Let’s try that again.

Posted by on Monday, September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Ok, first up, we just launched a groundbreaking new product, The MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, that represents a major shift in our business. In the past, we created wooden 3D printers and most of these were sold as kits. The original Replicator is still probably the best value in 3D printers, but with the new MakerBot Replicator 2, we’ve set a new standard in prosumer desktop 3D printing and our focus has shifted from making 3D printers that you have to assemble, to selling 3D printers that work really really well for folks who want to make gorgeous models instead of hack on the machine. Don’t underestimate the power of the MakerBot Replicator 2’s powder coated steel frame. That rigidity translates into a rock solid platform for amazing models. This shift in focus for MakerBot means that there are a lot of things shifting in the way we do things and this is normal in business. We have to stay nimble to face the increased competition from both the bottom and the top of the 3D printing market.

MakerBot has done a LOT for the community. There are thousands of non-MakerBot 3D printers, projects, and businesses that have benefited from our sharing. We have published A LOT of source in the past and we have more to share next week when we ship our first MakerBot Replicator 2. A lot of our new software source is already out there on our github repositories and you’re welcome to look at them, but please be respectful, we are still putting the finishing touches on the stuff we want to release. We were at full throttle and then some to get this machine out there in time for the Wired magazine launch and we are still crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on most of the software source.

For the Replicator 2, we will not share the way the physical machine is designed or our GUI because we don’t think carbon-copy cloning is acceptable and carbon-copy clones undermine our ability to pay people to do development. Will protecting the design and the GUI stop the clones? Probably not for very long, but it allows us to clearly speak one of the unspoken rules of open source hardware. Specifically the one that states that “cloning ain’t cool”. The electronics are nearly identical to our original Mighty Board electronics, the extruder is nearly identical to our original Replicator extruder with only minor tweaks to optimize manufacturing of injection molded parts. Update: What that means is that the Replicator 2 core technology is open.

The hardware of the original Replicator will continue to be fully open and we have a lot of them to continue to sell to folks who want a fully open wooden machine to hack on. We have found that most people prefer to use it as a great 3D printer rather than as a platform for hacking, but if you are one of the minority out there that wants to break and hack on an functional and awesome 3D printer that’s fully open, the original Replicator is currently the best value in 3D printing. Alternately, pick a RepRap and start working on it. The RepRap Rostock delta bot looks pretty freaking cool as a project to hack on if you ask me.

Here are two resources that many have pointed me at that I’ve found helpful as we think about how MakerBot will move forward in the world and be successful.

Tom Preston-Werner who is a co-founder of github, a well respected platform for sharing open source projects says, “Open source (almost) everything.” He then goes on to describe what’s open and what’s not in his post. His guideline for things to not open is, “Don’t open source anything that represents core business value.” Github is mostly open, but they keep some core tech closed so that they can be successful as a business. It is very important for any businesses to be able to thrive. If open companies can’t do business, they can’t keep being open.

Nathan of Sparkfun endorses open source very publicly, but in his open hardware summit talk last year, Nathan talked about the limits of what his company is willing to share. He draws lines and doesn’t share his backend system, his material sources, his detailed finances (although he does share some of them!), or customer data. I postulate that you’ll find lines drawn in the sand in every open successful open hardware business. His argument is that it doesn’t add value to the customer to open some things. Maybe he will open more of his infrastructure up and maybe he won’t. That’s up to him and his company to figure out so that they can continue to thrive.

There are some folks out there who will damn anyone who doesn’t do all their EE development in Kicad, but I think that every company that strives to share is absolutely entitled to draw the line wherever they like. I believe that a company can benefit from sharing with it’s community and despite the risks, if there is a community willing to participate, then it can be a great partnership between the community and a company that results in many wonderful benefits.

At MakerBot, we’ve transitioned from a company that made Cupcake CNC and Thing-O-Matic kits that were hard to put together for a lot of people and they were an education in assembly techniques. We’ve transitioned into a company that makes a tool, the MakerBot Replicator 2, that has set a new standard in desktop 3D printing because it just works. In comparing these two stages of the company, we’ve really shifted from a company that taught people how to make 3D printers to a company that empowers people with a working 3D printer to change the world with what they make with it. Because we’ve shifted away from the hobbyist-enabling tools like lasercutting and started using traditional manufacturing to meet scale, we’ve started creating injection molded parts, bent steel, and other CNC custom parts. It’s a paradox because all this makes the hardware much less hacker friendly, but more user friendly!

To those who are trying to use my past words against me, this is a journey down an unpaved road and we are figuring it out as we go along. Both I and my team are learning and adapting constantly or we wouldn’t survive. If we are not entirely clear, it’s because we are searching ourselves! Growing a business is complicated.

To those who are saying we are illegally hijacking open source or building something on “the backs of others,” we are not abandoning the RepRap community. In fact we believe everyone involved should be very proud of what we (the community) and Makerbot have accomplished. Now MakerBot is growing up. I would love to hear more stories about how academic projects build relationships with businesses so that we can become better at building the relationship with RepRap. MakerBot is coming of age and we need to evolve our relationship with RepRap. We hope and expect it will continue to be a strong one.

I love the way that Adrian talks about RepRap as an organism. There are so many great RepRap projects in petri dishes right now and some of them will fork and become businesses. If we banish the people who fork the projects beyond the petri dish, then they may not contribute back later.

Some members of the community needs to be taken to task. The hearsay, rumor creating, physical threats, and lack of respectful dialogue have been disappointing. If this is how the community treats a company that has shared a lot, it will be harder for other businesses and projects to choose open source as a way of sharing their work. Tom Igoe, Arduino team member, says this better than I can in his post to his blog.

Some folks have said that the changes are our investors fault. That’s not true. We took very little investment for a hardware company and the founders and employees own the majority of the company. Our investors totally get what we are doing. They provide great support and counsel but they let me and my team run the business.

Despite all the drama, we believe in the power of sharing to change the world. Please understand that our shift to become a more professional company does not decrease the amount of love and support we have for the sharers of the world.

There are two ways that I can think of for folks to help us right now. Do you have any stories, good and bad, of academic projects that have become businesses? I’d also like to hear what questions you have about what we are doing so that I can think about them and answer them at OHS later this week. What can we share about our process and shift that will help other businesses grow and share?

Tagged with 75 comments

75 Comments so far

  • MakeDave
    September 24, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Well said, you have been saying for years that this is the direction you wanted to head. I applaud your effort and the risks you have taken to build this company. I hope that this will allow Thingiverse to become lots of usefull things and a smaller percentage of Printer mods. They are great, but I want to see interesting inovation.

    I will continue to follow you, but my support will be limited as I am a cupcaker, and there is not much I can buy for my cake and the cost as an individual is very high to upgrade. 🙁

  • pt
    September 24, 2012 at 11:47 am

    thanks bre – this is becoming a great discussion and i think folks are looking at this from multiple points of views more and more.

    adafruit is one of the companies that some think isn’t “open source” enough because we quickbooks for book keeping and EAGLE for our released open-source hardware designs, and others think we’re “too open source” and foolish for giving away too much, including parts of our shopping cart.

    adafruit has hundreds of products, makerbot basically has one – so while our founder ladyada says “while you are all arguing about open source hardware, i’m going to keep shipping open source hardware” – we do understand that there is a luxury of not having one product, over 100+ people and as much overhead (and the same type of competition) like makerbot has.

    we’ve always considered doing a 3d printing kit, but we’re still considering it – we tend to think a lot about these sorts of things 🙂

    i’m looking forward to the open hardware summit, talking to people, getting more information and having great conversations about all this. be good to each other and see you soon 🙂

  • Adrian
    September 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    What this whole debate has highlighted for me is that perhaps “open source” is too misleading to slap onto a product or business ethos.

