• EEVblog #198 – Makerbot Venture Capital Funding

    Dave gets out of the lab for some fresh air, and a think about what the Makerbot $10M venture capital funding might mean.

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      • I just really hope they won’t close stuff. (I mean source-wise.)

        • JRR

          @László Monda – they’ll have a tough time doing so, given that the entire thing is currently using a license that requires sharing of derivative works. They’d have to do a full redesign of everything.
          And even if they did, the RepRap community will always be open, and right now almost every component is swappable between a RepRap printer and a MakerBot printer – owners of each frequently buy parts from the other to use on their printers. Any improvements made in the Makerbot will be quickly picked up by the RepRap community.

      • fco

        there’s a direct precedent, look what happened to bitsfrombytes.

      • mk

        ..except bitsfrombytes was never an open source outlet. They did ship a lasercut version of the RepRap Darwin and had to make the cartesian frame open source due to the Darwin license. Otoh, they used proprietary electronics and software all the way.

        -> the Makerbot culture and bitsfrombytes culture is not comparable IMO.

      • JRR

        3D printers can definitely benefit from commercialization. The electronics package for a MakerBot or RepRap right now costs about $200, and there’s really no reason it should cost that much. It’s an AVR processor, FTDI USB interface, 4 microstepping motor controllers, 2 high current heater drivers and a couple of thermistor inputs. Seriously, that should be $50.

        There are a few other roadblocks right now in the way of grandma being able to buy a printer and print out cat figurines. The hotend nozzles tend to clog up, for one. The software needs work but that’s mainly because right now every printer is different; standardization can fix that. There’s a complex software chain involved but again, that’s because hobbyists don’t mind (and to some extent actually revel in complexity, or at least the control they get by picking separate software for every little step along the way). There’s no real reason why there can’t be a single app that takes a variety of 3D modelling file types and just prints them.

        I’m actually just getting into 3D printing with a RepRap Mendel. The RepRap project is as much a social idea as a technological one; they want to bring the ability to make stuff to everyone regardless of how much money they have. They are pushing PLA plastic because theoretically it can be made from any starchy plant material even in the middle of the bush.

        But right now it’s not really possible to build a printer for less than about $400 no matter how many corners you cut, because the electronics are $200, the motors, even used, are another $40 or so, the hot end and extruder can be built from trash but those extruders are typically very trouble prone, it’s $150 for an actually reliable extruder/hotend combo, and you need a hefty 12v power supply.

        • Zimbo

          > 3D printers can definitely benefit from commercialization. The electronics package for a MakerBot or RepRap right now costs about $200, and there’s really no reason it should cost that much. It’s an AVR processor, FTDI USB interface, 4 microstepping motor controllers, 2 high current heater drivers and a couple of thermistor inputs. Seriously, that should be $50.

          Have you tried to source all those components — as well as the contract manufacturing for the control boards, mind you — in the quantities of, say, 10 to 100 units at a time?

          I think you’ll find that $200 is really quite reasonable.

          Now, if we’re talking 1,000 or 10,000 units at a time, then I’d agree with you — $50 starts to sound more like it.

          Getting past the “10-100 units at a time” market to “1000-10000” is actually one of the hardest parts of developing a small business: In small-scale operation, often someone is just donating their time to the business and still has a day job, whereas if anything prices actually get more expensive for awhile at the point that you need to pay someone else (or yourself) *for their time* but haven’t yet become so successful that you really recognize economies of scale.

          I.e., if you’re only selling 1000 widgets per year, you have to add $50 to the price of each one to pay yourself $50k/year. Unless your day job pays less than about $35k/year, you simply can’t quit your job and run the business full-time unless you’re willing to take a pay cut! (…since a $35k job typically has benefits and employment taxes already paid to the level of being at least $50k in total compensation).

      • bruno


        A quick note on Dave’s comment about a cheap-ish 3d printer; on already exists, called the SUMPOD (named after its creator, Richard Sum): http://www.sumpod.com

        It first showed up on Reprap’s forums, as he was trying to create a 3d printer for about 300gbp. Its current price points are:

        Plus $60 or $120 for shipping, UK or World, respectively.

        Not bad, i would say. And in the future it will have a sd card reader for standalone operation and a dremel mill thingie.

        (Mind you, i have no association with the dude, the sumpod, or anything.)

      • Zac Bailey

        I’ve been thinking about these bots for a while. The thing is what I’ll do with them? I can replace some rocker switches in my cars, and make a few plastic tools, but what else?!?!

        How durable are they? How strong?!? These are the questions I come back to!

        In the end the question is what can I replace cheaper or more effectively than a factory part?

        I’m a Hobbiest with questions!

      • Drone

        These open-source 3D printers I’ve looked at are Waaay over-priced!

        That doesn’t mean you can’t sell disruptive open-sourced products that are affordable too – you just have to keep your greed in-check.

        Take a look at the Rasberry-Pi Linux board for example of an open-source product that’s being done right (IMO).


        As for Venture Capital… It has it’s place. But be careful who you allow to become your Task Master! The VC Boys can be brutal; especially when things take a bad turn.

        For venture funding, look at home first to your local and state Government. Often you can find funding there with the only strings attached being that you keep the business in the region, hire locals, and use a certain percentage of in-country goods in your product. In the U.S., (rightfully or wrongly) this is especially true if you are a Minority or Woman-owned business.

      • Brian

        Since it is currently open source, why can’t we just fork it? That is if they close it because of profit with VC just continue making community improvements to the old design?

      • The bit of video where you were wobbling around on that springy seat thing was hilarious. How you manage to keep talking coherently while doing that I’ll never know.

        Funny. I’ll have to go back and listen to it again just to pay attention to what you were actually saying 😀

      • Machina

        It will be interesting to see in the future how this technology evolves.

        Who knows, in 30 years perhaps companies will develop and sell manufacturing programs which people will purchase and download into their home manufacturing unit (right beside the washing machine) or have produced at the local manufacturing hut.

      • Luis

        It is possible to design to cost even less.
        All the electronic kit can be replaced with a microcontrol and a PCB with some other resistors, gates, PLD, etc.
        Because i think all the modules that companies sell are very expensive if you can make the module.

        If you design the software that control the position to adapt to other types of motor, you can make the same with other cheap motor. I make an experience with a motor AC, with a software i change the speed and direction like a step motor.
        With others gears it is possible to amplify the strength, reduce the angle. You don’t need 1.8º step motor if you have a good sofware. And you can check the position with sensors.

        I don’t know what they are see with this. they want money from this?

        i think all the sofware must be make from scratch to do it with others configurations, because i download the sofware for PIC(i can work with PIC) and it have only the hex file. I can’t see how it works to modify or pick some parts for others projects.

      • Luis

        i write again to say that i now i can work with that open source. I didn’t know before because i see only the final code, and that is the PIC code only. I need to see how the code work from the start: The Gcode and the 3D image file.
        I’m lobbyist, sorry about my noob knowledge.

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