MakerBot 3D Printers Enable SMBs, Designers to Make the Future, Now

By Michelle Maisto  |  Posted 2013-06-11 Print this article Print

The 3D printing market is expected to reach $3.1 billion by 2016. In Brooklyn, N.Y., fast-growing startup MakerBot is helping to fuel that growth. On June 7, the company cut the ribbon on a 55,000-square-foot facility, where a young workforce, approximately 100 strong, builds, tests, boxes and ships MakerBot's three models of desktop Replicator 3D printers. (Later this year, it will also sell the Digitizer 3D Scanner it showed off at the South By Southwest show in March.) Co-founder Bre Pettis, who describes himself as "a tinkerer, not an engineer," said the world is "at the beginning of the next industrial revolution." It's a revolution that small businesses and individuals have a hand in. While 3D printers were traditionally a six-figure purchase, MakerBot's models are priced between $2,000 and $2,800. Having an in-house printer also dramatically reduces the time window between prototypes from months to hours. "That just changes the game entirely," said Pettis.

  • MakerBot 3D Printers Enable SMBs, Designers to Make the Future, Now

    by Michelle Maisto
    1 - MakerBot 3D Printers Enable SMBs, Designers to Make the Future, Now
  • MakerBot's New Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Factory

    MakerBot's young, T-shirt-wearing staff makes the workroom of its new Brooklyn factory—which still smells of fresh paint—seem like the greatest-ever high-school science team production. The factory employs approximately 100 people.
    2 - MakerBot's New Sunset Park, Brooklyn, Factory
  • A Willy Wonka Factory for Adults

    In one particularly colorful corner, products—offering a sense of what's possible—are made for the MakerBot retail store. The orange, white, green and yellow pieces on top of the printer in the foreground are called "corner mounts" and are included with each printer. They help secure the machines during shipment, but also add a bit of joy—purchasers receive not just a printer but something already printed.
    3 - A Willy Wonka Factory for Adults
  • MakerBot Filament

    The colorful spools are the filament that's fed into the printers. MakerBot also sells the filament. Spools of ABS, a thermoplastic made from corn, sell for $48. Spools of water-soluble PVA are $90. Like the rest of MakerBot, the filament is made in the United States.
    4 - MakerBot Filament
  • Bendy Men and 3D Mix Tapes

    The "Mix Tape" in the background is a working MP3 player.
    5 - Bendy Men and 3D Mix Tapes
  • The Factory Floor

    The factory floor is divided into sections. Everyone who works at the factory starts here, in subassembly, getting a bottom-to-top understanding of the printers. Pettis, who considered moving production to Asia, said he loves that every printer is made in Brooklyn, "by people who take pride in their work."
    6 - The Factory Floor
  • LED Lighting

    The LED lights inside the printers serve the practical purpose of enabling users to clearly see the printing process. But, like the corner mounts, they also add a bit of fun, lighting the stage, as it were. Each printing run "is like a little theatrical experience," said General Manager James Gunipero.
    7 - LED Lighting
  • Application Reliability Testing

    In another area, application reliability and filament feed life are tested. "If you have a camera, how many times does it click before it stops clicking? That's the kind of information we want [about the printers]," said Gunipero.
    8 - Application Reliability Testing
  • Brooklyn-Made

    MakerBot won't say how many printers it ships a day. "But you can say we can't keep up with demand," said a spokesperson.
    9 - Brooklyn-Made
  • The Infinite Factory

    "The MakerBot factory is a factory that makes small factories," said Pettis, during a brief ribbon-cutting ceremony. "Every box that we ship out of here is a bundle of potential energy that has the potential to change the world, to shift the world in a direction where it's more creative, people are more empowered and the world is better."
    10 - The Infinite Factory
  • 'This is the Future.'

    Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and a representative from Mayor Bloomberg's office were on hand to help cut the ribbon—using scissors made by MakerBot, of course. "What I do know is this is the future," said Markowitz. "The world is changing, and [MakerBot] represents where the world is going."
    11 - 'This is the Future.'
  • Revitalizing Manufacturing, and New York

    During the event, a tropical storm lashed at the factory, which is on a gritty Western edge of Brooklyn. Zoning wasn't an issue, since the new factory is in what was an empty factory building. "This is not just the future of manufacturing, but the future of New York City's economy," said Bloomberg's representative. "New York City is on its way to becoming the No. 1 technology city in the world."
    12 - Revitalizing Manufacturing, and New York
  • The MakerBot Way

    Pettis said that for tinkerers, who are people who like to go to hardware stores, MakerBot is a "holy grail." His favorite inventions are the RoboHand—an inexpensive prosthetic—and an adapter that makes it possible to connect Brio's train track toys with Lego Duplo bricks. Both are on MakerBot's Thingiverse site, where inventors share their designs.
    13 - The MakerBot Way
  • Bre Pettis

    Pettis dismissed a question about where the market will be in five years, saying that MakerBot is launching its 3D scanner later this year. "And then it's game on," he grinned. "You want to know where your industry will be in five years? Make it happen right now."
    14 - Bre Pettis

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