    Perhaps a new term should be coined to specifically remind people that such-a-business supports open source to the full extent permissible whilst retaining a sustainable business.

    Say… sustaina-source… (apologies)

  • Chris Gammell
    September 24, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    On our most recent show our discussion goes on to talk about how the hybrid model is a likely outcome for a lot of big time companies. It’s bittersweet: we love seeing MakerBot succeed but we have one less “pure” OSHW model to point to. It’s a judgement of whether or not the model will work for companies that scares people as much as anything else.

    You’re right not everyone is going to like it. But that will always be the case. Here’s what me, Jeff and Dave had to say about it. I’d put it at optimistic ambivalence 😉

    Good luck with the new store, can’t wait to stop by.

  • Kevin Quigley
    September 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve followed this open source vs closed debate since the launch. It is a simple issue to me. The potential market in 3D printing is not in the maker space, the hackers or those who want to build a kit. The market is in the supply of a ready to go product, with ready to use consumables, backed up by warranties and distribution.

    Up until now Makerbot was simply another RepRap derivative. For the markets above that was fine. But for the rest of us (and I am including the thousands of small engineering and design businesses out there, along with the thousands of schools, individuals and companies who want a 3D printer) we just want a machine that works, every time, with minimal set up, minimal maintenance, minimal tweaking, with easy to buy consumables, that gives a quality print every time. Up until now Makerbot has not provided that.

    I can’t judge if the new machines offer this yet (hopefully seeing parts this week), but if it does, then in a few months Makerbot will have moved on and realised that the market for growth is in products like these.

    The bottom line is this. Before this machine I would not have bothered even considering a Makerbot for my business. Now, I am actively looking at them as an alternative to U-Print, Mojo, etc.

    For a business, spending £1400 on a machine like this is an easy decision to make if it does the job.

    I really hope it does. I really hope when I see the parts I think, OK, no brainer, lets buy one. The reality is, the prosumer market does not care about open source vs closed. It cares only about quality, reliability, integration and service.

    Hopefully Makerbot can show that it can migrate from its open source maker beginnings and grow into a much larger business.

  • Erwin
    September 24, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    I am only sad because MBI is going away from those who really love to build stuff. In my mind the experience of building the TOM will never be erased anyway (do you will release a profile for the new slicer?).

    Nevertheless the Replicator2 looks sexy as hell 😀

  • Bradley Gawthrop
    September 24, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    Erwin : I would argue that this is really a shift towards different people who really love to build stuff. They love to build stuff WITH their tools, not necessarily build all of their tools. Buying a table saw instead of building one from parts doesn’t mean you don’t love to build stuff, it means you don’t love to build table saws. It remains a great tool for building other stuff, and you wouldn’t need it unless you loved building things in the first place.

  • Bre Pettis Responds to the Makerbot Going Closed Controversy : 3D Printing Dreams
    September 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    […] and the current CEO, put together a thoughtful, frank, and detailed response titled “Let’s try that again” to the current controversy over Makerbot going […]

  • Mark Cohen
    September 24, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Well said. I love the store and stopped by twice to make sure I really saw those machines working so well. I loved the kits. I learned all my maker goodness from them. But I was always looking for what you are currently selling. I, like many Makerbot DIYers can pick any reprap project now and easily undestand and build them if we wish. I will probably build my own laser cutter soon based on what I know as it is pretty similiar. Keep it going.

  • MakerBot & open… « adafruit industries blog
    September 24, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    […] “Let’s try that again”. A new post by Bre… Ok, first up, we just launched a groundbreaking new product, The MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer, that represents a major shift in our business. In the past, we created wooden 3D printers and most of these were sold as kits. The original Replicator is still probably the best value in 3D printers, but with the new MakerBot Replicator 2, we’ve set a new standard in prosumer desktop 3D printing and our focus has shifted from making 3D printers that you have to assemble, to selling 3D printers that work really really well for folks who want to make gorgeous models instead of hack on the machine. Don’t underestimate the power of the MakerBot Replicator 2′s powder coated steel frame. That rigidity translates into a rock solid platform for amazing models. This shift in focus for MakerBot means that there are a lot of things shifting in the way we do things and this is normal in business. We have to stay nimble to face the increased competition from both the bottom and the top of the 3D printing market. […]

  • Mac
    September 24, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    If you don’t release editable CAD source files (no, don’t need to be KiCAD, but pdf or stl are not source files) as the Open Hardware definition reads, then don’t complain that people does (failed) “carbon copy clones” of your designs. It happens because you for commercial reasons delberately made it hard to modify and enhance them.

    “Open source hardware is hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design. The hardware’s source, the design from which it is made, is available in the preferred format for making modifications to it.”

    Sure, your OSHW branding though may work with your new customer targets which are not anymore the makers nor the open source community itself.

  • Chris Rojas
    September 24, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    much better post. Would you consider an Id Software style open source? ie: old versions get open-sourced, once you have a good lead.

  • Ken Scharf
    September 24, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for making things clearer. IMHO closing the GUI is along the same lines as RedHat keeping their logos and artwork private. No one would say that RedHat Linux is closed source. There are several clones of RHEL out there with different names and logos. RedHat doesn’t mind.
    I DO hope you WILL publish enough of the hardware details to allow some self servicing of the new printer, at least to the point of users being able to replace broken parts (some of which they may print themselves!).

  • H. Snow
    September 24, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    So far it seems to have taken Makerbot about 5,000 words to simply say that they’re going closed-source. But man, they’ve managed to do it in an awfully condescending way.

    “Don’t open source anything that represents core business value.”

    You know, If the RepRap folks had said that 6 years ago, Makerbot and more than a dozen other companies that used RepRap’s core IP to make money (while building the future) wouldn’t be in business. In fact, this whole sector of the economy, poised to grow so rapidly, would still be relegated to $50,000 Z-Corp Machines.

    “Now MakerBot is growing up.”


    When Arduino “grows up” are they going to close their source on all future developments too? (Or are they going to continue to sell fantastic open source, open hardware innovations into the millions of units.)

    “Nathan talked about the limits of what his company is willing to share. He draws lines and doesn’t share his backend system…”

    I don’t recall anybody being upset about not knowing how the comment posting or accounting system of (or works. Sparkfun’s actual products are open-sourced. And that’s why Makers can (and do) use them to build (awesome) things.

    Makes like Open Source and Open Hardware. These are tools. Tools Makers use to build upon, innovate, and make things better.

    It’s fine that Makerbot has lost interest in Makers but maybe you should consider renaming the company to “Consumerbot” just to be a little clearer.

  • Bob Cousins
    September 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Zach is right, it’s all corporate marketing babble now. “groundbreaking product”, “shift in business”, “set a new standard in prosumer desktop 3D printing”, “stay nimble to beat the competition”. Sounds like you swallowed the marketing dictionary! Even while attempting to clarify your position, you start off by extolling the wonders of the company’s new product.

    I also like the clever framing, going closed source is “growing up” and “being
    professional”. By implication, Open Source is for dreamy amateurs. Professionals put money above principles.

    I’d have a lot more respect if you said “we thought we could sustain a business on Open Source principles. Turned out we were wrong, so we are going to a closed model. Sorry about that”.

    When money comes through the door, principles go out the window. I know that. You know that. We all know that. Why not just admit it?

  • Miguel Oliveira
    September 24, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Right on the spot. Makerbot pushed 3D printing to the hands of many people that would not have dared to start to build a Reprap printer 3 years ago. Thousands of people across the globe took the plunge and helped take 3D printers from science fiction to something that shows up in the news every once in a while. The world seems now ready for truly ready “out-of-the-box” machines. I am sure there will be many others out there to carry the flag for open “hackable” with kits and parts while some move on to provide everyone else access to 3D printing in a more traditional commerce way. The Replicator 2 printers, despite the “closed source” label will be hacked to do things that not even Makerbot expects. That is the nature of the maker community. As Makerbot “steps out” of the garage to compete in the business world, we wish you luck in making 3D printing easy, accessible and sustainable.

