3D Printering: The Makerbot Class Action Suit

Since the 5th generation of Makerbot 3D printers were released at CES in 2014, there has been an avalanche of complaints about the smart extruder in these printers. Clogs were common, and the recommended fix was to simply replace the extruder. The smart extruder is a $175 part, and the mean time before failure is somewhere between 200 and 500 hours. With these smart extruders, you’re looking at a new extruder every dozen prints or so. Combine this with Makerbot’s abdication of open source values, and it’s easy to see why no one in the know would buy a Makerbot.

The performance of the 5th gen Makerbots is also reflected in the Stratasys stock price. The stock has tanked, from a high of $130.83 in early 2014 to a low of $31.88 a few days ago. This has investors calling for blood, and now there’s a class action suit claiming Stratasys violated securities laws. The court docs found by the folks at Adafruit allege Stratasys rushed the 5th gen Makerbots into production resulting in an avalanche of negative feedback, warranty claims, returns, and misled investors until the stock collapsed when the market was made aware of these issues.

The court documents allege Stratasys and Makerbot touted the incredible ease of use and ‘unmatched’ quality of the 5th generation of Makerbots, while former Makerbot employees confirmed known issues with the smart extruder. The 5th gen Makerbots were rushed into production without proper testing for performance and reliability and no standardized testing and validation program. In short, Makerbot itself didn’t know how bad the smart extruder was, but shipped the product anyway. This in turn hurt sales, with one sales executive leaving the company as he “did not want to sell the 5th generation printers after learning about the defect issues because he has a ‘conscience’.”

Despite this, those in charge at Makerbot and Stratasys continued to make misleading  positive claims about the reliability of their printers and how the printers were received by the market. This is the crux of the lawsuit, and something that points to an artificially inflated stock value.

The plaintiffs for this lawsuit are limited to Stratasys stock holders, and anyone out there who only owns a 5th gen Makerbot will sadly be ignored in this lawsuit. Still, if the claims of this lawsuit are true, Stratasys and Makerbot are in for a world of hurt; this is an alleged violation of federal securities laws. demanding a jury trial. Popcorn abounds, and as always, [Zach] and [Adam] came out ahead.

79 thoughts on “3D Printering: The Makerbot Class Action Suit

    1. It’s a real bummer that the vultures that ran the company down have already jumped ship to their next ventures. Now the lawsuit will fall on an already broken company just starting to get over two years of aggressive and destructive “leadership.”
      Or, to put a different perspective on it, the leadership that successfully over-sold the company and got the investors a tremendous ROI have moved on to repeat their winnings elsewhere.

      If (when) the same bubble pops on Littlebits, I will be entirely unsurprised.

          1. I was interested in them as well, but for 20 pieces at $200 is pretty ridiculous. It also oversimplifies electronic tinkering and design by implementing things that just don’t exist, like autocorrecting direction.

            Breadboard, power, arduino (or other easy to use micro), resistors, LEDS, transistors, motors and speakers are all you need to start.

            Aliexpress has quite a few awesome $30 kits that have all sorts of parts and modules. And you can learn a hell of a lot more from them.

          2. I can’t believe that they did a bunch of advertising all over the BART stations here in the SF bay area … so weird to see “internet stuff” out in the real world …

            Anyway, I’m surprised to hear people decry littlebits, other than perhaps the badness of the money people behind it. This past Xmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza, I had a lot of families, probably 20 or so, ask me what tech toy should they get their kids. Now that “tech workers” are the new Holy Elite Prime Citizens of America, parents want their kids to be on that track early on.

            I commonly recommended littlebits. It has replay value, and a unique kind of visibility to the functional blocks that comprise it. And you can be playing with it ~15 seconds after it comes out of the box. Yeah, the price is a little high, but a $200 price tag is a fine range for an Xmas gift for most folks these days.

            And, yes, for some families with older kids, I did recommend that $100 Arudino starter kit, but that doesn’t have that 15-seconds-to-working payoff charm.

      1. I didn’t mean to report this comment, I just fat-fingered it while scrolling, again…for about the 20th time. Could you just remove that hacking flag if you’re not going to give us the option to cancel a Report Comment flag?

