allow Jonathon to go on his 3 month tour (they likely don’t want him in the office anyway), while they prepare all his dismissal documents and then they will quietly wait until the holidays and dismiss him when they they think no one is paying attention.

        Jonathon gets to talk about this in his future job interviews and gets to blame the parent company for not being able to “implement all the great ideas and insightful feedback I got from the people actually using the machines” or however he wants to spin it to them. He really just wants to appear to care. Stratasys gets to shove all their PR interview lockdown policies on Jonathon by never admitting to said PR interview lockdown policies and saying he was “not in line with Stratasys’s new corporate vision for Makerbot and it’s potential”, or some such corporate drivel. For Stratasys and Jonathon, both of them will spin things in what they think will benefit them the most. For Jonathon, this might actually work, while it’s clear to anyone reading this that I see through all this, time and time again, CEOs get away with this stuff when changing companies. Stratasys won’t be so fortunate, Makerbot is headed down the Best Buy path – some people look there, a lot less people buy there and anyone who’s ever had a problem there will never go there again. After a few years people say “Are they still in business?”

        Bottomline: Limor, please continue to engineer, make money, spread knowledge and mostly importantly inspire people to create or even just try. You and HaD do a great job of this, keep up the good work. Please don’t be part of these summarized interviews again.

  2. “…how MakerBot can communicate clearly what is open and what is not…” Make it all open, problem solved.

    “Jonathan specifically said patents are necessary,…” == “No chance, English bed-wetting types. We burst our pimples at you, and call your door-opening request a silly thing. You tiny-brained wipers of other people’s bottoms!”

    1. last one out, please turn out the lights. I think we’re done here ;)

      perhaps makerbot just could never come back again; but it does not look like they even care, to be honest.

    1. Not only the guts, but it seems even the desire. When Limor said, “Jonathan said at this time he sees no value in DRM at this time.”, that implies he told Limor that he sees INTRINSIC value in it, but right now it’s not the smart decision money-wise. Worst answer disguised as something palatable.

      Now what _I_ wonder is… why in the name of Lady Ada has Limor Fried placed herself squarely in front of the HaD firing-line and this pile of poorly made choices? I get why Jonathan didn’t want to speak for himself. This is all unsubstantiated 3rd party gossip now. A guy has told us he has a letter from a girl that contains information about questions she asked a guy claiming to be Jonathan.

      I’m not saying any of this up there isn’t accurate. I’m just saying it seems way too INTENTIONALLY convoluted. No one conducts interviews in this manner. Not one actual quote from the interviewee at all. As a single custodial father of a 10yr old girl, thankfully very interested in all this geek crap we do, I adore Ada Fruit, Limor Fried and all she’s done for women geeks, the do-it-your-damned-self crowd, all of us… and Brian with HaD and all of this awesomeness. I’m not slamming them. I just simply think we all deserve to know why was this done in the oddest, most confusing, and (in keeping with Makerbots current philosophical bent) LEAST OPEN manner possible?

      1. Former MakerBotter here. I can tell you that the parent company of MakerBot is not pleased with this, my inside sources that still work there for now say they wanted to back out meeting with Adafruit after they saw it was going to be about open source, protecting filament and Ladyada asking them to open up the Motor controller for us hackers out there. I said it before, the CEO will be out in 6 months.

  3. I am currently looking at buying or building a 3D printer at the moment the only thing I know right now is it won’t be a Makerbot! They seem like a company set on cashing in and nothing else. Open hardware is amazing look at arduino, Yeah I could go out and buy a clone but because I benefit from the community I try to buy offical boards when I can.

    Makerbot could have been a community in which people would feel like they wanted to support them but instead they have ruined any chance of that. The other thing that annoys me is they had their chance with makers and stabbed them in the back you can’t build trust when you have broken it so spectacularly.

    What sort of company undercuts their resellers? the people runnin this company are complete amateurs with zero buisness sense.

  4. Too funny. Where did they go wrong? That’s pretty obvious even to Makerbot. And when it all starts going bad, they shutdown the forums and tried to kill the message. This interview was just a PR attempt with no teeth behind.
    Pity we can’t see a video of it.