  • Timothy
    September 24, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Bre, I have the solution to your problem.

    The problem isn’t with “Open Source” but the GPL. Choose a different license and release it open source! One that would prevent COMMERCIAL clones. Take for example CC_NC license. No commercial cloning allowed. But that’s too simple. You wouldn’t benefit from the community, because we would probably be wary of signing copyright over to you if we made some improvement.

    A better bet, would be something like the GPL, but with a requirement that people couldn’t clone for commercial purposes. Like say: “While derivative works are allowed which have a _significant improvement_. Cloning for commercial purposes is forbidden.”

    You might be worried about those words “significant improvement” but the legal theory has already been worked out within the patent system. Talk to your lawyers to see if you can’t come up with a new open source license that would prevent cloning along the lines of my second suggestion. Please 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Jetguy
    September 24, 2012 at 2:09 pm


    While you are growing into a new business model, are you willing the sell the Mightyboard to Cupcake and T-O-M owners? It seems that you’ve completely abandoned them in the process as the real innovation, Makerware, tied to your new bots.

    The way I see it, printers involve 2 things, hardware (namely the extruder), and software to create the gcode. The mechanical bot portion just needs to be strong and accurate.

    As a business, you previously relied on open source software (Replicator-G), and sold hardware (kits, and then full bots). Your new model involves proprietary hardware (the extruder), and the new Makerware.

    From an experience perspective, you sell full machines for less user errors and support problems. This is the value add, portion, your time, effort, and proprietary software is being packaged into a bundle that shows up at someone’s door with Replicator2. This is how you justify the higher cost. Not entirely crazy or unheard of and while people balk at the price, you are catering to a group that is willing to pay that.

    On the other hand as a CEO, your job is to produce a machine and software at a lower cost internally, to create profit which pays for innovation and research. Switching to metal solved a number of manufacturing issues from the previous wooden and likely caused some capital investment into machinery to make the metal frame. Typical to small business, this up front cost investing in machines is hard, but long term, per bot production costs is very low. Much lower than laser cutting wood for sure. Thus, in theory lower manufacturing cost and higher price, pays for the support folks keeping them employed.

    The problem is, while you opened the source to the Replicator and the Mightyboard, you are upset that people sold clones and you feel this hurt your packaged model sales. I counter with that you abandoned thousands of owners who supported the Brand, yet refused to sell them the technology and components at any price for their genuine MakerBot. You actually created the clone market overnight by your actions.

    I’m not asking you to give anything away. If you want to close the source on the new software and hardware, that is your choice. What I am asking for is the ability for Cupcake and T-O-M owners to purchase into the new electronics which are now closely tied to the software. Also, you traditionally sold the upgraded extruder or components. We get it that you don’t want to spend resources supporting the old machines, but at least selling the new hardware with no support would give people an option. By taking that option away, the demand is there and someone will build and market to them, just not you.

    Again, I think the backlash is that previous owners who already purchased a Cupcake, then a T-O-M, are feeling left out in the dark. They have invested $2k or more already in the MakerBot name, and would pay for the new technology, but really aren’t interested in dropping another $2,199 or more, on yet another machine. To have cut off that many users seems like a very bad business decision. Again, I think asking you at a minimum to sell the genuine Mightyboard is going to hurt your model. You will be getting revenue from people who wouldn’t buy the entire machine, retain some brand loyalty, and maybe not quite have the backlash of closing the source, but also, not selling components. As a founder of DIY, surely you would understand how not selling components, crushing those who do, and then not opening the source only hurts those who supported you.

    On the T-O-M alone, early adopters paid to upgrade to the MK6 (not Mk6 +) before the MK5 DC extruder failed and would blow up the $90 extruder board. Then, another one to the chin was the stepper motor upgrade. Then came the MK6+ heater upgrade, the LCD control panel upgrade, aluminum build plate and finally the MK7. You give Replicator users the new Makerware, but won’t help us by selling a board that would legally work? That’s why people are pretty hacked off.

  • Andrew Parnell
    September 24, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Thank you for addressing this again.

    Last week’s post on this matter felt dishonest by virtue of dodging.

    So, I am really glad to see that you have taken the time to not only give a point by point what is and isn’t open, but the reasoning behind that.

    I am sad that you won’t be sharing the design of the physical machine. I understand that fact that it has been designed for industrialized manufacturing limits the ability for others to fabricate their own. However, I do believe that were it open, people in the community might be able to devise methods to create similar designs that can be fabricated without industrial tools.

    Even though I am sad about this, I respect the decision.

    Open source is not an all or nothing game. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Jetguy
    September 24, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    I see in the other post you will port Makerware to gen4 around Christmas

    Is that in lieu of selling the electronics?

    In other words, I (and many others) are having trouble understanding why you still refuse to sell the Mightyboard as upgrades. Not everyone is going to buy a Replicator 2. However, if you did sell the boards, you might gain some customers you have otherwise lost. No support, no rep-G profiles, we already know how to make that work, just the hardware from you rather than being forced to buy a clone.
    I’m not asking for something unreasonable.

  • Stan
    September 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Thanks for the clear statement, Bre. People may not like the decisions MakerBot has made, but I don’t think they can be confused about why the company made them. Being in front means having a target on your back, so unfortunately for you, MakerBot will get to be a lightning rod for the near future, attracting arguments about open vs. closed hardware and where to draw the line.

    As a person who enjoyed the $900 education in 3D printing technology that the Cupcake provided, I appreciate that not everyone has the interest or time to devote to learning how 3D printers work, which was always a good fraction of the fun in owning the Cupcake and Thing-o-matic. The open source aspect of these printers was a serious value-add for people who want to tinker with their hardware, but less so for others.

    The Replicator 2 takes some of that away for a different, much bigger market. That market doesn’t include me, but there is no reason it has to.

  • Dave X
    September 24, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    So the Replicator 2’s Mightyboard and Extruder tech is open? Files next week as promised, or it didn’t happen.

    From the Replicator 1 ( ) there is the:

    Rev E mightyboard:
    Mk7 extruder is

    And the new makerbot slicing engine:

    If the rest of the design isn’t Replicator-2-able, I suppose it isn’t a replicator in the RepRap/Adrian Bowyer/bioligical sense, but more of a replicator in the Star Trek movie prop sense.

    Assuming, of course, one has license to use the .stl files.

  • pomalin
    September 24, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    Bre:”The original Replicator is still probably the best value in 3D printers”

    The best value in 3D printers is for me the Makergear M2.

    But everyone see what he want. I don’t want to troll, but it’s just that by reading your comments, and posts, and everything, not only Bre but everyone, it feel like there’s only one actor in the 3D printing company.

    That was my two cents, I don’t work for nobody, and I have only repraps at home, I was just wanted to give credit to another great company, with very valuable products.

  • Troy
    September 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    “Please understand that our shift to become a more professional company does not decrease the amount of love and support we have for the sharers of the world.”

    The above statement heavily implies that Makerbot has no belief in open hardwares potential in common commerce. Sparkfun and Adafruit are only two of the best examples of why it is nothing short of naive to disregard open hardware as a viable business platform.

    I was very excited by the latest Makerbot and was only slightly dissuaded with talk of closing off it’s internals but still excited to obtain one; now I am just insulted by the language used in Makerbots explanations.

    Closing your source (in any regard) is already a definite statement of your mind-set and intentions: You fear your name and presence is simply not strong enough to stand up to cloning. If you just admitted this instead of insulting potential customers and the leaders in open hardware (of which you used to be one) you would have received my money.