        1. I think if the post you report is obviously OK, there’s not much to worry about. The staff know the report button keeps getting confused with the reply one. It’s not Facebook, there’s actual humans responding to reports.

        1. I tell you what would be good, some kind of solderless, reusable circuit board system. Components could fit into holes, just by pushing the leads in. If the holes were spring-loaded they could be used time and time again!

          Just off to get millions of dollars of venture capital, by way of the patent office, pardon me…

      2. Is there more to the LittleBits hate than sour grapes?

        Upset that someone got a crap load of money for a simple idea because they put some marketing hype behind it?

        (Disclaimer – I know nothing about LittleBits other than a vague memory and a quick Google search – oh look it’s that idea again.)

        1. I commented earlier too, but I’ll happily defend littleBits, patents/high price and all. It’s not for us, it’s for youngsters that need engaging ways to learn about electronics. Great product.

          1. I agree. these haters are just haters, in the Kardashian sense\use of the word.

            LittleBits has made some cool projects possible without code, wires, parts bins, etc.

            I would have LOVED these things when I was 14. It would have changed my life to have toys like that available – crummy chemistry sets and 200-in-1-electronic-projects kits just are half-ruined the day they arrive.

            Making ‘simple’ functions totally modular, reliable, and work as a larger system is fairly impressive, and littleBits appears to be a good product. I also really appreciate that they are available at RadioShack locally.

            I myself have never used LittleBits, but I would definiately consider them as a gift for a friends kid, once my friends kids are a little older.

            People here are like “Just use an arduino!!!”, but if you use an arduino, they are like “JUST USE AN AVR!”

    1. Hundreds of millions of dollars, nice cars and houses, and a resume that looks great to future investors? Those responsible have left MakerBot for greener pastures; SSYS had the wool pulled over its eyes, and now that it can see what happened, it’s too late.

  1. Makerbot was never a large part of the revenue. It may have been the catalyst for the lawsuit, but the real reason the price declined is because it was bid to unjustifiable levels by hype.

    Two years ago newspapers were writing articles about how all manufacturing would be replaced by home 3d printing. Stratasys was never going to deliver on that promise even if the makerbot acquisition had gone well.

    Uneducated investors put their money in something they didn’t understand based on arguments made by journalists with no technical knowledge. Now they want to sue, but unfortunately for them there is a long history of this kind of crap and it won’t go well.

    1. WhIle that may be the case for some of the overvaluation of the stock, if they violated the law to inflate the cost even an extra cent, people could go to jail. Securities laws are nothing to mess with. Of course without details and a law degree, I’ll just have to wait and see where all this goes.

    2. There is some truth to your point, Stratasys would have lost some value regardless. But look carefully in the filing: thousands of printers were being returned and MakerBot had to take charges against its warranty and inventory costs, meaning that not only did they not make money from the sale, but they incurred additional costs from having to pay for mailing out extruders, paying for return shipping (the Z18 ships on a palette… just think about how much they lose on shipping alone when one of those are returned), and dealing with refurbishing and stocking this crap. MakerBot missed their own internal projections by a wide margin, and the nature of the problems only meant it would get worse over time. Doesn’t matter how insignificant their revenue was compared to Stratasys overall, when you fuck up that bad investors take notice and pull their money.

    3. I absolutely agree. Makerbot was always overpriced for such a small build factor. I thought about getting one for years but just opted to build my own instead. (I currently have a Kossel type) But the fact that so many writers who had nothing to do with the tech industry were writing about things they didn’t understand was a big hype trying to bring people to the market, those people saw the price tags, the build times and the build size and said “Hell No” and not to the surprise of anyone in the industry at all. The author over at Business insider has no idea of what she writes and other than speculation and opinion her piece is only a fluff piece.

  2. What’s worse 3D systems’ CubeX or Makerbot’s / Stratasys’ fifth-generation printer? It’s bewildering to me how in the world these huge companies with nearly unlimited resources come up with these defective products. How is it they are not able to hire people that are able to get the job done within the time frames allotted to them? GEESH! Am I the only one that feels like there’s some kind of Twilight Zone scenario happening here? HAHA! :D

    1. These companies do not want this product category to succeed.

      3Ds and Stratasys are ‘used to’ selling machines for 100K with multi-year service contreacts for another $30k… washout sinks that cost $8K – etc.

