MakerBot, the Brooklyn-based (and Brooklyn-proud) creator of desktop 3D printers, cut the red ribbon on its new 55,000-square-foot facility in the waterfront-abutting neighborhood of Sunset Park on June 7.
It's a new factory inside an old factory. Or, as founder Bre Pettis said, before cutting the ribbon with a giant pair of MakerBot-made scissors, "It's a factory that makes small factories."
The wide-open layout has two walls of classic factory windows, a freshly painted gray cement floor sending a scent of newness into the air, sneakers squeaking over the light thrum of active printers, and a young, T-shirt-wearing workforce that makes the whole place seem like a well-funded high-school science fair.
"We're really at the beginning of the next industrial revolution," said a delighted Pettis.
"Every box that we ship out of here is a bundle of potential energy that has the potential to ... push the world in a direction where it's more creative, people are more empowered and the world is better," said Pettis. "It used to be that when you had an idea, you had to have access to a tycoon."
Today, a person with an idea, and less than $3,000, can execute on a vision, share it and perfect it. Prototypes that typically took months to make can now be created in a few hours.
"That just changes the game," said Pettis. "This is a digital manufacturing education in a box."
Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn's colorful borough president—known for, among other things, installing signs at Brooklyn's edges that say things like, "Leaving Brooklyn? Oy vey!"—also beamed from a makeshift stage.
"The world's changing, and [MakerBot] represents where the world is going," said Markowitz. "The future is right here."
Pettis and his staff wouldn't comment on rumors that MakerBot may soon be acquired—"I can't comment on speculation," said Pettis—or on how many printers it's shipping a day.
Diana Pincus, a senior manufacturing process engineer, offered, "What we can say is, we cannot keep up with demand."
The Future of 3D Printing
Lux Research has forecast that 3D printing could rise from 2012's $777 million to an $8.4 billion industry by 2025.
Gartner analyst Pete Basiliere has called 3D printing a democratizer of manufacturing.
"We see 3D printing as a tool for empowerment, already enabling life-changing parts and products to be built in struggling countries [and] helping rebuild crisis-hit areas," Basiliere said in a March statement introducing a new report on how the technology is disrupting business and creating new opportunities.