  • sergevi
    September 24, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    You’re such a good and sensitive guy Bre ,

    I just wonder how you find time to write and read all this ? you’re CEO of a 100 guys company , just launching a big product with, i guess, a killing planning to promote it everywhere !

    All that for a troll from what.. 2 or 3 influent open-source-integrists who decided to hate you for whatever reason ?

    That makes me smile, but it’s a good proof you have your soul with you..still, that’s good 🙂

    You shouldn’t bother about all that so much. I’m sure all intelligent people following this story understand you and know Thingiverse ( and your all project ) is just wonderful . I’m sure they won’t forget all you gave back already to the open source world .
    Some people around should start a community driven Thingiverse instead of trolling the all day on 10 forums, i’m curious about the result.

    Keep the good work and make us a mini-makerbot at $500 . pleeeeaaase 😛

  • Jack
    September 24, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    In response to Tim’s comment, and just for clarification, CC-NC is not considered an open-source license. One of the keystones of open source is that people can use your source for their own commercial ends. To release a product’s source files under CC-NC and call it ‘open source’ would be disingenuous and misleading.

    That said, I would have no problem with MakerBot doing just that with the R2 printer at some point down the road. I’m regularly disappointed with people who demand instant source gratification: “You released this product 5 minutes ago — where are the source files!?” I tend to write these people off as simply needing to enjoy that small and fleeting jolt which comes from moral superiority. But I digress…

    MakerBot has never claimed that the R2 is open-source, so I don’t see what everybody’s problem is. Yes, they have celebrated and embraced open-source culture in the past. I think they will continue to do so, but they are also in a very difficult position and their goals are wildly different than those of the RepRap project.

    RepRap was not started as a business. As Adrian has stated repeatedly, the goal of RepRap was strictly to produce more RepRaps. This is a laudable goal, but it’s also a purely academic one. RepRap wasn’t built to bring desktop fabrication to the masses or enable home prototyping of physical objects. Both of these goals are necessarily commercial. Anything that involves bringing a physical item ‘to the masses’ must be commercial in order to (even have a chance to) succeed. All commercial things are subject to the nature of the market, which imposes it’s own requirements.

    the lesson is: If you don’t want one don’t buy one, but consider that your needs are not the only ones that deserve to be met.

  • Erwin
    September 24, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Bradley Gawthrop: It is not about making all the tools, this is THE tool. I know there is the RepRap project, but it is so fuzzy! I really loved the MakerBot kit! I learned a lot only assembling the machine!

  • Concerned individual
    September 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    If being completely open does not work as a business model how did you get this far? The fact is you made a successful business being open so all your excuses are just fluff at this point. Sure maybe you could not get rich being open but that has never been a goal of open source. Please remove all references to being open source on the Makerbot website unless it states “we were”. And please quite making it look like being open and sharing will not succeed as you know it is a complete LIE.

  • Tim Owens
    September 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    I appreciate the honesty and openness of this post. Some folks are never going to be happy with any decision as evidence in the comments here. But those folks aren’t running a company with 150 employees either so I think you’re well-served to take their comments with several grains of salt. Open source is a two-way street and Makerbot has done a ton to serve the OSHW community and RepRap project. The folks taking this opportunity to fill the Thingiverse with noise and nonsense is just poor form. Thanks for everything you all are doing to rise above it.

  • Ahmet Cem Turan
    September 24, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    “MakerBot has done a LOT for the community. ” I believe the community has done much more for Makerbot. Actually I can understand (especially after that stupid crowd sourcing stunt..) that MB does want to go at least aprtially closed source..
    And the Software interface: I dont think that is even worth talking about. No innovation nothing new.. just closed source…

    BUT behaving like MB is the only/first/sole company to produce affordable 3d printers is just relying on the “un-information” of ppl. That is not good.. As JP once pointed out sometimes it is only the name a developer benefits from…

    All speeches, press-conferences etc giver the impression that MB is the innovator while truth is that it is a mimicker…

  • JoseH
    September 24, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    The message seems much more clear now.

    Some people will hate you because they feel betrayed as you took so much from the “community”, and you did not gave back anything of value for them. They consider marketing not important, some of them are against money and capitalism, central manufacturing of goods. Others disdain “easy of use” as it makes them feel less important and something is cheaper if it cost $10 less even when they spend and entire day mounting it(their time’s worth is near zero).

    I can understand them and how they feel and also believe I could understand your company’s position. They are not going to change so the best thing is to move on. If makerbot becomes an Adafruit it will always be better than a total closed source company.

    Now, the important thing, do you plan on making a small lathe or mill for high precision (10um precision) machining?.

    Maybe adding feedback to the machines and a milling head so people can do electronic circuits or 2d extruded parts in real metal. Rolland machines are $3000. Probably a replicator add on could be very inexpensive.

  • Daniel
    September 24, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I just want to say that I completely understand where you’re coming from. You have responsibilities you have to fulfill, and you’re doing your best to do that. And I must say that a ready to go out of the box, no nonsense 3D Printer for this price is a great thing. If my high school had had one, or hell, even my college, I’d be so happy. And I look forward to the day when every school can have one or two or seven for their students to use.

  • George Schneeloch
    September 24, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    I am free to hack around with ReplicatorG, and have done so before to make it work with openjdk under Linux. If something is wrong with Makerware, what can I do? One important point of open source software is that I don’t have to wait for Makerbot to deem the problem a priority, I have the option of spending time on it myself.

    A developers program is no substitute for the ability to just fix things that are broken, or to add new features that might not be popular enough to be worth Makerbot’s time. The rules of open source are clear: I can hack the code, share it, maybe contribute back or maintain my own fork. What are the rules for working within the developers program?

    Maybe Makerbot is willing to do all of this development and maintenance itself, but does this mean supporting every legacy product out there, for a reasonably long period of time?

  • Mr Sad
    September 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    Q>Does funding change the commitment to open source hardware?

    A (Bre Pettis) > The funding doesn’t change our commitment to being open source. Why would we change a winning strategy? Being open is the future of manufacturing, and we’re just at the beginning of the age of sharing. In the future, people will remember businesses that refused to share with their customers and wonder how they could be so backwards.

    Our commitment to open source stems from our passion for sharing. We know that if we share with our users and the world, there is a natural positive effect.

    I think people worry on our behalf that as an open hardware company, we’ll get knocked off and undercut. First of all, that happens all the time to businesses that are not open hardware. In order to be truly competitive, we’ve got to keep rocking it!

  • Diego Spinola
    September 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    This is basically a change in the intended audience from the the tinkerers and hackers (and engineers) to a more broad end-user centered approach …

    Business-wise I see this decision to be quite risky, might endanger the “competitive edge”… from “OSHW model company” to “just another company selling quick prototyping tools”(i don’t mean it disrespectfully). By closing it’s machines/software source there is really no going back to the “small pond”…

    Anyway I hope you all the best (might even buy one someday… I’ll compare it to whatever other closed models are out there) , but I also hope that someone comes to fill the gap in the OpenSource Hardware community (we need open tools and tools that can be improved by ourselves, tools that can be experimented upon)…

  • Timothy
    September 24, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I explicitly stated, that CC_NC wouldn’t be the optimal solution. Would it be better than no source though? ABSOLUTELY! From the standpoint of a learner/hacker such as myself, it would fulfill all of the purposes of open-source. Would a modified GPL as I described be even better? Sure!

  • Chris Rojas
    September 24, 2012 at 7:23 pm

    I’d like to point out to people that Makerbot has one main product as opposed to SparkFun and Adafruit which have tons of products and therefore even if someone copies a single design and sells it, they still have to do that x number of times for each product to even reach close to the profit that the originals make.

