Companies don’t treat equipment in the same way that we, hobbyists, do. When it comes to reassessing equipment state, there’s calculations to be done – how many failures it’s experienced, what’s the rate of the support contract for it (often increasing as equipment ages), and whether it’d be more price-efficient to just buy a new one. Hobbyists aren’t tied to commercial support contracts that prohibit DIY repair, however. We can investigate things and try our luck, and in many cases, the repair will be super simple and satisfying! Today’s lucky repair story is about [Gregor], who has acquired a written-off ±$40k Stratasys 3D printer for peanuts, and repaired it with $1 in parts.
The error code shown on the display indicated an extruder changer error — yes, this is a dual extruder printer! Earlier, [Gregor] noted that some of the chamber lighting LEDs failed, very likely because of the constant heat in the chamber. After investigating the infrared LED responsible for extruder change detection, it indeed had failed as well, presumably for the same reason. After the installation of a new SMD LED, the error message went away. Thus concludes the story of [Gregor] getting himself a new professional-grade printer! He also documents other possible failure modes, some just as easy to fix. In short, if you ever spot a Stratasys Dimension printer for sale, you might want to consider it!
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.
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.
MakerBot CEO [Nadav Goshen] announced that changes are needed to ensure product innovation and support long-term goals in a blog post published yesterday. To that end, MakerBot will reduce its staff by 30%. This follows a series of layoffs over a year ago that reduced the MakerBot workforce by 36%. With this latest series of layoffs, MakerBot has cut its workforce by over 50% in the span of two years.
In addition to these layoffs, the hardware and software teams will be combined. Interestingly, the current Director of Digital Products, [Lucas Levin], will be promoted to VP of Product. Many in the 3D printer community have speculated MakerBot is pivoting from a hardware company to a software company. [Levin]’s promotion could be the first sign of this transition.
When discussing MakerBot, many will cite the documentary Print the Legend. While it is a good introduction to the beginnings of the desktop 3D printer industry, it is by no means complete. The documentary came out too early, it really doesn’t mention the un-open sourceness of MakerBot, the lawsuit with Form Labs wasn’t covered, and there wasn’t a word on how literally every other 3D printer manufacturer is selling more printers than MakerBot right now.
Is this the end of MakerBot? No, but SYSS is back to the pre-3D-printer-hype levels. Stratasys’ yearly financial report should be out in a month or so. Last year, that report was the inspiration for the MakerBot obituary. It’s still relevant, and proving to be more and more correct, at least from where MakerBot’s Hardware business stands.
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, CSAIL, put out a paper recently about an interesting advance in 3D printing. Naturally, being the computer science and AI lab the paper had a robotic bend to it. In summary, they can 3D print a robot with a rubber skin of arbitrarily varying stiffness. The end goal? Shock absorbing skin!
They modified an Objet printer to print simultaneously using three materials. One is a UV curing solid. One is a UV curing rubber, and the other is an unreactive liquid. By carefully depositing these in a pattern they can print a material with any property they like. In doing so they have been able to print mono body robots that, simply put, crash into the ground better. There are other uses of course, from joints to sensor housings. There’s more in the paper.
We’re not sure how this compares to the Objet’s existing ability to mix flexible resins together to produce different Shore ratings. Likely this offers more seamless transitions and a wider range of material properties. From the paper it also appears to dampen better than the alternatives. Either way, it’s an interesting advance and approach. We wonder if it’s possible to reproduce on a larger scale with FDM.
The case presented by Stratasys investors relied on two obvious facts. First, the price of Stratasys shares fell far beyond expectations. Second, the extruder for the 5th generation of Makerbot printers – the ‘Smart Extruder’ – was terrible. No one can reasonably dispute these claims; shares of SYSS fell from $120 in September of 2014 to $30 in September of 2015. With many returns to handle, Makerbot quickly redesigned the Smart Extruder.
Both of these indisputable facts are in stark contrast to statements made by Stratasys and Makerbot at the time. In a press release for the 4th quarter 2013 financial results, Stratasys’ expected sales to grow at least 25% over 2013 and stated it was experiencing “strong sales” of its desktop 3D printer. Concerning the Smart Extruder, Makerbot stated this new feature of the 5th generation Makerbots would make them easy to use, and “define the new standard for quality and reliability.”
The facts of this case are not in dispute – Stratasys did not see the growth they expected in late 2013. The Smart Extruder certainly did not make printers more reliable. These facts, however, are not sufficient to violate securities law. In a wonderful legal turn of phrase, the judge deciding this case called the statements about the quality of the 5th generation Makerbots consisted of, “non-actionable puffery,” and a ‘statement so vague and such obvious hyperbole than no reasonable investor would rely on them.’
