MakerBot And Ultimaker To Merge, Focus On Industry

Nine years ago, MakerBot was acquired by Stratasys in a deal worth slightly north of $600 million. At the time it was assumed that MakerBot’s line of relatively affordable desktop 3D printers would help Stratasys expand its reach into the hobbyist market, but in the end, the company all but disappeared from the hacker and maker scene. Not that many around these parts were sad to see them go — by abandoning the open source principles the company had been built on, MakerBot had already fallen out of the community’s favor by the time the buyout went through.

So today’s announcement that MakerBot and Ultimaker have agreed to merge into a new 3D printing company is a bit surprising, if for nothing else because it seemed MakerBot had transitioned into a so-called “zombie brand” some time ago. In a press conference this afternoon it was explained that the new company would actually be spun out of Stratasys, and though the American-Israeli manufacturer would still own a sizable chunk of the as of yet unnamed company, it would operate as its own independent entity.

MakerBot has been courting pro users for years.

In the press conference, MakerBot CEO Nadav Goshen and Ultimaker CEO Jürgen von Hollen explained that the plan was to maintain the company’s respective product lines, but at the same time, expand into what they referred to as an untapped “light industrial” market. By combining the technology and experience of their two companies, the merged entity would be uniquely positioned to deliver the high level of reliability and performance that customers would demand at what they estimated to be a $10,000 to $20,000 USD price point.

When MakerBot announced their new Method 3D printer would cost $6,500 back in 2018, it seemed clear they had their eyes on a different class of clientele. But now that the merged company is going to put their development efforts into machines with five-figure price tags, there’s no denying that the home-gamer market is officially in their rear-view mirror. That said, absolutely zero information was provided about the technology that would actually go into said printers, although given their combined commercial experience, it seems all but a given that these future machines will use some form of fused deposition modeling (FDM).

Now we’d hate to paint with too broad a brush, but we’re going to assume that the average Hackaday reader isn’t in the market for a 3D printer that costs as much as a decent used car. But there’s an excellent chance you’re interested in at least two properties that will fall under the umbrella of this new printing conglomerate: MakerBot’s Thingiverse, and Ultimaker’s Cura slicer. In the press conference it was made clear that everyone involved recognized both projects as vital outreach tools, and that part of the $62.4 million cash investment the new company is set to receive has been set aside specifically for their continued development and improvement.

We won’t beat around the bush — Thingiverse has been an embarrassment for years, even before they leaked the account information of a quarter million users because of their antiquated back-end. A modern 3D model repository run by a company the community doesn’t openly dislike has been on many a hacker’s wish list for some time now, but we’re not against seeing the service get turned around by a sudden influx of cash, either. We’d also be happy to see more funding go Cura’s way as well, so long as it’s not saddled with the kind of aggressive management that’s been giving Audacity users a headache. Here’s hoping the new company, whatever it ends up being called, doesn’t forget about the promises they’re making to the community — because we certainly won’t.

42 thoughts on “MakerBot And Ultimaker To Merge, Focus On Industry

      1. I’ll give it a shot! No one does tree supports like Cura though, and I’ve got my workflow dialed in on tree supports. I end up printing many things where tree supports come in clutch.

        1. But will you ever actually make it not run non-editable start g-code before the user start g-code. Right now it crashes a bunch of machines and the devs are kind of assholes about it.

          1. How are we being assholes about it? Unless you’re refering to us not fixing it since it’s not affecting Ultimaker printers? If so, sorry, but there is only so much that we can do to support other printers.

            But if you’d make a pull request, I’d be more than happy to review and merge it!

      1. I appreciate the optimism, but I can see Cura’s support of other brands printers very quickly becoming even less of a priority than it is now. As Jamie stated below, “Unless you’re refering to us not fixing it since it’s not affecting Ultimaker printers?” Clearly pointing out (not that I think it has been a secret) that Cura’s support for other brands is a side effect, not an intended feature.

        Cura has been a uncalculatable benefit to the 3D Printing/Maker community. The love I have for it is nearly unmatched by any other software I’ve used. But this whole thing smells like an Audacity/MuseGroup train wreck in the making. I’m sure the engineers working on Audacity wanted the best out of that merger too, but sometimes hope isn’t enough.

