Thingiverse CurfufflePosted: September 21, 2012
There seems to be a crufuffle over on Thingiverse these days. In general, Makerbot Industries seems to be coming of age. Makerbot was not the first company to create a low cost 3D printer, but they’ve certainly had a hand in popularizing the category. I built their first model, the Cupcake, with my daughter as a way to distract her from her school finals one fine May. That machine never really worked very well, but it got us started down the path of being “makers”, which has been quite rewarding.
Makerbot has since gone through about 3 major hardware revisions, including the current Replicator 2. At $2199, to print only PLA (no heated build platform), I think I’ll give it a pass.
After that first Cupcake build, my heart has solidly belonged to my Up! printer. No fuss, no muss, no dirty dishes. Just press “Print” and that’s what happens. MakerBot has had the promise of the same for a long time, but never quite delivers.
But, I’m not about bashing Makerbot, what got me to writing was just recognizing the passage of a milestone. Makerbot was established on a hacker’s ethic, reminniscent of the idealism of the hippies. There is a lot of benefit to the open hardware, open source movements. But, then they took the money… I remember watching a video once where Bre Petis spoke of putting 3D printers in everyone’s hands, not about making big money. I’m sure that all changed once the $10m showed up. VCs are not altruists. They’re about making a return, as large and quickly as possible. So, I’m sure they took stock of the assets, and started to lock things down.
Now MakerBot has a new retail store in New York. I actually think this will be a good thing for the world of 3D printing. There will be numerous copycats, across the US and around the world, until the model proves itself to be useful, and eventually gets integrated into standard hardware stores.
The milestone is the fact that 3D printing is going mainstream enough that there are several smallish companies now becoming medium sized companies purely on the 3D printing ecosystem. That’s a very good thing, as it marks the beginning of the commercial success of the model.
Makerbot sellouts? Yah, whatever. I’m sure some people care about that particular aspect of what’s transpiring. I’m not particularly one of them.
As for my next printer purchase, at the low end, it’s probably a MakerGear M2. That’s a sweet looking machine, and I’ve always like the work the MakerGear people do.
At the high end, I must admit I currently own a ZCorp (3D Systems) Z650 powder printer (very nice). I’m looking into the Object multi-material printer, as well as a laser cutter. What righteous tinkerer could do without these sweet machines in their private hacker space?