  5. So why the paraphrasing? Did the new CEO insist on it so his words can’t be used against him later? Giving us the Reader’s Digest condensed version is kind of dodgy.
    It’s a non-issue. The only people I see buying Makerbots anymore are the uninformed- folks who bought them at Sam’s club on a whim, librarians jumping on the makerspace bandwagon, institutions with sourcing regulations, etc. Anyone who does a bit of research will see that there are better and cheaper alternatives out there. Makerbot is to 3D printers what Beats headphones are to audio gear- over-hyped junk with a sketchy business ethic.

  6. Leaving a post here – as a bit of a public criticism of Adafruit.

    First – I truly admire Adafruit for being a part of the community and helping advance the world of open source electronics. Some of their instructions on hardware were a great help to me and I bought a couple of hundred dollars worth of stuff from them as I got into electronics.

    My beef is with their margins. Here’s a link to a video where Lada Ada explains how to successfully price a product. (about half way in)

    In it, you’ll see Ada says to take your cost, multiply it by 1.7, then 1.7 again(!) to get to a price for customers. She used an example of an item that cost $10 to make – then she would round up – and this product would ideally have a price of $30. That’s if you want to “stay in business”…

    That equates to a 66% margin or a 200% markup. You can compare that to, say, the S&P 500 which averages ~38% gross margin, or even Apple which is “crushing it” at ~44% That tells me that Adafruit has a ton of SG&A costs, they’re not good at running a business, or they’re soaking their customers. I combine this with the notion that someone thinks it’s a good idea to run an open source hardware business from the middle of the most expensive city in these United States, and I just scratch my head.

    Do I expect Adafruit to be cost competitive with some unknown overseas vendor on Ebay? nope. But If I’m going to spend more money for high-priced stuff, they better be pretty innovative – and IMO, a Gemma is not innovative.

    1. The raw cost of goods sold (her starting point) is not nearly as big a chunk of the pie as people who have never run a business think it is. I suspect her real net margins on that pricing strategy are in the 10%-20% range once taxes and all the rest of it are paid.

      IOW, go run a business before you talk nonsense.

      1. Actually, I’m a CPA and have specifically worked with small business – and have seen a lot of them. If their EBT is down to 10%, then that means that have very high SG&A costs…

        Just trying to paint an accurate picture.

        1. No, I’m saying that the majority (or very large proportion) of their sales are in other people’s stores, which has to be taken in to account when setting RRP and they also sell a lot of ‘care’ plans. Ada, like apple is running both a manufacturing business and a retail business and they both sell their own products through others, and other people’s products through their own outlets. The difference between manufacturing cost and rrp, is not the same as profits margins. You have to take in to account service, warranties and supply chain. But why am I explaining this to you, your the business adviser.

        2. My last reply… Apple and Adafruit are, of course, very different businesses, and comparing their numbers is like comparing apples and oranges (no pun intended).

          But if you make me think a bit more about Adafruit’s business model – they don’t have a retail outlet (at least I don’t think they do) – they’re only direct sales presence is a website – which would make me think their SG&A costs should be pretty low compared to direct costs…

          No matter, Adafruit is a privately held business and we don’t know their true numbers and probably never will. My gut says their margins are too high given the value they provide.

          Thanks for hearing me out.

          1. their margins may be high, but does anyone buy -quantity- from them? that’s not their role in life. they are not a mouser. they sell one-off items to makers who try things out and often just make a few things; or if they productize their idea, they would not be buying raw product from adafruit.

            I buy from adafruit (just got a pkg yesterday, in fact) but I would not use them like I would a true parts distributor.

            its their choice to live and work in NYC and I can’t fault them. I live and work (when I’m employed, sigh) in the san fran bay area and like NYC its hella expensive to live here. to live, you need a living wage and I cannot fault adafruit for having a higher markup so that they can stay in business.

            and as been said before, they do spend a lot of time on writing articles and those are worth quite a lot. they jumpstart many people (me, included) and get me running on some new hardware tech in minutes or hours, not weeks and months as it used to be the case a long time ago.

            sparkfun is the same thing: they charge a bit more for parts but they are (again) not a mouser, never will be and that’s not the point of their business.