      1. Oh, I know it works great with Prusa printers, I use it with my mk3. I know other people have gotten it to work fine with China printers. For some reason, it always ends up doing something weird for me. I’ve only spent a handful of hours to figure it out, but when Cura just works (and has tree supports, which I use all the time), I end up giving up and just using Cura.

    1. I’m surprised that nobody recommending MatterControl yet, it’s a joy to use. I got a super old reprep prusa mendel, matter controls bed leveling using a bit of paper gives flawless results always.

  1. interesting to see what will happen but somehow i don’t really see it happening the way they say.
    3d printers have bottomed out price wise and matured to the point where you can have a ready to go machine for about 1-2k with filament and accessories. that’s good enough for most “lite industrial” applications. if a company is serious about prototyping or building in metal and exotic materials money will not be an issue. so the 10-20k price-point seems really odd to me that’s going to be a niche market in a niche market at best.

  2. I have an ultimaker printer, and I’m not loving this news. Makerbot is a douchy outfit and I don’t like being associated with them. What’s probably worse is I’m guessing it won’t be long before they try to monetize Cura.

    1. Ultimaker has been trying to monetize Cura for a long time already. But in a way that it does not affect free use (paid extra features)

      And the FOSS licence gives them little options. And the team I left Cura with is strong minded on keeping it open.

      I fear more they might kill off cura development as a whole…
      I will see if I can get some inside info.

  3. I don’t care for these centralized content repos. They always play nice until they have a dominant market share and then start abusing their user base. Mass deleting content, banning certain types (gun related), etc. Imo, you can’t have freedom without decentralization.

  4. I think there is a market out there for the printer they are talking about because I’m looking for one. What I want is a nylon printer that makes parts indistinguishable from injection molded both functionally and aesthetically. The closest I’ve come is the Markforged but they are spending too much time and money on their metal printers to the detriment of improvements to their nylon printers.

    Additive 3D printing really has plateaued but I’m not sure why, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

    I don’t think anything will come of this particular group.

  5. Ugh, though maybe this will be the IBM PC of 3D printing and come back around to home users… if the previous machines were more Altair through TRS80 and Commodore PET, and the $200 jobbies the C64.

  6. IDK. I got a new ender 3 pro for $100, and it prints pretty dang fine. And then I’ve got the elegoo resin machines for when I need high detail. So, what’s that use case that justifies 100 times more cost (that can be achieved for that price)?
    Slightly more exotic plastics? Slightly better detail? Multi material? Better durability/longevity?

    But most of those improvements* can be had for <$1k from existing printers.

  7. Let’s be honest here, ultimaker have long been an expensive alternative to the ‘ender’ crowd and they’ve been trying to shake their open source roots by going corporate for some time. The hobbyist market is small beans compared to industrial users that’ll buy multiple machines, want support contracts, accredited materials etc. Either way don’t be surprised to see both makerbot and ultimaker brands die as some new all signing and dancing corporate brand shipping 10k printers springs up…

    1. I don’t know about Ultimaker but I’m pretty sure the MakerBot brand died a long time ago. Stratasys has basically been playing “Weekend at Bernies” with it.

  8. The $10k-$20k range is right inline with what Ultimaker is already doing, a full S5 stack is just over $10k. If they can make them a little bigger, faster, and feed more reliable than they are going to do just fine. I’d to see a setup that can print with 3 or 4 different materials per print, with a integrated material handler, and a heated chamber. TBH though with running 2 full stack(material handler and Air Manager) S5s, an Ultimaker 3 Extended , and an Ultimaker 2 Extended+, they would have to make a really compelling case for me to sign off on another FDM printer, Form Labs Fuse 1 and the glass reinforced Nylon powder really has my eye.

  9. Had a MakerBot and had lots of trouble with it (turned out to be poor assembly). I’ve got nothing but praise for my Prusa mk2 and the bundled Slic3r gives me pretty much perfect prints. I’d only replace it with a newer version.
    The only way I’d consider a £5000 printer is if it printed metal!

    1. I still have a MakerBot Replicator (the original with the wooden case) and it still works fine and produces results just as good as an Ultimaker. It has gotten a few modifications over the years though.

  10. If stratasys is involved this is bad. They are ultra-proprietary and do everything they can to screw over users, slicer software won’t let you toggle any settings (not even perimeters and support strut style), rfid locked to own brand materials, components which cease working at the end of a defined lifespan regardless of whether they have barely begun to wear… We have a stratasys at work, everyone at work prefers the ultimaker we also have at work.

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