  • Jack
    September 24, 2012 at 8:39 pm

    @Timothy: yes, I understand what you’re saying. But I also got the impression (possibly mistaken on my part) that you were thinking that “CC-NC” and “open-source” were the same. Specifically that you could release something under CC-NC and call it ‘open source’, which would be incorrect. I just wanted to point it out that they are not identical — not just for you, but in case others weren’t aware.

    For my part, I would be perfectly happy if MB released the Replicator 2 stuff under a non-commercial license, if for no other reason than to enable user serviceability. 🙂

  • Carl
    September 24, 2012 at 8:54 pm

    “To those who are trying to use my past words against me, this is a journey down an unpaved road and we are figuring it out as we go along. Both I and my team are learning and adapting constantly or we wouldn’t survive. If we are not entirely clear, it’s because we are searching ourselves! Growing a business is complicated.”

    People only have your words and actions as a way to understand your motivations and ethics. It is very fair to use the words and ideals you have said, to judge the actions you take. And this should be what people are using, not how they feel you should act, but how you said you would act. What’s more, it is all people have if they have not met you in person. It is those words that caused people to support you, to give you goodwill, and to spread the word as unpaid salespeople for your product. This all happened because they agreed with what you said. You became one of the people held up when talking about OSHW, including magazine covers.

    Then you act against what you said you would. Act against the ideals and ethics you promoted so loudly. This is exactly what people should be talking about. Your actions not only have the potential to hurt your business, but they will likely hurt others into the future. Now, when another comes along, that believes the ethics and philosophy of OSHW, and they try to start a business, they will be questioned because of your actions. This will hurt them, it hurts the community, and causes a level of distrust that shouldn’t be there.

    So yes, people bring up your past words, and it is completely fair. Had you never used those words, and become a poster child for the OSHW movement, then people wouldn’t care that you are closed source now. People care, because you are currently damaging a community, and that is sad.

  • Peter Coe
    September 24, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    As soon as I saw that the Replicator was being cloned commercially by some schnorrer ( I knew that Open Source had hit a problem. It happens in any system that becomes too open and too big. Hello viruses. I’m not at all surprised that Makerbot has closed a few doors. Makerbot would never survive as totally open source at this point.

    But at this point it doesn’t matter. They deserve credit for making this thing we all do something BIG, and for starting me, and a lot of other people, on this excellent adventure. I bought a Cupcake, had great fun building it, and then figured out how the technology worked because in retrospect it had a ton of problems that needed figuring out. And I also found a great community of people out there who actually know what they are doing to help out when I get stuck. So frankly I don’t need Makerbot to be Open Source any more. The community is so big and inventive that I have my choice of where to go with this. So long as Makerbot doesn’t go all Steve Jobs and start actually stealing other peoples Open Source designs and start patenting them, I’m fine.

  • Matt Joyce
    September 24, 2012 at 11:50 pm
  This is a blog post covering the subject and my opinion. I think you’ll find it interesting. Cheers.

  • Timothy
    September 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

    @Jack, but I think that’s a little besides the point. I was using CC-NC as an example. I wasn’t really proposing that that is the license MB should use.

    Can you not, however, imagine a GPL like license that would be open source, but would prevent commercial clones by allowing derivitive work that was different in some functionality(while the tangibot has a different logo, it has exactly the same functionality), but prevent clones?

    * Derivative work, differing even slightly in functionality? Yes.

    * Carbon copy cloning? No.

  • Nick Taylor
    September 25, 2012 at 1:53 am

    Unless there are other clones I don’t know about, the “carbon copy clone” argument is a bit of a red-herring…

    … because the community self-protected, and shot it down before it had even started. There’s no need to go all secret-squirrel over “IP” because of this.

    Even is someone who could afford economies of scale without going via kickstarter would likely come a cropper if they tried an absolute clone… because the blogosphere would kick the crap out of them – but they’ll probably only do this if it’s seen as an attack on open-source. If you’re closed-source, then maybe not so much.

    You should drop all the condescending “growing up”, “more professional” shit… becoming more old-fashioned is not the same as becoming more “grown up”.

    Other than that, keep up the good work… and please… have more faith in your community.

  • Scott
    September 25, 2012 at 3:10 am

    You make great arguments, but I wanted to point out that your argument using Sparkfun as an example is not really germane. For one thing, what you are describing is business transparency and not necessarily open source (unless your business is creating business models).

    Most (all?) of SparkFun’s designs are open source, covered under Creative Commons. In fact, one of the agreements you make if you submit a design to SparkFun is that it will be open source. They are one of the truest advocates of open source hardware design.

    If it wasn’t for companies like SparkFun and CadSoft most hobbyists would still be scouring Mouser catalogs and etching boards at home with nasty chemicals. In fact, you yourselves probably stood on those shoulders to create your business. I hope you thought to give back to those folks with your current success (and obvious plans for continued success).

  • David
    September 25, 2012 at 4:24 am

    Hi from Australia..

    Well, just wanted to say the Replicator 2 is the product i have been waiting to arrive.

    Like all technologies, over time it improves on previous designs and eventually the pricing comes down. too

    Watching the evolution, I knew if i waited, there would be a product available that is reliable and easy to use, with good precision!

    Nice one, and perhaps now if people want to use these new tools, they can freely share their 3D designs for others to build on!!

    I wish you well.

  • Hans
    September 25, 2012 at 7:17 am

    As long as it is only you and a friend or two going all out on open source is a good thing. But with 150 people working for and relying on you, the risks gain weight and you can litteraly feel it on your shoulders. People who complain now do so because of egoistic reasons, and while the decision to do at least the minimum to protect your business and those 150 people’s probably wasn’t an act of altruism all together, it doesn’t feel too egoistic either.

    It isn’t Makerbot who grew up but basically the team behind it (I mean look at Bre’s haistile, obvious! :p ). From a business point of view they have to do something, because a copy is always cheaper than the original. It is possible that they might be overreacting on recent events. But with so many people depending on you, “maybe’s” just won’t do anymore.

    But if a business grows from something that started as open source isn’t that itself prove of concept? If you loose your best friend, isn’t a close friend still better than none?

    Open source is an idea and a good one but not a religion. If you demand 100% and condemn anything less… Well in most terms that would be called a radical.

    As for me 80% is still fine and I like the new Replicator. I loved building my own Cupcake years ago, but using it was always more important to me, than tweaking it. In fact my tweaks had a rather disimproving touch all together. Makerbot might even have improved enought now to order one for business and not just for myself 🙂

  • Brett
    September 25, 2012 at 7:41 am

    What I think is the real difference between MakerBot and Adafruit, Arduino and other OSHW companies is that those companies have decided the Maker market is enough for them. They know their audience and they sell products that they would enjoy. Makerbot, it seems, wants to target a broader audience, one that includes people who don’t want to build a 3d printer, just have a 3d printer.

    I wish they could’ve been happy with ( and sustained a business with) just the Makers as their market, because as they ‘grow up’ I won’t be able to purchase their products, and they become just another company selling 3d printers. What is their competitive advantage over similar plug-and-play 3d printers? Now instead of having the OSHW badge and community behind them, they’ll have to compete on features and price. I wish them well, and I think they’ll still be competitive and successful, but it’s a whole different ball game for them now.

  • James
    September 25, 2012 at 8:25 am

    I can see the argument from both sides, and honestly, who am I to tell you what to do.

    I can’t argue the fact that you have given a lot back to the community, but there is a odd bad taste about not releasing the files.

    I think the middle ground between protecting your development investment and being open is perhaps releasing the files after your get back your return on your investment. At that point you’ll be so far ahead that releasing the source will put copiers at a huge disadvantage, and make the naysayers happy. Just my 2 cents on the issue.

    I own a cupcake and I’m perfectly happy with what I have, and would like to thank you for offering, and still supporting this tool. To me, I’ll never get a replicator, I caught the build your own bug, and I hope to build a Rostock in the near future. I think moving away from people like me is natural progression of most hardware.