      A well made $5,000 machine would replace $50K machines in their current product lineups.

      They dont care about individuals and consumers – they want big sales to corporations…

      The next-gen consumer machines that will finally make 3D printing worthwhile and mainstream will also basically decimate the rapid prototyping industry, like has happened with digital printing.

      1. “A well made $5,000 machine would replace $50K machines in their current product lineups.”

        It’s true. Our lab has a StrataSys Dimension and a variety of higher end RepRap variants and other desktop printers. The Dimension cost about $30,000 new (many years ago, admittedly), while the other machines average about $2500. The RepRaps have about double the resolution of the Dimension, use filament that costs 1/5 as much, have far more control over the print parameters, and print several times faster.

  3. Many 3d printer kits based on open source designs perform as badly if not worse than the Makerbot offers. However: they are much cheaper. You can generally fix them to work better, sometimes better than a high end commercial printer. And you won’t void a warranty when doing so. The technology isn’t really mature enough for this to be a consumer product, it is still a field reserved to tinkerers.

    1. The tech is mature – its a cost issue – and I suppose asia will win big soon, if they havent already.

      The big US companies absolutely do not want these machines to perform well.

    2. I have a makerbot clone (Flashforge FFCP). Its a reliable workhorse. Has great quality but is based on a 5 year old makerbot OSS/OSH design produced by a chinese company. There are aftermarket suppliers who are adressing even the small number of design issues in the now mature design. Recently makerbot started to lock clones out of thier desktop software, but with the introduction of tools like simplify3d and gpx that is no longer a problem. Im not sure these devices are consumer grade yet, but they have reached the hit print and walk away stage. With ABS i dont have to worry about failed prints, unless the spool runs out halfway through. A pause on filament out sensor is an aftermarket extension that can be added.

  4. To be fair, the Stratasys stock would have lost some value the they did not get into cheap (by Stratasys’ standards) 3d printers. I don’t think their attempt to bring 3d printing to the masses has been the right one, both Stratasys and Makerbot are not mass production firms.

  5. Being an old fart and seeing how the standard M.O. works for business, I wonder if Stratasys’ strategy was always just to try to preserve and maybe inflate their intellectual property rights so they can keep their commercial products expensive. Last I heard, HP is in R&D to create a nice high-resolution printer. I understand that their first generation might be marketable in a year or so and it will cost “just” a few thousand. Still too high for the average consumer, but at that point the writing is on the wall and momentum will drive the cost down and quality-per-dollar up.
    My prediction: As usual, the profitable business will try to squash competition with patent suits (fully knowing in many cases that they can’t win) and this, as usual will penalize the consumer by slowing down the natural course innovation would normally take and keeping affordable, high-quality 3D printers out of the hands of the serfs. I doubt the small budget consumer is even on the radar of Stratasys, rather it’s likely the simple effort to keep making profits on their same products without having to do any of that pesky innovation. The new innovations will drive the price of commercial printers down as well, thus the desire to slow or stop progress. I hope that HP being a multinational too, will shoo that fly away like we small-timers just can’t afford to do and innovation will plow through anyway.
    Not that I’m an HP fanboy either, but I do like watching the progression of innovation. I think in just a few years, 3D printers will finally be a reliable, ubiquitous product capable of high-quality work and at a cost well within the average person’s budget. Not so if Stratasys, or anybody else, keeps it at bay – it could be 20+ years in that case. As long as there’s not another in a long line of monopoly-creating mergers in the process, we might see some cool stuff emerge.

        1. That’s what I heard too. I read that their projection is that their new 200-nozzle printer to be released in the next couple years was supposed to come in about $10K. That’s way too dear for me and most others still, but it’s progress and I would think that a couple years or so later there would be derivatives of it for more like $1K-$2K.
          I heard this over 6 months ago and I don’t remember where I read it, but it was some kind of release direct from some department of HP.

