Perhaps it is not right to compare Bre Pettis with Steve Jobs, but one thing is certain: MakerBot’s star is very much in the ascendant. Stratasys has purchased the Brooklyn 3D printing start-up to the tune of $400 million (USD) in shares. The news was issued on the 19th of June, with details available on Businesswire. The two brands, now sharing the market, will continue to exist as separate entities. And so the digital manufacturing industry has gained a business side.
The geek aura that CEO Bre Pettis infused into Makerbot has had to make compromises with the rules of the market. Perhaps the story of 3D printers made in Brooklyn has unfolded much as expected from the start. If you transform your idea into a product, you must be prepared to play on a different level from the strictly Open Source communities. And already people like John Biggs, East Coast editor of TechCrunch, have seen this choice and defined MakerBot as the new Apple.
The Brooklyn start-up’s numbers are quite different from Steve Jobs’ Apple, but in the 3D printing sector, they are truly impressive: from 2009 to today, MarkerBot has sold over 22000 printers, of which half are the Replicator 2 model, which was only launched just over nine months ago. In practice, Pettis’ baby is conquering the consumer market sector that, until now, Stratasys, with its industrial products costing $10000+ had never considered entering.
The decision to distance MakerBot from the Open Source movement has often been criticised, particularly by one of its founders, Zachary Smith, but those who approach the world of makers from outside, these are only minor details. What matters most, according to Biggs, is that, thanks to Pettis’ decisions, 3D printers are becoming more and more user-friendly:
“MakerBot took something simple and made it amazing. They sold when they had to, especially considering issues with quality control and support, and I trust Pettis will bring the open-source ethos to Stratasys headquarters and tell them it’s off limits. 3D printing isn’t new, just as computing wasn’t new when Apple hit the scene. MakerBot, like Apple, made it accessible.”
MakerBot has a number of tricky issues ahead of it: becoming a successful business will reinforce its identity on the market. This is an advantage that may cause it to lose its credibility within the Open Source community. But it is impossible to please everyone. Take a look at the 20th June press conference video and tell us what you think. Whose side are you on?