            (this has nothing to do with makerbot; just responding to the adafruit comments).

          2. Right. They don’t have the volume to live on razor-thin margins like some expect. It takes a fair amount of time to see what need there is, pick an IC (or solution), the whole design and test the product phase (prototyping) usually including some code, publishing all that on the web… All that done by highly-paid employees (because they live in NY), only to sell a few of them.

            You just can’t compare that to the Chinese who will copy an idea (no R&D costs), and then make a clone with major cost-cutting, then mass produce it while also using underpaid/overworked labor. Of course that’s going to cost a lot less.

            Then again, the high cost is also why they sell so little of them. Especially combined with their expensive shipping, while the Chinese are good at selling $0.99 items including delivery. On adafruit, the cheapest/slowest shipping option for a tiny to Canada is $10 or so.

            Just one quick comparison: for a cheap 128×64 OLED display, adafruit wants $25 USD + $12 for shipping. On ebay I can buy the same thing for $3.58, including shipping.

    2. Keep in mind that they are often selling much cheaper products though. A 38% gross margin for a $400 device is huge compared to a 38% gross margin for a $30 device. Once you factor in marketing, documentation, human costs, ordering, shipping, and everything else, that markup makes sense.

  7. I understand Adafruit, Makerbot and HaD are all pretty tight. Phil Therone and I had a small back and forth on reddit shortly after Makerbot decided to close source the Replicator 2. I feel that there is a cross investment present in the NY Maker/Noisebridge scene, be it financial or personal.

    I’m more concerned about others who invested time, effort, support and money in Makerbot in the early days. Specifically Adrian Bower and Zach Smith. They got treated like dirt by Bre Pettis and his father after the company was bought out.

    I have huge respect for Limor for teaching electronics to a generation. Phil for his involvement in starting HaD and fighting for digital rights and against injustice for hackers like Kevin Mitnick. It saddens me a little that I have to disagree with them on this one thing. But makerbot took from the community, called it their own, and backed away when it was their turn to give back.

    In Pre Pettis’ swansong keynote speech at the OSHS he blamed a kickstarter for an attempted knockoff of the replicator as the reason for going closed source (‘only on the enclosure’ he promised). I recall that KS was not funded because of loyalty to open hardware, the KS was slated on HaD and boycotted by the community. Pettis was invited to keynote the OSHS because his company was at it’s peak, a flagship open source hardware product, like firefox, VLC, Debian or Blender are for open software. Pettis decided to steer the company into being like the Apple of 3D printing, with him as Steve Jobs.

    Makerbot is a victim of the money invested in it. It needs to show a return and it can’t do that making competitively priced printers. it can’t charge a premium either as steriolithography printers like the Form1 snagged that sector and more are on the way.

  8. Yeah I work with two makerbots in one of the library type deals. They suck. But hey we have had no out of pocket expenses (because we bought the $2000 maintenance package on the grant’s dollar). We go through 3-5 smart extruders every month or so. The print quality is absolutely random, same roll of plastic, same extruder same default settings. Some times they look like the thingiverse posts, other times there are literal gaps in the layers.
    And don’t get me started on paying 60 dollars for shit plastic. The tolerances are plus or minus 5mm and you have to go through all kinds of shit to change that setting and about every ten rolls you get some that is literally like rubber. Wtf Is that.

    And The new Ceo’s answers are cold, uninformative, and textbook for a defensive business who doesn’t get it.

    I knew they were going down hill working on the rep 2 years ago. I built my own for reason. This poo still kinda surprises me.

    The Printrbot isn’t perfect and nobody else wants to deal with it, (or call printer bot to get a replacement bed) But its 700 bucks as opposed to whatever terrible number they are charging for the Mini.

    Hacker/Disgruntled library employee

  9. I try to be supportive of this site – I really like it – there are some truly fantastic posts here. The original content is (generally) excellent and I see a lot of things I’d have to spend time looking for otherwise. Even some comments are useful!

    That said – That was the worst “interview” I’ve ever read. It was like reading a synopsis of someones conversation written by a five year old. i understand you are just reprinting it, but you do your readers a disservice, either print the whole thing or just don’t bother. Everyone is the loser currently.