    I would love to see you be more open about the process you took to get to the replicator, and then the replicator 2. What design decisions were made? What were the challenges from moving from a laser cut design to a bent steel frame? How did you go about finding sources for these parts?

    Perhaps starting with the cupcake and telling your story. Things of this nature would be a huge step in the right direction of being open. It would help others in the community learn from what you’ve done. I think that’s the beauty of open source projects, building off what others have already figured out.

  • JohnA
    September 25, 2012 at 9:38 am

    If the ‘core tech’ that makes you a successful business is something you put in a box and ship out around the world then I feel like you’re fighting a losing battle as with or without open source, the ‘secret sauce’ will be reverse engineered in no time for very little money. Look at the parts of the business that github and sparkfun keep secret: nothing that’s actually shipping….

    If you think that people clone these devices because the plans are out there – I don’t think it’s that simple. Clones happen of anything successful… you can spend the next 10 lifetimes fighting it unsuccessfully (and wasting money), or you can focus on having something that the clones can’t: world class customer service.

  • FH
    September 25, 2012 at 10:13 am

    The only thing that I don’t like about the post is the position that going closed-source is associated with “growing up” for a company. I don’t think that’s a fair statement. Going closed-source is a business strategy, not a higher state of maturation.

  • Jack
    September 25, 2012 at 12:06 pm


    “Can you not, however, imagine a GPL like license that would be open source, but would prevent commercial clones by allowing derivitive work that was different in some functionality”

    If I understand you correctly, you’re referring to a license under which somebody can use the source for commercial purposes, but only if they change the functionality slightly. In other words, only if they ‘add value’?

    The problem with that is that’s not really enforceable. What constitutes value and improved functionality is different for everybody. I remember reading a discussion of something like this on a linux mailing list years ago — the consensus was that such minor improvements happen anyway. That is, everybody has a slightly different way of marketing, distributing or making things, so at some point, even if they were copying something directly, they’d have to make _some_ change to it so that they could use it themselves, even if the final product was almost entirely identical to the original it was based on.

    So I can imagine it, but I don’t think it’s actually possible. It’s really got to be all or nothing w/r/t commercial use to make it practical.

  • Timothy
    September 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Jack, on one side I have Bre Pettis telling me OSHW Is impractical for large buisenesses and on the other hand I have you saying that anything more’middle ground’ than full open source is impractical… I’m at a bit of a loss. I beleive there are great. Benefirs to openness that can still be gained by releasing source code, even under a restrictive licence. I don’t beleive it is all or nothing. I bbeleive in all or something. If I thought that the only two options were all or nothing I wouldn’t even be commenting on this blog. Because it is cleer to me that makerbot isn’t going to give us all, and bbeing an open source guy, closed source companies don’t even interest me (to the extent that theynaren’t sueing me for patent infringement). Something may not be perfect, but nothing shouldn’t even be an option on the table. Really, never say all or nothing, all or something all the way!

    To my proposed fix, as I stated earier, the murky legal waters of ‘significant improvement’ and ‘significant difference’ are already well defined by the papent system. They may not becorrectly, sanely, or reasonably defined, but they are defined well enough, that the so mething mb might give us with such a licence would really truely be better thsan the nothing that wse are sadly all to likely to get.

  • FD
    September 25, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    You and the MB team built MB with more sweat equity (behind the OS IP) from the maker community than you have received recently in VC. The maker community was and is your original investor (they really should have voting stock). The requested return to your investors was an agreement to share under GPL (even written in your own words often). Not doing that is failure of your and MB’s fiduciary duties and willful fraud of your original investors (months ago MB intent on V2 should have been made clear). It would be or is an unfair and unethical use of MB’s leveraged position. Further more it will poison and place mistrust for those doing OSHW who come after MB. Here hope to see MB honor it’s original investors and agreements (even if that is half baked such as an ID Software model).

  • Sven Housannoten
    September 26, 2012 at 1:01 am

    To sum up the whole of this, it is actually pretty SIMPLE.

    Bre : Really nice guy, with a HUGE problem.

    Pt : Your points are valid, however the comparison of OSHW of your company, and the OSHW of Bre’s are two completely different situations.

    Your company has thrived on making feature rich embellishments on relatively simple products (by comparison) And the time put into each, even the more complicated of your products is tiny (by comparison once again) especially since your designer is brilliantly smart, and probably incredibly quick prototyping / drawing & debugging as well.

    Permit me to draw this really quite analogy:

    MB and the whole OSHW community was enjoying the free love of the 1960’s. Everyone is swingin’ and having great ‘relations’ all around just like they did back then.

    One of these happy people has recently become more serious with someone they’ve been free loving, and now… They are getting married, and are going to need to be monogamous. The dowry (capital investment) received has made it clear that there can’t be any more free love, and it’s now time to calm down, and just do one thing. Make MB2 babies. Sell each one, and reinvest capital, and make the mother & father – in law money on their dowry.

    It’s pretty obvious that this is the issue. Real business investment works according to regular business rules.

    Would I pay 10M for a franchise, when the plans for that same franchise are in the public domain?

    I could do and use EVERYTHING down to the secret sauce / special spices but just call my restaurant by a different name. Oh and of course I could make my franchise better if I choose, and sell meals for 50% less…. If I choose…

    Nobody would take that bet.

    Bre: , please just say it like it is. You have given more to the community than almost anyone, and created a whole new type of device, and the OSHW arena of 3D printing has greatly benefited from your ingenuity. Personally I would totally understand if your investors are nervous about their investment. I would be too. Although one could argue that they invested in a company that was OSHW.

    Pt: I hope this increases your awareness of the OSHW market.

  • Howard Smith
    September 26, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Some of the reaction has been expected. I wrote this in May:

    The question is this: Is the market for a laptop-priced 3D printer those consumers who want a simple reliable device in order to print stuff, over and over again, or is it the wider and more diverse “maker” community who are weaving 3D printing into their projects and who are also motivated to boot themselves a 3D printing capability via parts, kits and … 3D printing. It’s a question of market maturity.

    For those of us who sat through the hobbyist days of the personal computer the early years were dominated by kits and parts, but the action quickly moved to buying complete computers. It did so when the enthusiast mindset turned from a fascination with the hardware (tool), to an obsession with the software (application). Have we reached that point with 3D Printing? I am not so sure.

  • Felix
    September 26, 2012 at 5:46 am

    Here’s some thoughts of someone who loves building tools (I put a Makerbot MK6 extruder on my 600x900x150mm desktop router that I built from scratch…), but who also needs tools that work. As much fun it is to build tools as a hobby, in a professional setting you just have to buy and use them. I won’t weigh in on the open source debate, enough is being said. I like the idea of open source, but often I find that the software doesn’t work, is unnecessarily complicated, and end up writing my own…

    Last year we set up a student robot competition at our university. To allow students to be creative with their designs, we decided to purchase 3D printers as the main way to make their parts. They also had access to the uni’s main workshops with CNC machines, etc., but had to go through the technicians (takes time). They were allowed to use the printers themselves.
    We ended up buying two HP printers at around 10k/piece, material cost around $600/kg. I also convinced people to buy two readily assembled Makerbot ToM (a month before the replicator came out… grrr.) My reasons were a) I liked the idea of showing students that 3D printing is accessible and hackable, and b) the material is 10 times cheaper, so we had no quota on material use for the ToM as opposed to the HPs. Here’s what happened:

    The two HP printers of course worked out of the box, and someone came to set it up for us, gave us an introduction, etc.
    I set up the ToM’s myself. The newest version of ReplicatorG didn’t have a working profile for the ToM. I found an older version that still included it. However, it used too much plastic, causing problems with solid models. There were bugs in the fill algorithm, sometimes models ended up hollow. I’ve used an older version of ReplicatorG myself on my custom machine, and didn’t have this problem. I ended up tweaking profiles for quite a while and sorta got it to work in the end… So, open source or not, having a product that works straight away is really important to me. Having to fiddle with incomprehensible profile options and searching for software versions that do something is not my favourite user experience of open source. I like source to be open to improve on something that works, not for fixing bugs that shouldn’t be there.