  6. Okay you garage hackers, leave my lovely wonderful Stratasys products alone. I work at a company with deep pockets and I bought a piece of sh!t Cubex. First one came in broken because of bad packing. Second one would do nothing but crash into the glass, third one was okay, but would not print at the resolution the promised, so we sent all of them back. A year later, they try to recharge our company credit card, claiming it was never returned.

    I for one love Stratasys. We have a BST768 and the first print head lasted a decade before completely dying. Oh sure, we have to take it apart, soak it in MEK and baby it. We finally got on maintenance when they dropped their requirement of making us paying back support while we were not on support.

    I absolutely enjoy paying $125 for ten foam support trays but I get to use our planer to eek out extra prints when the head digs into the foam for no apparent reason. I am in absolute awe that we have only replaced the network card 3 times in 15 years and the motherboard, an X186 that you have to bootload with a 3.5 inch floppy disk when it goes all caterwompus.

    The best part? Paying $265 dollars for a proprietary cartridge. Once we were back on maintenance, the print head only lasted a year, but tech support made one of my engineers spend two days troubleshooting it, when that engineer who was very familiar with the machine and swore it was the print head, spent two days of our money, before they came out, spent five minutes and replaced the printhead.

    Slow, shitty resolution, did I mention slow? Did I mention we have to have this thing on so much ESD protection because one good thunderstorm and it goes all re-re? If the 80186 brain goes bad, I am not sure what I will do!

    Oh, did I mention that although now we are ready to be on maintenance, that as of the end of July, they won’t cover it anymore and parts are on an as available basis? Once they are done its done!

    That’s okay though, because they are more than willing to give us four grand for this thing if we buy a new 50 grand machine! Thank God for Stratasys!

    Let me move on to my Objet 30 pro! Thank God that Stratasys bought Objet. Objet didn’t know what they were doing. Those silly little monkies thought just because they could print clear they were the kings of the world! Cheeky monkies. North of 50k I told my company to buy one because we were going to print enough clear in one year to buy a machine. We had one job that we dropped over 8k on. So we bought one. Thank God that Stratasys bought them so we got forced into an $1800 dollar training add on. We told them we were 3D printing masters.

    They said, the crate will be delivered and if you open it, you void everything. Wow only $1800 for a bendover, no reach around, or kiss, or movie? Thanks Stratasys! The guy spent less than 2 hours. Wow, I have spent less all day at a topless bar and gotten much more out of it.

    Thank you Stratasys, for your toxic materials that you won’t tell us what is in them, which makes it against our state law to do anything but return them in a container to you. Thank you for those “purge” sequences that take material that are $500 to $750 a liter and you just throw them up like a supermodel.

    Thank you Stratasys for a Z axis controller that dies on day 93, when we refused the $4800 a year for maintenance and you gave a 90 day warranty. Thank you for the X axis control that died after 186 days, but since we have this useless thing called electrical engineers, we figured out that it was a 5 dollar photosensor module that we bought at digikey.

    Thank you Stratasys, for coming out with a new Endur product that allows us to make parts in a more plastic like material to make snaps for plastic products that mean when we will get prototypes that act like plastic. Sure, because we weren’t on maintenance and we bought the material (600 bucks a liter) not knowing we needed a flash upgrade and you would not let us do it, because after all, a bunch of electrical engineers can’t flash upgrade anything. We waited…and waited, and thank you Stratasys for keep pushing us to the back of the queue to the point where our company lawyer had to call and threaten a lawsuit, that you finally sent someone out to do the upgrade.

    Stratasys, I love you. Wet sloppy kisses. May your CEO BURN IN HELL!

    1. I figured with bleeding-edge technology the company would treat it’s early adopters better.

      Out of respect for our competitors we delayed publishing the new process, but now will re-evaluate releasing some IP into the public domain to spank their CEO.

      Vulture Capitalists never care about the company they are going to sell off to naive investors.

    2. My company is in the market for a low end “professional” 3d printer. Any recommendations? I have a lulzbot and get decent results out of it, but can’t seem to find anything more targeted toward businesses that looks reasonable. The Stratasys vendor in the area keeps hounding me but I think I would rather try to sell my boss on a small army of lulzbots than jump in bed with Stratays and their sleazy vendor.

      Closest I could get was an form labs form 1+ but I’m a little wary of the cost of materials/cleaning.

