MRRF, How Red Hat Helps Open Source 3D Printing

Red Hat is the world’s largest open source company. Run as a for profit company, it manages to give every line of code away and still rake in a cozy 1.5 to 2 billion US dollars a year. So, quite provably, Red Hat knows how to run an open source business. Despite being a software company, as a corporation, Red Hat has hopes for the future of open hardware, and they put their money where their ethos is.

[Tom Callaway] is Red Hat’s full time 3d Printer guy. He works at Red Hat headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina. We had a chance to talk to him at MRRF and figure out what it is that Red Hat does for 3D printing anyway.

Red Hat’s first interest is that anyone who uses their software to run a 3D printer or interacts with the files involved has an easy time of it in Linux. To that end Tom regularly tests the latest versions of the software we regularly use. He makes sure that the software is nicely packaged for Red Hat. On top of that he also contributes to the projects themselves. He has submitted patches for Cura and Slic3r to name a few.

To run the software through its paces, and as a nice perk for Red Hat employees, [Tom] runs Red Hat’s 3D printing lab. Employees can print anything they like in it, but it also gives Red Hat an opportunity to test the software for failure points. If you are a 3D printer manufacturer (open or closed) you can send them a printer and they’ll make sure it has a profile and runs faultlessly with each version update, not bad!

The face of 3D printing at Red Hat.
The face of 3D printing at Red Hat.

[Tom] also participates in the Red Hat Fedora 3D printing special interest group. This lets Red Hat Fedora users come together and work out problems they find in the wild. It’s also one of the best ways for him to stay ahead of the new software packages that come out as 3d printing develops.

The coolest thing about all this, is Red Hat’s support for manufacturers. Red Hat will make sure any software that supports a printer will run, for free. So if you’ve written a custom driver for your printer that only runs on windows. As long as you give Red Hat access to the source code, they’ll make sure it can run on Linux as well. Though, apparently none of the closed source printer manufacturers have taken them up on the offer. Red Hat does have a partnership with open manufacturers such as Lulz Bot.

Being primarily a software company, Red Hat has no personal interest in entering the open hardware market at this time. They do want to see it succeed, and to that end, their last and most interesting service is their willingness to talk about what has and hasn’t worked in running an open source business. People in the open hardware business can reach out to people like [Tom] and ask for advice on the every day aspects of the open source business. Red Hat has undoubtedly learned many lessons over the years, and like their software, they’re willing to share every line.

Edit: Lastly, thanks to [Miro] in the comments, who also works for Red Hat and contributes to 3d Printing. Cool! I just wanted to be clear that most of these things translate into the Fedora Project, which oversees Fedora Linux, a very popular distro (Apparently Linus Torvald’s preferred.)  If you’d like to participate in any of this the Fedora Linux 3d Printer SIG (I mistakenly called it Red Hat SIG, which implies that it is only for paying customers of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is not true) is the place to go. It makes Fedora better and helps the 3d printing community as a whole:)

27 thoughts on “MRRF, How Red Hat Helps Open Source 3D Printing

    1. I disagree, redhat made linux for large business practical. When the price for updates went from $35/yr to over $1000/yr per machine they were not worth the extra 96,500 pennies.

      1. I’ve also looked in the new Cura & building repo of Cura and I don’t see any contributions made by him. You guys sure he made contributions? I’ve never heard from the guy.

    1. No, don’t be silly. Tom has been coming to the past few MRRFs and is a genuinely nice and helpful dude. He was at the table across from Hackaday. I thought what he did and who he did it for was interesting enough to write about. The world isn’t so dark as all that.

      1. Sorry but your post is completely wrong as Red Hat has nothing to do with 3D printing other than a (ab)using it as a PR stunt. All of the work has been done in *FEDORA* by the community, pity there’s not a single mention of it.

  1. Spot (Tom) once printed out a gromit I had made using OpenSCAD. I still use that grommit as a collar for a hole in my kitchen counter that the contractors had drilled too big to fit the pop up electrical outlet. Spot has always been enthusiastic about Open Source 3d printing even before Red Hat put resources behind it. Glad to see that Red Hat has endorsed his work and opened up the lab.

    I have to say though, judging by these comments, it is sad to see the community is still eating its own.

  2. This article contains lot of false statetments.

    The main guy for 3d printing is actually user with fas churchyard [0].
    You can see that he is the owner of many packages related to 3d printing in Fedora [1], which means that also he is the one who maintains them and updates them. He is also the creator of 3d printing group in Fedora [2].

    You also stated that tom contributed to those projects in upstream, yet I cant see him listed as a contributor[3] and yet you can find contributions from churchyard [4]. You can also track the mail that started the whole 3d printing in Fedora to see that the author is again, churchyard [5].

    Please review your article, thank you. I will send the link to churchyard also.

    [0] ,

        1. Thanks for the work you do as well.

          For the rest of you, remind me not to write about open source projects anymore, because god forbid someone else gets a moment of spotlight. Seriously, this article was about a nice man who is helpful at a convention and does cool stuff for a company that does cool stuff.

          Maybe he’s Red Hat’s North American 3d printer guy. I didn’t ask for the full hierarchy of the company or the cultural meta that apparently surrounds it. Perhaps that is my mistake. I am still thinking about it. I appreciate people pointing out errors in my articles. I want them to be accurate. I don’t appreciate people pointing out errors while being jerks to me and others. There are always ways to do something in a civil manner.