    The students almost exclusively used the HP printers. Why? They had enough quota on it. Dimensional accuracy is much better out of the box (parts snugly fit together). And the main, most important thing: it prints with support material .

    One of the greatest things about 3D printing is that you can print almost anything you can design, the only limit usually being minimum detail and wall thickness. However, without support material, you have quite a lot of constraints.
    What I don’t understand is this:
    The replicator had two extruder heads. Makerbot has been selling water-soluable PVA for quite a while.
    – Why is there still no real support for printing with support material?
    – Why release a professional-looking machine for people who just want to print stuff, without this ability?

    In my opinion, support material should be by far the highest priority, much more than 0.1mm resolution. Someone who buys a 3D printer to make parts (not to hack it), needs to know that it can print almost anything you throw at it (as the expensive commercial printers do), with good accuracy (resolution is only for show, accuracy is needed if things have to fit and work). Having to to design with a flat bottom side and no big overhangs is a very big constraint in my book.

    Makerbot has a real opportunity here, as water-soluable PVA is potentially a nicer solution than the stuff HP/Stratasys uses which needs a toxic looking cleaning agent.
    Otherwise, the new Replicator is just another printer, like so many others out there, that is (less and less) affordable, but still no real competition to the industrial printers on the market.

    And, I really hope that the new software has ToM support soon, and that it works better than ReplicatorG…

  • Layer_Pilot
    September 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Every emerging technology goes through a phase where the focus is all about the technology and the people who are creating it. Bit that is never the end game. When we as hackers and coders think We are the IT, we have lost perspective and focus. Do you think the vast majority of people who post pictures to Facebook know or care if it has been coded in Javascript or its backend is Hadoop? No. they just want the benefit of the technology. I think that is Bre’s epiphany.

    Bre has been crystal clear that MB’s vision is to get these tools into the hands of people who want to make things, not necessarily diddle with their 3D printer to get it to function. The RepRap movement is well launched and their are tons of hackable machines by which those whose vision is to create a self replicating device can continue to hack. You want to spend hours to get the satisfaction of getting a part out – go buy a Solidoodle and get PLA to print well. Or Support Rostock and see if you can produce 1 micron layers with that big head flying around. All worthy efforts. All there for your personal pleasure.

    But for the maybe 50,000 in the world who want to do that, there are millions who just want to design parts and reliably print them without headaches. That is the future of this technology.

    Folks want to imply that MB has been forced to some dark side by virtue of taking a small investment. Perhaps it is Bre’s own desire to scale a big business, manufacture in the US and maybe help lead a new industrial age? There is nothing traitorous about that.

    The world of open source is filled with examples of contributors forking code within license guidelines to build a defensible business. There is nothing wrong with what MB is doing, particularly when the say they want to continue to share and be a part of the community. There is a rational way to sort that out.

    Those who are mournful here are not looking at the bigger picture. Replace you tears with beers and toast Makerbot’s big bold moves. It is shared success of the entire community.

    I say Bravo.

  • Domenick
    September 26, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    I think you and your team have been a great asset to this community. I just having bought a Replicator 3 months ago am sorry I didn’t procrastinate longer , I would have gotten the Rep 2. On the bright side I have learned a lot in the past 8 months about 3D printing and it has been totally because of you. My plan is to “make” enough stuff to buy a Rep 2, watch you grow, and hopefully see Makerbot become the next Apple. Good luck and keep being awsome.

  • Herman Darr, III
    September 26, 2012 at 6:03 pm

    Bre, the haters will hate…people will always pick sides….when your company makes that billion dollars, you will have the last laugh…if i ever come into a wad of cash…first thing i will buy is a rep2…good luck to you and your company

  • Anonymous
    September 26, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Might as well give in to 3D Systems. Their Cube 3d printer was a flop maybe they can sell some replicators instead.

  • Mårten
    September 26, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Bre, I think you are missing the point.

    It is great that you provide a high quality 3d-printer that work out of the box to all those who do not want to ‘break and hack’ their machine, but that is not a reason to go closed source.

    You built your machine based on RepRap technology and created a company around it and its community. MBI promised to be an open source hardware company. People have supported you and been loyal customers to you because of that and a lot of that trust has gone into your brand. Now that you are ‘on top’ you suddenly decide to do an 180 degree turn and go closed source, taking advantage of your now strong brand and even patenting (!?) some of the technology coming out of the community. Personally I believe it is a bad business decision as well since you just removed the extra value that made your 3d printer superior from all the other ‘RepRap mods’ out there. Now you just told your supporters and customers that they are not important anyway since you are going to make millions selling to all the people who do not care. Well, good luck with that.

  • Jack
    September 26, 2012 at 11:44 pm

    Timothy: “Jack, on one side I have Bre Pettis telling me OSHW Is impractical for large buisenesses and on the other hand I have you saying that anything more’middle ground’ than full open source is impractical”

    Ok, in the first place Bre never said that. Bre said it was impractical for HIM to open-source the entirety of HIS business. At least, that’s what I took away from it.

    2nd, that’s not what I said either. What I said was that the ‘middle ground’ was impractical. Releasing as pure NC is quite practical and has all the benefits you say it does, but it’s not ‘open source’. It’s also possible to release some of your stuff for commercial use and keep some of it NC. That’s not the middle ground I was talking about.

    Open Source” means you can do _anything_ you want with it, provided you follow the other terms of the license (such as attribution). “Anything” includes reselling it, or using it as the basis for a commercial product (which may have to be open source as well, per the license). This is the point I’ve been trying to make. You can release it NC, but you cannot (should not) call it ‘open source’, because it’s not completely open.

  • Chico Arraes
    October 1, 2012 at 7:30 am

    Makerbot was an inspiration to me. If I ever wanted to make a 3d printer, I would try the Reprap project, but if I was ever gonna buy a 3d printer, it would have been a Makerbot. Not anymore.

    Now I have no reason not to look at the commercial competition before buying a 3d printer. In fact, I may look for anything but a Replicator 2 from now on.

    Keeping it open has nothing to do with making something that has to be assembled. And closing it has nothing to do with making something that works out of the box.

    I don’t use free software because I hack everything a run on my computer, or because I need to compile every line of code. I run free software because it’s free and that makes me free for using it and it makes me part of an inclusive community. That used to be true about Makerbot. Not anymore.

  • C. MacKenzie
    October 2, 2012 at 12:56 am

    I am a hacker by nature…but also a businessman. It is sooo frustrating to take the time to design and build a good product, then to have someone else copy what you did with little effort. So I understand your decision 100% and first hand.

    The winers need to understand spending countless hours perfecting something so someone else can copy it and make it cheaper. Then their customers come to me for help. lol. no way.

    It’s unfortunate, I share some of my IP, but I would share more if there weren’t so many bad apples out there. The right competition forms a chorus, pushing the tech in the same direction together as one…then there are the street peddlers selling knock-offs.

    To be honest I wasn’t interested in the older wooden models, not pro enough. Now the Replicator 2 is just sweet, hehe…so I’m pushing the trigger as soon as you release the 2X with the double head extruder!

