Like virtually all of our readers, I have purchased and used a lot of proprietary software for a long time. I am also a fan and proponent of the open software and hardware movement. Here, I’ll touch on open source hardware and focus on open source software.
One of the things I really like about source software and hardware is that it is about working not with just technology, but people. Also, the open source software and hardware sectors are growing. Open source software is not driven by corporate budgets, but by people fulfilling a need and software development and use freedom. My open source experience has also taught me that the currency of open source is not necessarily money, but more likely, beer and T-shirts. (more…)
This week MakerBot announced that it had sold more than 100,000 3D printers worldwide. The company said it was able to reach this milestone (as the first 3D printer company to do it) by providing an accessible, affordable, and easy-to-use 3D printing experience.
“Being the first company to have sold 100,000 3D printers is a major milestone for MakerBot and the entire industry,” said Jonathan Jaglom, CEO at MakerBot. “MakerBot has made 3D printing more accessible and today is empowering businesses and educators to redefine what’s possible. What was once a product used only by makers and hobbyists has matured significantly and become an indispensible tool that is changing the way students learn and businesses innovate.”
MakerBot was one of the first companies to make 3D printing accessible and affordable. Since its founding in 2009, MakerBot has pushed 3D printing and has introduced many industry firsts. Thingiverse was the first platform where anyone could share 3D designs and launched even before MakerBot was founded. In 2009, MakerBot introduced its first 3D printer, the Cupcake CNC, at SXSW. In 2010, MakerBot became the first company to present a 3D printer at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Now, 3D printing is its own category at CES with a myriad of 3D printing companies from around the world in attendance each year.
As a first-year Denver Math Fellow (I assist math teachers and tutor in small groups), last week I was give a reprieve from my daily grind of lesson plans and teaching by participating in what my school calls Explore Week. This is a week where I was partnered with a teacher, chose a topic to explore with students, made a video promoting our explore class, and had students sign up to join us.
The topic my teaching partner and I decided on was “Creating Furniture Using Non-Traditional Methods and Materials.” Our course included designing and creating furniture models from cardboard, as well as 3D printing simple models. It was a lot of fun, and as I said, a nice change of pace, not to mention I really felt I was in my comfort zone.
Explore Week was made possible by the efforts of several companies, including:
Without a doubt, one of the biggest developments in the MCAD world in the past few years has been 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing). Until relatively recently, though, the cost of the 3D printing machines was cost prohibitive for all but large companies. To a large extent, costs have been plummeting, but there are machines that cost more than a million dollars. However, that is changing with the advent of relatively low-cost desktop 3D printers.
3D printers sound cool, and to a large extent they are. But, before running out to buy one, there are a few things to keep in mind. Currently, a machine will set you back $500 to $5,000, plus $40 to $100 for a roll of plastic filament (think Weed Wacker) for producing parts. Also keep in mind that producing one small object could take hours, and end up costing much more than buying it. Don’t forget, too, that you need some technical know-how to make it all work, including how to create a solid model with a CAD tool. As I have maintained for some time, with all the online 3D printing services that are available, why buy when you can rent. Check out my blog post on this sentiment from last year entitled, “3D Printing Goes Retail: Why Buy When You Can Rent?”
That’s why I have said that the first low-cost devices were more fun than functional, and appealed to DIYers, hobbyists, and early adopters. All that is changing as the technology matures, prices come down, more materials become available, and part quality vastly improves.
As exciting as the 3D printing/additive manufacturing (AM) space has been the past several, especially the last couple, its unbridled enthusiasm and expectations couldn’t be expected to go on forever, and they’re not. Stratasys reported less than anticipated financials for Q1 2015.
All was not doom and gloom for Stratasys, however, as the financials also include the following:
Announced that Stratasys AM technologies were selected by Airbus for producing 3D printed flight parts for use in the first-of-type A350 XWB aircraft.
Announced organizational changes, including the creation of the Stratasys Strategic Consulting Division to help support customer development.
Completed the organizational integration of Solid Concepts, Harvest Technologies and RedEye Services to form Stratasys Direct Manufacturing (SDM).
Initiated a reorganization within MakerBot. This involved a sizable layoff of MakerBot employees and the closing of MakerBot retail stores. This reorganization was done to make MakerBot a better “fit” within Stratasys.
The company sold 7,536 3D printing and additive manufacturing systems during the quarter.
Stratasys Presents a 3D Printed Aircraft Interior at EuroMold 2014
Fred Fischer, Director of PolyJet and FDM Applications at Stratasys, presents an aircraft interior 3D printed using a unique combination additive manufacturing technologies. The presentation was filmed at Stratasys’ aerospace-themed booth at EuroMold 2014 in Frankfurt.
As impressive as it is, last month we gave 3D printing a bit of a dressing down based on personal experience. The blog post was a reality check and a look at the technology not through rose-colored glasses. That’s not to say, though, that 3D printing is still one of the biggest innovations on the manufacturing front, if not the biggest, in recent memory.
Even with the major advances that have transpired in 3D printing, there are still a number of skeptics who view the technology as little more than a promotional stunt or gimmick.
