Sep.21, 2012

Makerbot Industries launched the Replicator 2 and received many positive responses. The Replicator 2 has a layer resolution of 100µ (0.0039 in) and offers a build envelope of 11.2 x 6.0 x 6.1 in. (28.5 x 15.3 x 15.5 cm) which are comparable to professional desktop 3D printers. However among all the positive voices, we see also angers.

That's because, Replicator 2 is rumored to go closed sourced.

Josef Prusa, creator of Prusa Mendel, probably the most wide spread 3D printer, raised the issue in his blog, "Makerbot turned closed source, or at least all the signals lead to it.". Makerbot is based on RepRap, and started by one of the RepRap core developers, Zach Smith, Bre Pettis and Adam Mayer. Adrian Bowyer, founder of the RepRap Project, also funded the start-up.

Makerbot has their open source roots. But it seems Replicator 2 will be closed-source Replicator 2. In his letter to Bre Pettis, Prusa asked, "we know each other for some time. I want to ask you about the Replicator 2, and if it's closed source? If so, then why?"

Bre Pettis, co-founder and CEO of Makerbot Industries, made a statement in their latest blog, "There is some misinformation that I'd like to clear up."

We're working that out and we are going to be as open as we possibly can while building a sustainable business. We are going to continue to respect licenses and continue to contribute to the open technology of 3D printing, some of which we initiated. We don't want to abuse the goodwill and support of our community.

Maybe they can make it clear at the World Maker Faire next week. Bre Pettis will be speaking at the Open Source Hardware Association conference next week - "Challenges of Open Source Consumer Products."

As Bre mentioned, they have the pressures, the need to be profitable and "support it's 150 employees with jobs, make awesome hardware, and be sustainable".

We'll have to wait to see what parts will be in the open source. Obviously Makerbot needs to take more careful steps in handling the transition from open to closed hardware.

Rob Giseburt posted this to the Make blog:

MakerBot is obviously creating with a much more complex device, with equally more complex supply-chain issues and tech support overhead. There is no doubt a need to remain competitive and profitable. After all, they have to be able to afford to put food on the employees' tables along with continuing R&D to stay ahead of the competition. These are very real problems that have complex solutions.


But it doesn't appear that being closed source and using patents and licensing will free any company from competitors, but instead will only open them to a different form of competitors. A form of competitor that really, truly is only there for the profit, and doesn't have the ethics of open and community driven innovation.


And, after all, the target market of MakerBot, along with many open source hardware companies, is the full spectrum of makers. Not just makers of competing 3D printers, but makers of all sorts: artists, industrial designers, engineers, high-school teachers, biology professors, electrical engineers, architects, etc. Makers don't want black-box trinkets. They want something that, if they want to open it up and learn how it works, they can. They can also, as Massimo Banzi said, scratch their own itch and solve whatever problem they are having, furthering the technology for the entire community.

Is it fine for you that Makerbot's 3D printers being closed source? Or, can we assume that we could finally get a 3D printer with enough support, proper service and warranty? And when a part or machine is broken we could get replacement or refund?



Posted in 3D Printers




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