[Bre Pettis] Buys Other Machine Co.

Other Machine Co., manufacturer of the very capable and very cool OtherMill Pro CNC machine, has been acquired by [Bre Pettis], former CEO of MakerBot. Under the terms of the acquisition, current CEO of Other Machine Co, Dr. Danielle Applestone, will remain in charge of the company.

We have a love affair with the OtherMill here at Hackaday. We have a few of them kicking around the Design Lab, and they’re great. Six mil traces are possible, and the OtherMill is a very reliable machine. We’ve taken a look at the OtherMill manufacturing process and liked what we saw, and we’ve invited [Danielle Applestone] to talk about the quest for the highest precision per dollar.

Of course, the newsworthy item for this, ‘rich guy buys a company’ story is who acquired the company. [Pettis] is most famous for being one-third of the original MakerBot team, a position that netted him about $130 Million after Stratasys acquired MakerBot. Stratasys’ acquisition of MakerBot has made a lot of people angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move. The history of MakerBot is not written yet, but the general consensus is that [Pettis] only played a very limited role in the downfall of MakerBot and desktop 3D printing as a whole.

Since leaving MakerBot for greener pastures, [Pettis] has put his money to work; he’s also an investor in the laser cutter startup Glowforge. While Glowforge has seen its share of troubles including a ridiculous policy on field-replaceable laser tubes, and perpetual delays for production units, Glowforge will be shipping soon. It’s unclear how the Glowforge will ultimately be received. But [Pettis’] continues to put his money where his mouth is (and into hardware startups) with this acquisition of Other Machine Co..

48 thoughts on “[Bre Pettis] Buys Other Machine Co.

      1. one of those chinese aluminum ballscrew CNCs off ebay with a tinyG control boar and steppers from automation technologies. Makes for pretty quality PCB or regular CNC router at a lower costs. Requires setup and configuration but its a pretty solid deal all things considered. Its also worth noting TinyG is what drives othermill and its the best CNC controller in the open source space.

      2. We have been using chinese 3040 for nearly 2 years at office. It has water cooled spindle and etc. The machine was fairly usable out of the box but after some minor adjustments it became quite well. Beside pcb routing, we have used it for ABS, Hipps, Sica blocks, Aluminium and even one time for steel :D after all that hardwork its still kickin’

        But i must say, prototype boards really depend on blank pcb quality and the routing bits. if pcb material is not good enough, you cant solder multi pin smds. The copper usually gave up and seperates from the base material…

  1. When I read the title I had a brief moment of dread on the OtherMill’s behalf. However, it sounds like Bre had a minimal role in MakerBot’s fall from grace, and just to be safe it also sounds like he’s opting to support it monetarily from the sidelines rather than charge in and try to shake things up.

  2. I will admit to not knowing all the details of the former problems he caused at Makerbot, but this news item has the same vibe of “Autodesk buys Eagle”, “We will not change anything”, “Eagle is not free anymore and we will make deep changes in it “

      1. Agreed, although it is worth distinguishing companies acquired by other companies from companies required by individual investors. Individual investors are less likely to be looking for ‘synergies’ and similar ways to gut an acquisition. Bre’s name comes pre-tarnished, rightly or wrongly, but he might not screw this up. Let’s see what happens.

        It’s probably also worth considering that if Other Machine Co sold itself, it’s probably because they needed cash. Manufacturing is capital intensive, and selling the company suggests to me that either they were running out of money or they have some expansion plan they couldn’t afford on their own.

  3. When any large sum of money gets thrown at something it is that money that now has predominant say in what goes on. This is why we cant have nice things, because “investors” expect a certain ROI. When those investors dont get their ROI, it obviously isnt their fault but the fault of what ever product or service they have invested in (because investors never make bad investments). Then said investors use their clout to help nudge the product or service in what ever direction they think will make them the most money, Which is usually in the completely wrong way from what the actual users want.

    We have seen this time and time again in almost every emerging market from social media companies to now miniaturized manufacturing.

    Stratasys and Autodesk are both trying to jockey for the microsoft position in the 3d modeling and manufacturing world. This is exactly why Anti-trust and Monopoly laws have been created. If only we had politicians who were not owned by those companies.

    1. This is a pretty reductive worldview. No company has anything even *remotely* close to a monopoly position on 3D. Secondly, I have a very hard time believing that investors making money doesn’t align at least somewhat with what customers actually want and are willing to pay for. Finally, if you are the one person who feels like not requiring any return on their investment, I guess you’re welcome to invest your millions how you see fit.

      1. “Secondly, I have a very hard time believing that investors making money doesn’t align at least somewhat with what customers actually want and are willing to pay for.”

        Well, it may be coincidental, but it is not necessary.

        Basically, if you are giving customers much more for their money then your nearest competitor, you are losing money (well technically, you are not getting all that you potentially could, but lets use business language) and you don’t want that. So, what are your customers going to do if you lower the quality they were used to, but not enough to let competition get ahead of you?

        In this example investor would have made things worse for the customers and still get out with it. It is not what customers want any more, they want what they previously had for same price, but if it is still the best they can get then they are still willing to pay for it. Sure they are not happy and they think the bastard has it coming, and will get it, as soon as there is another able competitor on the horizon. However, that vengeful fantasy is only “if” and “when”. And things can get even worse, if a competitor buys a company which has a good thing patented, and then stops using that good thing because of what I described above, but still won’t license the patent to anyone else. In that case the public is royally screwed, progress is held back and money is unfairly (by public opinion) squeezed from people.