  10. Limor rocks! I have such a hard schoolboy crush on her. From helping me and my daughter on the adafruit forums when we were getting started, to the constant stream of excellent parts and the open-source advocacy and support. I always know that when I buy a part from her, I’ll get source code, a schematic and a well-made component.

    1. Wow, that is big news to me. It seems that in a lot of small Open Hardware companies, there is a large closed source company trying to get out.

      Make:zine, HaD, Makerbot, Adafuit, Prntrbot… Open Source seems to be a vehicle to getting into the Millionaires club. Once there, they let membership of the Open Source club gently lapse.

      It is not surprising to see these people kowtowing to the people who made the money, rather than people who made things Open. As I said to Adafruit before they banned me and deleted my posts, when money comes in the front door, Open Source goes out of the window.

    2. Fascinating.

      Ladyada has always been very open about how she wants to fix the patent system if you read her blog or watch her weekly show. In the interview with the President of the USA a couple years back she called for patent reform. Adafruit has, in the simplest way to describe, given away any past, present or future patents free to open-source hardware companies. Her page has not been updated recently but it’s all there

      littleBits and Chumby, both open source companies, have patents. Linux has successfully created a defensive patent pool and free cross licensing, she has proposed the same with hardware, that’s smart. Expecting prior art only to save the day isn’t enough. Anyone who understands business and patents gets that.

      1. Anyone who understands business and patents also understand that patents can transfer ownership, for example, if a company gets bought out, or an investor takes a controlling share interest. The original intentions of the founders go out of the window. There is no way to permanently guarantee a patent will only ever be used defensively.
        However, publishing an idea and placing in the public should ensure it stays in the public domain.
        Makerbot took out patents and said “trust us, we won’t be bad”. Look how that turned out. Adafruit are shaping up to be the next Makerbot, I won’t be surprised to read about a multi-million buy out.

  11. Virtually this whole thing could have been summed up by “Jonathan nodded, agreed, and said we’ll look into it”. The only thing that resembles actual information is:

    “Jonathan reports a lot of progress with this and the quality has improved. Recently, they’ve seen a 74% satisfaction rate among Smart Extruder users and a 40 percent decline in Smart Extruder customer support cases since February 2015. Average support wait time is now 34 seconds. Six months ago, it was 11 minutes.”

    I qualified that with “resembles”, because those improvements in number of support cases and wait time could have just as easily resulted from a sharp drop in Smart Extruder users, rather than improvements in the extruder and customer service! Those users that remain would be generally be more technically proficient and capable of working around extruder flaws, or don’t use their printers enough to have encountered difficulty, or are just plain lucky – so an exodus of users would raise the satisfaction rate as well.

    To give these stats clear meaning, Jonathan would ALSO have to report what the Smart Extruder satisfaction rate was 4-6 months ago, as well as how many users that rate was based on, both then and now. Which, unsurprisingly, he didn’t. Adafruit really should have KNOWN these stats were lacking proper context, and immediately asked for more info.

    Like others, I’m also disappointed that there isn’t a text or A/V transcript of this interview.

    And that Adafruit asked only the most general questions. I passed along a very specific one – why is the extruder is held together with plastic tabs that readily break if you open it up to manually clear a clog or other correctable issue, and if they’d consider improving that should a case redesign be needed in a future revision? It would have been a good question IMO. Not asked. Not surprised.

  12. makerbot seems to be completely missing the mark when it comes to their main demographic- hobbyists. we are not a rational bunch in the ‘normal’ sense…

    i buy electronic parts from sparkfun and adafruit not because they are cheapest, or the only place to get some things, but because of how and what they do to support the community… i have an account at digikey, mouser, future, and many others that i use just as much, but i willingly buy things from sparkfun and adafruit even if it’s a little more because of where that money goes. doing things to help the community is not something that is always measurable in a business sense, but it is those things that most affect how and why i support and purchase from the companies that i currently do.

  13. Hackaday has gone full commercial and can no longer be considered a neutral party.

    Unsubscribed from rss feed.