          For the record, my main OS is Windows 10. I run debian on a small junk box for some scripts and irssi. Before that it was Arch. Before that, gentoo. Before that, ubuntu. (Though, through all of that my main was Windows.) I ran Fedora for a grand total of five minutes and hated it, completely arbitrarily. I have no good reason. I have no stake in Red Hat or Fedora at all. I don’t think anyone, but Tom even knows my name at Red Hat, and there’s a good chance that by the next MRRF he’ll have forgotten it via human nature. I got paid the regular rate I get paid for articles. We decided which things we were going to cover at MRRF by standing in a circle and saying, hey, “I wanna write about that.” The world is not so evil and complex.

          I’m sorry for confusing Red Hat and Fedora. I’ve fixed it in the article a little, but I am still having trouble accurately marking the line between the two. In my defense, from the outside it looks like this: Red Hat, the company that makes Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora Project (Sponsored By Red Hat) which Makes Fedora Linux (an offshoot of Red Hat Linux, discontinued) whose core comes from Red Hat Enterprise Linux. 25%+ of the contributions to Fedora come from Red Hat employees, and Red Hat has liability for the actions of Fedora Project which they technically own along with the trademark Fedora. Also, Fedora changes that work get pushed into REL. I really have a hard time seeing the two as separate. Don’t Red Hat users benefit from Fedora and vice versa? Also, I’m really not certain why Red Hat is the “evil” one of the two. Maybe it’s the 2bn of revenue they make as the world’s largest open source project which they use to fund things like Fedora Project?

          Also, let’s all check the repositories contribution logs and make sure Tom’s internet dick is long enough. Really? I’ve pushed patches to projects before, doesn’t mean they got accepted. Doesn’t mean I’m even mentioned in the history of the project at all. It was still a contribution. LOCs is not the only metric that matters. Maybe he worked with someone? Maybe he just meant Red Hat pushes patches, in which case he was talking about Miro (thanks again).

          Seriously. I love open source, but I have met few communities as brazenly toxic to itself. I hate these unprofessional, unproductive, meta politics. I hate how arbitrary and poorly defined “software ethics” based around legal use licenses now trumps having good software or even evaluating software performance objectively. I hate how when someone sticks out even a little everyone rushes to hammer on that nail or point out a brighter shinier nail that’s all in the coffin of another OS community project doomed to die of a bad case of jerks.

          1. I’m only going to react on the part that I think is relevant for what I said. I wanted to make clear it’s a Fedora group because the difference I see here is important: if that would be a Red Hat group, people who are not connected to Red Hat (i.e. are not customers nor employees) might feel it’s not for them. Thanks for the correction in the article. (I have nothing against Red Hat (I mean, why would I work here if I did)). I’d like to thanks all the members of Fedora 3D printing SIG (that of course includes Tom) for their participation.

          2. I didn’t meant to be a jerk I just simply stated facts. I am sorry if it sounded offensive (I really am). English isn’t my first language so my posts are often very strict and neutral.

            Reading my comment again it sure could be labeled as jerkish kind of comment for someone. The only reason why I posted this comment was that I remember when Miro started his 3d printing efforts in Fedore and yet, there was no mention of him in article.

            Again I am sorry. No hard feelings.


          3. [Robert] No worries. Sorry, your comment ended up being the the best place to reply. On the whole the comments here have been very negative, so I was not in the right place mentally to evaluate your comment as neutral. It was certainly aggressively factual:P Apologies, thanks for bringing attention to [Miro]’s contributions as well.

  3. To be completely fair, most of the community work [that I see] is driven by Miro Hroncok, a.k.a. churchyard, a Fedora contributor (and also a RH employee). If you see logs of Fedora’s dist-git for two projects named here, Cura and Slic3r, you’ll see that Tom has no commits there, while Miro has most of them [1], [2]. You will also see that Miro contributes to both of these projects upstreams [3], [4]. It is Miro who created the referenced 3D printing SIG (which is mistakenly referenced to as “Red Hat SIG”, when in fact it’s a SIG in Fedora community).

    This post is not meant to deminish Tom’s work, I just want to set the facts right and I also want to thank Miro for putting so much hard effort into this. Without him, 3D printing in Fedora would be nowhere near the current state.


    1. Miro Hroncok has done a lot, not just in 3d printing.

      There’s a lot of other work being done besides just commits, such as setting up and running a lab (inside a fortune 500 company), doing trade shows, knowing wtf is up and making things work, etc. Spot has sure helped our FLO mission.

      1. Sure, I totally agree with that! I know Miro and I know all the work he does around 3D printing in Fedora and in open source 3D printing community. My comment wasn’t meant to be jerkish against the author of the article (as his reply to Robert suggests), not it was targeted against Tom, I appreciate his work as well. I just wanted Miro to get the recognition he deserves. I, too, contribute to open source projects on my free time and I know how much I appreciate when my work gets recognized.

        So Gerrit (and anyone else), if my response sounded jerkish, please accept my sincere apologies. Like Robert, I’m not a native speaker and can get things worded poorly or even completely wrong sometimes. My only intention was showing how much Miro contributes to 3D printing in Fedora, both on his paid and unpaid time. I know how much work he has put into this and I wanted to make sure his name appeared in this context.

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