Entries in makerbot (128)
by General Fabb
MakerBot has the good habit of continually releasing improved versions of their software to make their hardware work even better. The latest release of MakerWare, software to drive MakerBot's Replicator 3D printers, showed up last week.
We're particularly interested in this release because it offers significant improvements in handling overhangs. 3D printer operators are very familiar with troubles printing overhangs, because it isn't easy printing a layer of plastic overtop a layer that's empty space. You get drips and droops, frustrating your print experience. It often means you don't bother even trying to print objects with significant overhangs.
Previous versions of MakerWare did offer the ability to print support structures under overhangs, but as you can see in the image above, it was often very burdensome to clip them off. The new version of MakerWare optimized the structures. We think this means people will attempt to print more objects they hadn't considered printing.
Call us wrong on this one. The other week we suggested it didn't make much sense for Stratasys to purchase MakerBot, in spite of rumors. Regardless of our analysis, simultaneous press releases from both companies this afternoon say a deal has in fact been made.
The deal, set to close in Q3, is a stock swap where MakerBot will merge with a Stratasys subsidiary and operate separately, "maintaining its own identity, products and go-to-market strategy".
Our previous analysis listed reasons why the deal didn't make sense. Let's revisit those and see what's changed:
- Stratasys has shown zero interest in addressing the consumer market thus far: Evidently this is no longer true; Stratasys must see this acquisition as a way to further expand their business and keep up with 3D Systems, their main competitor.
- Stratasys's business culture could not be farther away from MakerBot's free-wheeling open source heritage: Still very true, but by operating MakerBot independently, Stratasys makes a wise choice to retain the MakerBot buzz machine.
- Stratasys is already busy integrating their previous acquisition, Objet: Again, by operating MakerBot independently they stay clear of contention with any remaining Objet operations.
- Stratasys's business model involves sole-source premium-priced plastic filament, while filament sales are peripheral to MakerBot's business model and in fact, MakerBot's machines accept any filament, including low-cost generic products: This we must watch carefully. Will the new MakerBot change its stance on filament? Will they introduce proprietary cartridges as many other manufacturers have done?
- MakerBot CEO, Bre Pettis, has publicly stated "We're going nowhere" when asked about such an acquisition: A true statement, but misleading. Pettis was correct in saying "going nowhere", because Stratasys will operate MakerBot independently. They will remain the same, at least for now.
- MakerBot has just opened a new factory, demonstrating long-term intention to continue manufacturing units: Factory operations will also be separate, it appears. However, we could see Stratasys integrating MakerBot manufacturing at a future date to increase production or achieve efficiencies.
- MakerBot is too small to significantly change MakerBot's bottom line: Evidently Stratasys believes personal 3D printing will increase significantly - or they believe the professional market (architects and designers) will be their focus for the future.
Stratasys will be a consumer company for the first time. They have little experience in this market, but will lean heavily on MakerBot's existing marketing strategies. Stratasys will also own a retail store for the first time.
While this is a big change for Stratasys, it's a bigger one for the 3D printing industry. We now (or at least after the merger) will have two giant companies each providing consumer-based 3D printing gear. The inevitable result: competition, better products and much more rapid progress.
Let the battles begin!
[UPDATE] AllThingsD reports the deal is for an astounding USD$403M in shares, with another USD$201M to come if certain unstated performance targets are met. This is a pretty sweet deal for those who invested a "mere" USD$10M in MakerBot only last year.
A report on TechCrunch proposes that MakerBot is in talks with Stratasys "regarding a possible acquisition". The report says "persistent rumors of a sale or new funding have followed the company this year".
The report also says MakerBot has been seeking investors with a goal to raise USD$25M by valuing the company at USD$300M.
Is this for real? Let's first think about the potential acquisition.
Why It Makes Sense:
- Both companies use extruded plastic filament technology, originally invented by Stratasys and trademarked as "FDM"
- Stratasys's low-end commercial 3D printers may be suffering losses from clients buying MakerBots instead of Stratasys gear
- Stratasys would like to continue to grow and MakerBot could provide another product line
Why It Doesn't Make Sense:
- Stratasys has shown zero interest in addressing the consumer market thus far
- Stratasys's business culture could not be farther away from MakerBot's free-wheeling open source heritage
- Stratasys is already busy integrating their previous acquisition, Objet
- Stratasys's business model involves sole-source premium-priced plastic filament, while filament sales are peripheral to MakerBot's business model and in fact, MakerBot's machines accept any filament, including low-cost generic products
- MakerBot CEO, Bre Pettis, has publicly stated "We're going nowhere" when asked about such an acquisition
- MakerBot has just opened a new factory, demonstrating long-term intention to continue manufacturing units
- MakerBot is too small to significantly change MakerBot's bottom line
We're thinking there is no such Stratasys acquisition in the works.
Meanwhile, the idea of MakerBot raising USD$25M makes much more sense. This follows the standard pattern of startup companies: raise money at a certain valuation and grow using that investment. Then raise more money at a higher valuation, since the company has grown. Everyone wins. MakerBot has already raised USD$10M, so they're already executing this strategy.