Statements made by Stratasys on their financial performance were also found not to be sufficient to violate securities laws. Stratasys did make several statements about negative performance in late 2014 and 2015, and positive statements made earlier did not have an intent to deceive investors.
This is good news for Makerbot. The claims brought by investors in this case had little merit. The case cannot be appealed, and Stratasys is no longer facing a class action suit. Does this news actually matter? Not really; Makerbot is a dead man walking, and 2016 sales will be at levels not seen since 2010 or 2011.
The consumer 3D printing industry is booming, despite the Makerbot bellwether though.
3D printers have forever changed the hardware hacker movement. From the original RepRap project on up through current commercial offerings, 3D printers have become an indispensable tool for hackers, makers, and engineers. While printers may not have started a desktop manufacturing revolution, they are a desktop prototyping evolution. It’s rare for a day to go by on Hackaday without a project that uses a 3D printed part in some way shape or form. These printers also continue to evolve, with new projects pushing the technology ever forward. This week’s Hacklet is all about some of the best 3D printer projects on Hackaday.io!
We start with [TTN] and Icepick Delta. [TTN’s] passion is creating 3D printers as cheaply as possible. The Icepick definitely succeeds at this. Icepick’s frame is made of wood. The motors are commodity steppers. Control is via the long proven Ramps 1.4 board, which can be picked up with drivers and an Arduino Mega clone for under $35 these days. A few ball bearings and metal parts fill out the vitamins of this design. Just about everything else is 3D printed in true RepRap style. The printer is currently running Marlin firmware, but [TTN] plans to move to Repetier in the future.
Even with these humble origins, Icepick manages to print at a very respectable 50 mm/s before frame flex becomes a problem. Prints at 0.1mm layer height look great, on par with any current commercial printer.
Next up is [Machinist] with 3D printer brain retrofit. Commercial 3D printers have been available for decades now. This means some of the older models are getting a bit long in the tooth. [Machinist] has a very tired 15 year old Stratasys Dimension 768. The mechanics of the Dimension are still in good shape, but the electronics have seen better days. [Machinist] is ditching all the old electronic hardware (and the DRM which goes with it) and setting this machine up with a Smoothieboard 5X. So far the Dimension has been gutted, and [Machinist] has gotten the monster stepper motors playing sweet music with his new control board. I can’t wait to see how this project progresses.
Next we have [jcchurch’s] Coffee Maker Delta 3D Printer. [jcchurch] has managed to convert an old Norelco coffee maker into a mini sized 3D printer. The warmer plate has even become a heated bed for ABS prints. Unlike Icepick up top, the aim of this design is to use as few 3D printed parts as possible. The idea is that this would be the first printer to build when you don’t have another printer handy. Think of it as a caffeinated RepStrap. According to [jcchurch], this printer has been running strong at Tropical Labs for over a year. You can even pull the delta assembly off and make a pot of coffee! The coffee maker printer is still somewhat of a teaser project. If you see [jcchurch] online, tell him to head over and give us more details!
Finally, we have [DeepSOIC] with linear stepper motor 3d printer. 3D printers all use good old fashioned rotary stepper motors. [DeepSOIC] is trying to eliminate all that rotary motion, along with the belts and pulleys required to convert to linear motion. Linear stepper motors can be thought of as regular stepper motors, just unrolled. They tend to be very expensive though, so [DeepSOIC] is building DIY versions. His first attempt was to print motor parts using BlackMagic3D’s ferromagnetic filament. This lead to a whole separate project to measure the permeability of the filament. Unfortunately, the filament isn’t permeable enough to act as a motor for a printer. [DeepSOIC] hasn’t given up though. This is the type of project we love – one that might not work out, but really gets people thinking. Check out the comment thread on the project to see Hackaday.io collaboration at work!
If you want to see more 3D printer projects, check out our updated 3D printer list! If I didn’t wake up early enough to catch your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!
MakerBot is not dead, but it is connected to life support waiting for a merciful soul to pull the plug.
This week, MakerBot announced it would lay off its entire manufacturing force, outsourcing the manufacturing of all MakerBot printers to China. A few weeks ago, Stratasys, MakerBot’s parent company, released their 2015 financial reports, noting MakerBot sales revenues have fallen precipitously. The MakerBot brand is now worth far less than the $400 Million Stratasys spent to acquire it. MakerBot is a dead company walking, and it is very doubtful MakerBot will ever be held in the same regard as the heady days of 2010.
How did this happen? The most common explanation of MakerBot’s fall from grace is that Stratasys gutted the engineering and goodwill of the company after acquiring it. While it is true MakerBot saw its biggest problems after the acquisition from Stratasys, the problems started much earlier.