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2015 took place this week. It’s an annual tech festival that began in 1967 that today attracts more than 160,000 attendees checking out about 3,500 exhibitors. Over the years, some of the more significant technologies first released at CES have included:
1970 – VCR
1981 – CD player
1985 – Nintendo Entertainment System
1998 – High-definition TV
2000 – Satellite radio
2003 – Blu-Ray DVDs
2015 – 3D Printing(?)
We didn’t attend CES this year, but we have been monitoring the activities in a pavilion dedicated to innovative technologies, including 3D printing.
Along with SpaceClaim being acquired by ANSYS earlier this year, the CAD consolidation train moves to its next stop with Stratasys announcing that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire privately-held GrabCAD in an all-cash transaction.
Stratasys Ltd, of course, is one of the leading global providers of 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but is rumored to be in the $100 million range. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of September (that’s today!), subject to the fulfillment of customary closing conditions. Upon completion of the transaction, GrabCAD will operate as a unit within the Stratasys Global Products and Technology Group. Hardi Meybaum, co-founder and CEO of GrabCAD, will continue to lead GrabCAD within the group.
The company’s flagship product, GrabCAD Workbench is its cloud-based PDM for sharing and managing CAD files. The video provides a quick overview of GrabCAD Workbench.
What IS GrabCAD Workbench?
For those new to GrabCAD, it’s unique in that it’s more of a 3D CAD collaboration platform than it is a traditional CAD product. Launched earlier this, GrabCAD Workbench is a unique cloud-based collaboration hub designed to manage and share product development CAD files and other design data. In other words, a PDM system.
Founded in 2010 and led by Mr. Meybaum, a visionary entrepreneur and pioneer in 3D CAD cloud collaboration tools, GrabCAD is helping engineers get products to market faster by connecting people, content and technology. GrabCAD offers GrabCAD Workbench, a cloud-based collaboration tool that enables engineers and designers to share, view and manage CAD files and other design data. GrabCAD is also home to a community of more than 1.5 million global members who can access a large public CAD file library, as well as connect with other designers and engineers.
The acquisition should enable Stratasys to provide its customers with enhanced collaboration tools and improved accessibility relating to 3D CAD content. The addition of GrabCAD Workbench provides Stratasys with an opportunity to drive communication and collaboration throughout the 3D printing process and grow its technology solutions and user communities.
“The addition of GrabCAD provides Stratasys with a leading cloud-based collaboration platform for engineering teams to manage, share and view CAD files,” said David Reis, Stratasys Chief Executive Officer. “By increasing the collaboration and accessibility of 3D CAD files, we believe we can further accelerate the adoption of 3D printing solutions and Stratasys’ product offerings. Together with GrabCAD, we believe that we will accelerate innovation and provide increased value to a growing universe of customers seeking to utilize 3D printing solutions. We also welcome GrabCAD’s active and important community to the Stratasys family. The potential within our 3D ecosystem is very exciting.”
“GrabCAD was founded to bring the world’s engineers together and help them collaborate to bring better products to market faster,” said Hardi Meybaum, Chief Executive Officer of GrabCAD. “By joining forces with Stratasys, a global leader in 3D printing and additive manufacturing, we believe we can extend the reach of one of the most exciting and innovative design collaboration technologies available. With its broad and growing customer base and worldwide presence, Stratasys can provide more customers around the world with exciting new solutions to meet their design needs.”
Prior to the acquisition, GrabCAD had a number of relationships with CAD vendors for making it easier for users of products, such as Autodesk Fusion and Siemens Solid Edge to use the cloud-based service. It seems that the cloud-based nature of GrabCAD is what especially interested/enticed Stratasys for the acquisition.
The potential benefits are many, and through its acquisition of GrabCAD, Stratasys expects to gain:
Knowledge: With the addition of GrabCAD, Stratasys gains a team of software professionals with a deep understanding of the needs of designers and engineers.
Products: GrabCAD’s cloud-based collaboration platform, Workbench, will enable Stratasys to offer customers a solution to drive communication and ease of use throughout the design and 3D printing process. GrabCAD also provides Stratasys with the opportunity to further partner with CAD vendors and other ecosystem partners while offering innovative collaboration tools related to 3D CAD.
Community: GrabCAD has built a global, leading and fast growing community of mechanical engineers and designers, with 1.5 million users who are passionate about design. This includes a large online community of M-CAD users and a significant public online repository of free CAD files, with more than 500,000 CAD designs available for download and nearly 50,000 file downloads per day.
Last time we covered the introduction of the the MarkForged Mark One that can print parts with carbon fiber filament. This time around we’ll discuss the Stratsys Objet500 Connex3 3D printer that can produce multi-material/multi-color parts.
Before the conference officially commenced, Stratasys formally introduced its new Objet500 Connex3 3D printer. For a pre-event event, it was well attended by those interested in Stratasys’ new 3D printer.
The Objet500 Connex3 Color Multi-material 3D Printer features a unique triple-jetting technology that combines droplets of three base materials to produce parts with a myriad combinations of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials, as well as color materials — all in a single print run. This ability to achieve the characteristics of an assembled part without assembly or painting is a significant technological achievement and time-saver.
