Apr 26, 2016 | By Andre

In the early years desktop 3D printing, Makerbot Industries was seen as a beacon of strength to both the open-source maker community and promoters of local manufacturing. Co-founder and former Makerbot CEO Bre Pettis preached a philosophy that design schematics and manufacturing blueprints should be shared and modified freely within the maker community. But then, with the release of the Replicator 2 3D printer in 2012 that all changed. They were closing source, citing copycat overseas manufacturers infringing on their ability to grow as a company and ultimately the necessity to compensate their hard-working employees.

While this closure angered much of the maker community, an opening of another kind delighted advocates committed to the Made in America manufacturing principles. The company was expanding and in 2013 they announced a 50,000 square foot factory in the Sunset park district of Brooklyn New York and then two years later a massive 170,000 square foot production space. Then CEO Bre Pettis was cited as saying “it’s important to celebrate the last ten years and it is exciting to be launching new initiatives and opportunities for Brooklyn to thrive so we can add more jobs and opportunities for Brooklyners to make it in Brooklyn.”

Unfortunately, less than a year later and on the heels of an overzealous acquisition by Stratasys, falling stock prices and across-the-board company layoffs, that once enthusiastic tone for local manufacture quickly started to wane.

Makerbot has just made it official that the company will be outsourcing the production of its Replicator series of 3D printers to overseas facilities and closing its Brooklyn production space.

US based design and manufacturing solutions provider Jabil has been announced as their partner during this transition in manufacturing. In the company’s announcement memo, current Makerbot CEO Jonathan Jaglom writes that “working with Jabil will position us to better manage the rapid change in our industry and reduce our manufacturing costs to compete more effectively in a global marketplace. We expect that adopting a flexible manufacturing model will allow us to quickly scale production up or down based on market demands, without the fixed costs associated with maintaining a factory in New York City.”

While no concrete dates are set, the move to an overseas production facility will take place in the coming months and further layoffs are scheduled in the process.

In many ways, the writing was on the walls for years now, and while the closure is a shame in many regards, the company pushed long and hard for local manufacture while staying competitive in the fast-growing 3D printer space for quite some time. And while the idealist in me is saddened by the news, I can’t help but understand it.

Jaglom continued that, “we’ve done a lot of great things here in Brooklyn, but we are really following a global trend, which has been around for many years now, whereby we’re stepping away from manufacturing in Brooklyn.”

As a company (or, at least a subsidiary of a company), Makerbot will continue to be headquartered in New York from a product development and growth strategy perspective. Jaglom states that “our DNA and our culture very much remains a Brooklyn one, we’re very proud to be here in Brooklyn.”

From a personal perspective, I’ve been using Makerbot 3D printers for years, I’ve visited their headquarters in New York and have always kept positive relations with some of its staff. This shift, while disheartening, does allow for a competitive edge while still maintaining a leadership role in the consumer grade desktop 3D printing space (even while their badly received 5th generation line of 3D printers still run the show). I can only be optimistic that moves such as this will not be part of a decline in the consumer 3D printing space but instead, as the company hopes, a necessary step to remain lean, competitive and innovative for years to come.



Posted in 3D Printer Company



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Jason wrote at 4/27/2016 1:58:43 AM:

Makerbot needs to just be shut down, anyone who has bought one of their printers, and has owned other brands to compare it to, knows how horribely overhyped and under supported makerbot products are, and honestly they have done more harm than good to the printing community in the last couple years (with the exception of thingiverse)

crank wrote at 4/26/2016 8:30:01 PM:

KARMA!!!!!!!!! While I hate to see US production shift overseas with any product, a part of me finds it satisfying that this is another nail in the coffin of Makerbot. When they built their products and brand on the sweat and labor of the community and for them to simply turn their backs on the very community was the beginning of the end. They forgot what made them great..... I have no love for Makerbot or Bre Pettis. He fleeced the community and Stratasys for his fortune.

Peeved wrote at 4/26/2016 5:43:28 PM:

Holy COW! Makerbot is choosing their needs over that of the customer. Who would have thought it possible?

Andreas wrote at 4/26/2016 5:25:26 PM:

As an early supporter of the open source Makerbot movement (owner of a CupCake CNC) i get a feeling that they really screwed up on too many fronts now to stay ahead of the game. Innovation from Makerbot is basically on a stand still since they have cut the community off. Mechanical/electrical/electronics/software engineering are all subpar compared to a lot of new (and older) competitors. QA, product design and support are still stuck in low gear. Only the prices seem to have climbed on a steady pace over the years... Now, they want to shift production overseas? That could very well be the killing blow to Makerbot then, because enshuring product quality in a supply chain like that is at least 2X as difficult now, and quality was not really a forte of MB before. Well, congratz to Stratasys for effectively buying and then crushing a competitor out of the market.

Erickson wrote at 4/26/2016 4:24:21 PM:

I knew Stratasys would get tired of Shillbot sooner or later. Headquarters in NY will essentially mean a part-time sales office run by two guys. Happy trails.

Jonas wrote at 4/26/2016 2:42:53 PM:

As far as I know, Makerbot was producing at least some of the Replicator 2 and 2x at the Flextronics Aguascalientes, Mexico plant. I don't know if they were only testing Flextronics, but I know first hand they produced machines here were I live.

Gumby wrote at 4/26/2016 10:44:51 AM:

If they hadn't screwed the very community that gave them their start this maybe a different story. As it is, Karma's a bitch.

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