    Adafruit also demonstraited their true colors with this.

    I will never again buy something with an adafruit logo on it.

  14. Adafruit asked for a video interview MakerBot said no, Ladyada got them to talk about open source and DRM of filament. Obviously MakerBot didn’t want to talk with ANYONE about that and would not go on record. The Hackaday commenters have little to zero reading comprehension LOL.

  15. What a waste of time reading this “interview”.
    This is more like the minutes being read back from a meeting of the “super happy friends club.”


    Makerbot is still makerbot with no intentions of fixing any relationships with those they have burnt.

    Limor/Adafruit is starting down the path of patenting their products. (WTF!)

    Hackaday continues to be the ‘corporate’ man by giving a platform for this utter nonsense and complaining about adblock yet again. ::)

    Evil begets evil.

    *Fun fact, this comment has more quotes than what is claimed to be an “interview” above. Yet even those quotes were from interviewer not the man being “interviewed.”

    1. Former MakerBotter here. Bunnie of the open source laptop project and Limor have talked publicly about defensive patent pools to keep patent trolls away. That is why you get a patent nowadays. If the MakerBot CEO promises only to use the patents defensively that would be a huge step in the right direction. Doubt they’ll do it, Stratasys is a big evil company.

      1. But not really. You do not need a patent to protect your creation from being patented by someone else, just prior art.
        Also it is clearly evident that any “promise” from makerbot is not worth the breath that made it.

        1. That’s true in theory, but in practice, not at all. Many, many patent trolls eat out on patents for which there exists years or decades of prior art. If you have a patent on a thing, no-one else will be able to patent it, period. If all you have is prior art, that’s just a ticket to the litigation merry-go-round. Guess which of these two options is the more expensive and riskier one.

        1. Someone needs to create an open patent license. One that grants an irrevocable license to use the patent as long as certain conditions are met, just like open source licenses grant an irrevocable license to use copyrighted source code as long as certain conditions are met.

          IANAPL (I am not a patent lawyer) but I am sure there is a way to draw up a license such that even if the company goes bust and is being sold piece by piece to the highest bidder, no-one can revoke the rights for anyone to use the patent.

    2. This pseudo-interview makes the new Makerbot CEO look like a soulless martinet without a single clue to his name, and I can’t help but think that’s intentional. Besides, isn’t Jaglom the idiot son of someone higher up the Stratasys food chain?

  16. Hey, thanks to this article, I have found out that Makerbot patented MY idea, the probeless hotend bed-leveling sensor. Steve Graber made a version of it, that got some publicity when the news of the patent came out.

    Here’s the patent:

    Here’s my post on the idea, posted a month before the patent application:!msg/deltabot/lJqDukVk9PA/ofv9ccMdheUJ

    And the github files for the design:

    Doesn’t seem very fair to me. Maybe Jonathan Jaglom could make a comment?

    1. If you posted it in public, that’s publishing, right? Write to the patent office. Dunno how much good it’ll do, if you’re not a rich corporation, but you never know. Or get a lawyer to write to Makerbot pointing that out, if you think they’ll pay you. It seems like they won’t.

      Even if you don’t get money from them, you could invalidate the patent and have it made freely available, as you intended.

      For your rhetorical question, I don’t expect Jonathan or his lawyers to make any comments outside of a court case. He won’t even give a proper interview.

  17. In regards to DRM for 3D printer consumables, doesn’t the Supreme Court decision in the Lexmark case (where Lexmark sued someone under the DMCA for copying the DRM chips in the Lexmark printer cartridges and making compatible 3rd party cartridges for Lexmark printers and lost in court) mean that 3D printer companies can’t stop 3rd parties from figuring out how to replicate their DRM and make their own compatible consumables?

    1. Even compared to the late 90s, todays government is ever more ‘corporate friendly’.

      I would expect nearly any sycophantic demands of corporate drone to be honored.

      Consumer protections are anti-american.

  18. I feel so let down… This was like watching a really great movie preview, getting all excited to see it, and then the movie sucked. I would love to see the actual transcript, as these seem like a bunch of softballs. I’d bet there were a couple zingers that got dodged.

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