  4. This othermill machine is the biggest scam in DIY manufacturing. We bought for our small milling applications a real cost effective small router (6040 size) machine and upgraded with 750W ac servos, total for less than this plastic “thing”. We have real metal frame with real quality linear guideways, ballscrews and ac servos on all axis and 2.2KW spindle. The difference between steppers and servos are enormous.

    The other thing is, we use it for pcbs, only if we need something right now and not so complex. But you just can’t beat the proto board manufacturing nowadays. You can get 10 pcs 10x10cm pcbs under 20 usd at lot of places, in a really good quality. Even a small pcb milling takes at least a hour to DIY manufacture, setup start end process etc. most of the time just doesn’t worth it.

    1. What was your experience with the Othermill vs the router you bought? Did you find the performance on the othermill wasn’t good enough? How did the output compare?

      As for milling PCBs vs getting them manufactured, I think the former is great for prototyping, the latter for production. I’d love to have a mill to output some test designs day-of, rather than waiting a couple of weeks.

    2. Then why the hell are you calling the the Othermill a scam? From finished design to milled board it doesn’t take me longer than 15 minutes on the Othermill Pro and that is for some really complex boards with hair thing 6mil traces.
      The precision, reliability and workflow of that machine is absolutely amazing. It may not look like a 3200$ machine but it sure as hell acts like one.
      I’m using it as a productivity machine at work and it milled a hell lot of boards already without ever ripping any traces, or producing any other little defects. The result is always as expected. Our bigger and even more expensive mill is total crap in comparison when it comes to precision an reliability.
      I’m getting really sick of all these people here ranting about a tool they have never used themself.

  5. If I had been in the market for an othermill or glowforge, I would be looking at other options now,
    I’ve seen too many interviews of Bre to have any confidence in a company that he’s attached to. All mouth, no hands

  6. I am aware of no consensus concerning the degree to which Bre contributed to Makerbot’s downfall. In fact, the only opinions I AM aware of are that he was primarily responsible for it. Defend your claim, Brian. And, not that it’s the definitive statement on the topic, but you might want to view, “Print the Legend (http://tinyurl.com/lqartom),” as it doesn’t sound like you have.

        1. Oh, you want a review of Print the Legend in light of the last two years of MakerBot? Alright, Okay. Let’s do that.

          Chuck Pettis was the brains behind the outfit. This is a story that is completely untold; he has a 30-year history in ‘educational technology’ stretching back to C64 software sold in Reader’s Digest. This was not in Print The Legend. Chuck Pettis was one of the earliest (and best) salesmen for the Cupcake. Not in Print The Legend. Now, obviously, you can’t have an old guy selling new technology to kids, so Chuck put his son up as ‘the next Steve Jobs’, only somehow with less charisma. I actually have some faith that Bre was on board with the whole ‘this machine could change the world if we don’t fuck it up’ idea, but Stratasys rolled in, dumped some money in his lap, and he just kept his head down until he could get out and do his own thing (like he’s doing with Other Machine Co right now).

          Of course, I’ve come to these conclusions after hours and hours of interviews with people who actually know what they’re talking about. I think I have a little a better bearing on this than someone who watched a netflix original.

          The terrible shame in this is that somehow or another Print the Legend has become the historical record of MakerBot (where barely a third of the documentary is spent on MakerBot), despite it being inaccurate and simply coming out too soon; The docu was released right after the Stratasys acquisition, and showed none of the fallout from that — fallout that still continues to this day.

          I mean, holy shit. Print the Legend didn’t even mention the Tangibot. To get all your information from one-third of a Netflix documentary released three years ago is simply asinine at this point.

  7. Will the new CEO dump support and lock out the early buyers of the machine like Makerbot did for the cupcake and Thingomatic. Or will they launch new designs that have known Engineering faults in order to sucker in new buyers- like Makerbot. Stay tuned!

    1. Reread… The new CEO is the old CEO. Bre only dumped some cash into the company. How much that cash will influence the future of the company is pure speculation at this point.
      I’m still a bit sceptical as to why the OMC agreed to that sell out. Could be that they are not as successful as they should be, or that they have some new plans going forward and needed funding to build that future. Guess we will see sooner or later.

  8. What I’ve heard from some employees from the makerbot early days- the dude went crazy all of a suddenly when VCs asked to make the thing more like proper company. Stuff got pattented and everyone in the office were notified in a meeting not to pee while standing up any more.

  9. As a customer of 2 original Makerbots and a Glowforge, Bre has invested well, brought perfectly usable items to market to the benefit of all. I think he is looking at his past and investing with more quality in mind. I don’t think he will change this product for the worse. His spin should be how to market this to a wider audience..

    1. No, his spin was always how to marked to a bigger sucker with fat wallet, and I dont mean end consumers, I mean Stratasys. Expect some form of DRM, adapting razorblade business model, IoT, or an APP for the othermil harvesting user data – big VCs love that shit.

  10. Saved! I had been just about to order an OtherMill, but now I won’t take a chance on it. You’ll probably have to send it back to the factory to replace router bits.

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