MakerBot may sell the company to another investor someday, but we'd wait until it grows a lot more. Why sell now when there's so much growth potential?
As the rumors indicated, MakerBot has indeed opened up a brand new factory in a Brooklyn, New York neighborhood, close to MakerBot's head office and original workshops.
The new factory's massive 55,000 square feet will be used to build the company's current products, the Replicator 2 and Replicator 2X, and we suspect future products as well. Initially 100 staff will be employed to construct the devices, with another 50 soon to be added.
We weren't able to attend the grand opening event, but our friends at SolidSmack did and posted many more images of the new plant and its processes.
This is good news for Brooklyn: brand new manufacturing jobs in an area where such jobs have been dwindling for decades. It's also good news for MakerBot, who now have significantly greater capacity for turning out product at a much faster pace. Such a large manufacturing expansion is no doubt very challenging, but we're certain MakerBot will have it running smoothly.
If you happen to be interested in purchasing a MakerBot Replicator 2 personal 3D printer and a premium membership in Autodesk's highly useful 123D apps, you're in luck: there's a discount available.
If you upgrade from the free version of 123D to premium level, you'll receive a USD$40 discount on purchase of a MakerBot Replicator 2.
If you choose to buy both together in a bundle, you'll save even more: Premium 123D App membership and a Replicator 2 for USD$2249, a savings of USD$97. If you sign up for a two year premium membership bundle (USD$2299), you save USD$233.
The 123D apps are perhaps the most accessible 3D modeling tools currently available - please check them out if you haven't yet done so.
Via 123D Apps
MakerBot sold thousands of CupCakes and Thing-O-Matics long before they moved to the Replicator and Replicator 2 models. The new machines were (and are) driven by some pretty slick software called MakerWare, which enables you to scale and position models before printing and control the print operation.
Unfortunately for those with models earlier than the Replicators, MakerWare didn't work for them. Until now.
MakerWare release 2.1.0 now supports the Thing-O-Matic! MakerBot says:
We’re glad to offer this integration for some of our long-time customers, who have contributed significantly to the MakerBot community.
We're very glad to see this development, because there's a gap between startup 3D printer manufacturers like MakerBot racing as fast as they can to develop the very best devices with breakneck releases and updates, and customers who just can't upgrade that fast.
Personal 3D printing is racing ahead so quickly now that it's often beyond the capacity of individuals to keep up. Hats off to MakerBot for recognizing those left behind.
You may have seen their periodic and increasingly frequent solicitations for new employees. These have indeed added up and we now find that MakerBot's staff exceeds 200 persons. This is vastly larger than almost all of the other personal 3D printer companies with the exception of the big commercial companies.
Along with their staff they've also been increasing their space, currently some 40,000sf and perhaps doubling by the end of the year to a massive 80,000sf.
Their NYC retail store still stands - but we speculated earlier that they just might open a London retail store. No one from MakerBot would confirm this - but there were no denials either. Odds of this happening? Increasing.
As the April 30th opening date of the iMakr 3D print store nears, they've announced the store will carry the Solidoodle 3 personal 3D printer.
Solidoodle joins 3D System's Cube line on iMakr's shelves.
Curiously absent from the official announcement is MakerBot, whose Replicator 2 is perhaps the most well-known personal 3D printer available these days. MakerBot has its own retail store and a rapidly growing network of resellers.
But their absence might signal something else: MakerBot may be planning their own 3D print retail operation in London!
Or maybe not. We'll find out soon enough.
Producing high-quality prints is a complicated business, it turns out. There must be synchronization between the slicing software, the printer hardware and the plastic filament used. 3D printer manufacturers who supply these things must do extensive testing to ensure their product works correctly - and homebuilt 3D printers must undergo similar calibration.
MakerBot does exactly this for their Replicator 3D printer and associated MakerWare software. They've published a peek at their testing procedure, which attempts to ensure each release of MakerWare can handle all geometric situations that might be encountered.
They've produced a test object for this purpose, which enables testing of:
- Internal spurs
- Dimensional accuracy
- Tall thin towers
- Flat surfaces
- External spurs
- Curve dimensions
If you'd like to test your 3D printer's capability, you might want to try printing their test object by downloading it from Thingiverse. It's called the "MakerBot Slicing Engine Torture Test".
If you've ever had to do this type of calibration yourself, you'll appreciate MakerBot for doing this work to improve print quality release after release.
Do you build electronics projects? Do you 3D print objects? Do you print 3D cases for your electronics projects? If you answered yes to any of those questions, especially the last one, you'll be interested in a fascinating collaborative offer from electronics kits distributor Adafruit and personal 3D printer manufacturer MakerBot.
The two companies have combined to offer a "Limited Edition MakerBot® Replicator® 2 Desktop 3D Printer" with three of Adafruit's most popular electronics kits. Included:
We suspect that anyone making these kits would enjoy not only building the electronics, but also being able to creatively design and produce a unique case. Twice the making fun!
The limited edition unit is available at a price of USD$2,295 at Adafruit.