  • The Open Hardware Summit: The Future of Manufacturing is Sharing | GeekMom |
    October 3, 2012 at 7:31 am

    […] co-founder of MakerBot Industries, may have been the most anticipated speaker of the day, given the past week’s controversy over the Replicator 2. He answered to that, then put up a slide that said, “Enough drama, let’s talk about […]

  • MO
    October 3, 2012 at 12:12 pm



    Open Source Ethics and Dead End Derivatives

    Posted by Bre Pettis on Thursday, March 25, 2010 in MakerBot News

    Open Source Hardware is hardware that has an open license. You can copy it, develop it, and even sell it yourself. You must provide attribution to the designer and you must also release the derivative source files under the same license. This applies even if you use a proprietary program for your designs.
    Sometimes an individual or a company makes a derivative of an open source project, goes to market with it and then doesn’t share their derivative designs with their changes. This is not only against the license, but it’s also not ethical. It is a dead end for the innovation and development which is the heart of the open source hardware community.
    Right now there are some folks on the RepRap forums that are selling a derivative of our electronics. They’ve stated that they’ve modified our designs to make them more compact. There is absolutely nothing wrong with creating a derivative and selling it as long as you provide the source files.
    The problem is that they have not published their source files. They have promised to publish a PDF of a picture of the boards, which isn’t sufficient and that promise was made a while ago. If you modify an open source design, you are required to release your source files. If you believe in the power of open source and community innovation, you’ll release them in the preferred format for modification. A PDF of the boards is not a format that invites modification. Although gerber files, which are the files generated for manufacturing electronics, aren’t easy for the community to build on, they would have shown the community what changed and been a step towards sharing source files.
    What would have been awesome is if they had used our designs, improved on them, and then published their source files. Just copying the design doesn’t bring much innovation to the community and it’s not the classiest move, but it’s within the license for anyone to copy us and manufacture identical boards. If they were to share the design files, we could see what they did to make them so tiny and the community could learn from that. Not only does this impact us financially, but most importantly it slows innovation within the community and sets a bad example for all.
    It’s theoretically possible that they have released their source files and I couldn’t find them. If they exist, please comment below so that if we are wrong, we can get the story straight!
    At MakerBot, we take open source seriously. It’s a way of life for us. We share our design files when we release a project because we know that it’s important for our users to know that a MakerBot is not a black box. With MakerBot, you get not only a machine that makes things for you, but you also get an education into how the machine works and you can truly own it and have access to all the designs that went into it! When people take designs that are open and they close them, they are creating a dead end where people will not be able to understand their machines and they will not be able to develop on them.
    Open source hardware relies on ethics to work. It’s possible to legally chase down folks who break the terms of a license but in most cases the community will usually take care of it by confronting derivatives and not buying from individuals and companies that are building on others work and not releasing their source. I wish there was a public service announcement that would let people who are buying open source electronics to make sure that the design files have been published.
    The door is still open for them to make this right. From the tone of their forum post, they are having trouble posting their files, which is something that should have been done before they started selling their derivative electronics kits. We invite them to send us an email at contact(*at*)makerbot(*dot*)com with their derivative files and we’ll publish them. If we have any updates, we’ll post them here.
    Got an opinion? We’d love to hear it in the comments!

  • thelonely island
    October 3, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    A poser tried to sell me a filament printer
    I said, what would i want to print a filament for?
    I threw it on the ground!
    Im not a part of this system!

  • Kendall
    October 4, 2012 at 12:18 am

    “We share our design files when we release a project because we know that it’s important for our users to know that a MakerBot is not a black box.” Isn’t the replicator a black box?

  • Condescent Greedy Person
    October 5, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Short and to the point: Greedy beats everything again!

  • Mike
    October 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    It’s acceptable to say, “This is close source because we can’t make money any other way.” It is not acceptable to say something is open source when it’s not. Opensource allows and encourages copying, modification, and redistribution.

  • Eric L.
    October 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I have an extensive background in programming and hardware hacking, but by my nature and college major, I am a designer, artist and fabricator. I’ve built hot rods, motorized bicycles, all kinds of things. I’ve hacked game consoles and wrote my own ROMS for them, but when it comes to makerbots and similar technology, up until recently, I haven’t seen 3D printing technology being viable for the mainstream. Nevertheless, I’ve found it fascinating, if not reliable for under 20K.

    I am in the process of going into business for myself, starting a print shop. MB has been in the news a lot lately, and I finally decided to dive into a purchase from them. Opening a brick-and mortar storefront, and running Replicator 2’s all day long is a good way to show they are reliable and consistent. It sort of inspired me to take the plunge myself and start my business. I’m certain they will continue to support the open-source community in some capacity, but they have to meet the needs of consumers to turn a profit and expand; It’s a double-edged sword. The technician in me may not like this, but the designer and artist in me can appreciate a machine like this.

    I just ordered a Replicator 2 last week, and I can’t wait until mid-November to start making things with it. I’m still working up the nerve to drop the $5000+ on an HP Designjet for my business. It will happen, but honestly, the price of the Replicator 2 was an easier pill to swallow.

  • Henry Thomas
    October 13, 2012 at 1:29 am

    I just want to say that I fully support Bre and the direction Makerbot is heading. I have been an open source advocate, contributor and developer since 1994 – mostly under BSD style licensing. I worked in Silicon Valley high tech start-ups for 8 years during the dot-com boom blah blah blah.. so I speak form experience, having a promising business go bust is no fun all. It is a real challenge to remain open in the solutions you provide to individual users while protecting your business from mooching competitors who benefit from your source while not contributing to it.

    Bre I am really impressed by what you and your crew have pulled off in the last few years. I have followed your progress with interest. However in my personal life I have moved on from my hacking days. I now spend weekends with my young family, or out cycling or windsurfing and have no desire to tinker for long hours on my own in my shed. That’s partly because I now have my dream job – being paid to work full time as a new product inventor/designer. Essentially I am exactly the person I believe you are trying to market to now with the Replicator 2.

    Back in early 1986 one of my mates at Uni sold his car to purchase one of the first Apple laser printers shortly after they were announced as having 300dpi resolution. He started a desktop publishing business and 6 months later bought a new, much better, car! The minute I read your announcement that you had achieved something close to 0.01mm accuracy in your new 3D printer, I made a similar decision and I ordered the Replicator 2 from your website – even though I live all the way down here in a small regional town in Australia. I am not sure I can even fully justify in my mind why I need one, because I already have a very capable lathe and milling machine in my shop. But it just seemed like a good idea at the time 😉 and I had some spare cash burning a hole in my pocket.

    So to counter your recent critics, the fact that Makerbot has a this new robust and precise 3D printing platform using renewable/biodegradable plastics, a good reputation for support and a compelling value proposition that is affordable sealed the deal for me. Your open source heritage matters to me from the perspective that I would rather pay a little extra and purchase from Makerbot than a completely closed and unsupported knock-off. But I want a professional solution, not a box of bits. This is not so much that I am too time poor to make my own – rather I now prefer to spend my time doing other things that are more important to me.

    Overall what matters most is that your business continues to be successful and prosperous for years to come. As I said at the start, having a promising business that goes bust is no fun all. You have employees, they have families that depend on you, you also have investors that have taken a chance and invested in your vision of the future. If Makerbot doesn’t grow into a professional sustainable business, some other well financed competitor will enter this space and dominate it anyway – and they won’t be opensource either. So do what you think you need to do to continue innovating and providing us these great products.

    Well done and wishing you and your team the greatest success on this journey – I can’t wait to get my new Replicator 2!

  • alex
    January 11, 2013 at 10:55 am

    It is acceptable that Bred make this decision. But, the replicator 2 i bought is not performed very well. While, i had spent more time on the extruder. To pay for 2.8k but without fully support i felt disappointed. More and more people is going to complain about the business in the forum. However, i hope this problem can be solved by Bred ASAP. GOOD LUCK in you business..

  • north carolina printing
    May 20, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    Awesome post. Very well said. Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.


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