      1. +1 for Lulzbot. We have a TAZ 2.1 and besides tightening the belts when X and Y got sloppy and replacing the hotend heater resistor ( buy spares with a new machine because they’re only $3.50 each but an uncommon shape) it has just kept on and on and on going. This post makes me realize how lucky we have been.

        1. Small tip straight from Ultimaker Headquarters. Oil you axis from time to time with a bit of machine oil. Really keeps it running smoother.

          In order of maintance, usually the first parts that need replacement after many running hours are:
          * Teflon coupler
          * Integrated nozzle
          * PT100 temperature sensor (tends to break sometimes during nozzle replacement, sadly enough)

          In machines that have been running for months non-stop, I’ve seen belts that needed replacement. But that’s quite rare.

          In the end, the machine contains almost no parts that you cannot take apart and fix.

      2. I work at Ultimaker (software guy, Cura guy actually. If you are using Cura with your Lulzbot. You can thank me later)

        Sounds you are the right fit for what we offer with the Ultimaker2. It’s not 100% maintenance free. But nothing is, anyone who tells you otherwise in the 3D printer market is just lying.

      3. We bought an Airwolf 3DXL. That thing is pretty awesome, one of the parts broke, they sent out a replacement no questions, fuss, or anything. Still haven’t installed it… the part that broke is the main body of the extruder platform. It is split and moves a little, but the thing just keeps printing. The current models look pretty fancy but if anyone is going to keep the quality up, they will.

    1. Now that you mention it, I’m surprised Apple isn’t in this market yet… Obviously it has a huge future, easy to make proprietary filament, and they already have millions of rabid followers willing to pay next year’s prices for last year’s technology…

      Where is the iPrintr?

      1. iPrintr will use 2mm filament and the nozzles will either be permanently affixed to the hot end or made with some weird combination of BA thread on an Imperial diameter for which no threading die exists.

        1. The whole thing will be held together with double-stick tape and contact cement, and boast ‘unibody construction’ in which heat generating electronics are sandwiched together with only tape to protect them from shorting out.

      2. I recall they entered the market of Mp3 players and mobile phones quite late. They did it once they saw there was demand for a product that was twice or thrice the price of the rest and still eat competitors alive. I guess 3d-printing is still a thing for nerds today. Some teachers are using that in schools so I guess in 4-5 years time all teenagers will be ready to drain their parents accounts empty buying some fancy 3d printer from apple.

  7. > with one sales executive leaving the company as he “did not want to sell the 5th generation printers after learning about the defect issues because he has a ‘conscience’.”

    I thought selling products that are completely inadequate or inappropriate for the task is what salespeople do! Or is that just in the software field?

    1. Actually, what’s odd is the sales person selling a product that actually exists and feasible. I once got to be the installation engineer for vaporware sold to SBS. Why me? Magic finger; I was the only one who could reliably boot the equipment stack we bodged together to meet the spec for the one box we sold them. Took our hardware team a year to make the one box do all the work. I got pulled off the team fixing a memory leak in order to do the re-install… gave notice after that.

  8. Frankly, Brian’s continuous attacks to Makerbot through Hackaday are childish and boring.

    Bret, Zach and friends made great contributions in the early days of the Reprap project and deserve great respect because of that. The Cupcake CNC and all the early work of Makerbot is publicly available and has influenced the community as much as other people more-widely-respected like Prusa.

    The story of what happened with the first Replicator is a classic example of “that’s why we can’t have nice things” and should be in business school books. They choose to become superprotective towards their IP and this made a lot of people furious. It seems in these people’s opinion they should have simply gone bankrupt.

    Frankly I prefer Makerbot to become evil and never buy a single thing from them again rather than see them disappear. You like it or not they made diy 3d-printing be in the news and they’ve done outreach like no one else has.

    Please let’s let Makerbot do their thing and screw up their business themselves, we don’t need to sabotage them.

  9. You’re gab is nothing more than a phoney assessment blab-blab against that Brooklyn company to make it look like an EDSEL, or worse, Steve Jobs’ LISA model-even with the pseudo title “Hackdaddy” you are pathetically behind the times all the way around

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