Connex3 uses a print block with eight print heads — two for each material, including supports. This technique leaves six print heads for three model materials. The print heads deposit material droplets in a pre-defined pattern to create combinations from as many as three base materials. The patterns yield digital materials that are more than just a simple blending of the base materials.
The 3D printing process and the notion of a 3D printer in every home has received a lot of attention the past few years, and sales of relatively low cost 3D printers have skyrocketed. That is, until recently. According to the Wohlers Report, sales of 3D printers started to decline last year and have continued to accelerate downward this year.
But why, for a process and capability that was supposed to be ubiquitous and necessary for every home? The machines may be relatively inexpensive, but how many parts are you truly going to want to ultimately design and produce? Then there are material, size/volume, and physical characteristic, and quality limitations. The machines can also be fickle to set up and maintain. I suspect that after an initial period of excitement and promise, a lot of early-purchase 3D printers are now sitting idle and collecting dust.
It brings to mind people who have the joy and burden of owning multiple homes. A second home may be nice, but that ends up being the only place you end up going. Most acquaintances that I have known dealing with this issue inevitably as themselves, “Why own when you can rent.” I’m starting to see this same mindset enter into the psyches of early purchasers of 3D printers.
That mindset has produced a possible opportunity for easily “renting” a 3D printer at a location as close as your local Staples or UPS store.
A few months ago, ago, office supply retail giant, Staples, announced that they had opened their first 3D printing “Experience Centre” in the Netherlands. Staples selected Mcor’s paper-based Selective Deposition Lamination (SDL) 3D printing technology, exclusively for this service, citing Mcor’s relative low cost and color capability.
This announcement followed Staples’ announcement last November that they were launching “Easy 3D,” an online and in-store 3D printing service. Together, these two 3D printing endeavors will (hopefully) fulfill Staples’ goal to provide comprehensive 3D printing services for its customers.
3D Printing at Staples in the Netherlands
Last week, Stratasys announced that it had been selected by The UPS Store to provide its 3D printing systems to The UPS Store as part of a test program. This service will enable UPS Store customers to have their 3D design 3D printed on-site.
The UPS Store is installing Stratasys uPrint SE Plus 3D Printers in six test locations, beginning in San Diego. The test is a collaborative effort by Stratasys and The UPS Store to make 3D printing more accessible as awareness of the technology and its capabilities grow. Following the test launch, retail customers will be able to bring CAD files to participating UPS Store locations and have their 3D design printed.
The UPS Store 3D Printing Experience
How well trained 3D printing technicians will be at Staples and UPS stores and how they will resolve problematic issues that are bound to come up remains to be seen. But, you’ve got to start somewhere . . .
So, will fans and proponents of 3D printing quit buying and start renting? If the successes of other online 3D printing “rental” services, such as RedEye, Shapeways, and i.Materialise are any indication, then there just might be a place for “walk-up” 3D printing at Staples and UPS stores.
MakerBot, once the progeny and a proponent of the open source hardware/software movement is being acquired by Stratasys for about $403 million. Not bad for a company whose origins are the open-source community.
I use open source and MakerBot in the same sentence rather loosely because MakerBot became pretty closed and proprietary not all that long after its inception in 2009. It certainly began with an open-source design based on the RepRap Project, but effectively became a “closed” system with the advent of the Replicator 2 in September 2012. At that time, the company said it “will not share the way the physical machine is designed or our GUI.” This sudden departure from its previous open-source embrace and no longer willing to share with the community that made MakerBot possible in the first place was met with criticism in many circles. To be fair, though, MakerBot has created several products and services beyond its flagship 3D printer, which was definitely an improvement over its base design.
Officially, this deal is being called a merger and Stratasys intends for MakerBot to operate as a separate subsidiary, preserving its existing brand, management, and the good faith it has with its users and partners.
If you have never seen a MakerBot Replicator 2 in action, check out the following video:
For its part, (and until now) Stratasys had repeatedly denied any interest in the 3D printer (under $5000) market and would not pursue it, because their historical customer has been industrial, not the hobbyist or prosumer. Things change, though, and with this transaction, Stratasys has certainly changed its tune. A customer is a customer, and with the additive manufacturing/3D printing market consolidating, Stratasys didn’t want to miss out on an acquisition opportunity that was probably being explored by competitors, possibly including 3D Systems or HP.
This merger is an especially good opportunity for MakerBot to take advantage of Stratasys’ technologies that could boost part resolution, quality, and build material choices. To reinforce this possibility, the following statement was part of the press announcement: “Upon completion of the merger, Stratasys and MakerBot will jointly develop and implement strategies for building on their complementary strengths, intellectual property and technical know-how, and other unique assets and capabilities.” However, whether this actually happens remains to be seen, as companies are usually very cautious about possibly cannibalizing existing products when new assets are acquired.
Don’t get me wrong, MakerBot’s principals stand to make a lot of money off of this deal, and there is nothing wrong with that. My issue comes from the fact that few will truly benefit from this transaction that in reality was the work of many in the open-source community. Business is business, I guess. Who says there’s no money to be made in open-source technologies? Not me, not anymore.