How to alienate your biggest fans: What happened to MakerBot?

Ok, So first let me say that I am often a fanboy for products or companies that I believe in, or that appear to place priorities in the only possible order that will greet effort with success in todays hyper competitive world. That order with almost no exceptions being:

  1. Customers and Employees
  2. Innovation
  3. investors

If you follow any other order of importance then you are destined to fail along the way and be supplanted as the leader by someone else.

So with the mission statement now over, I will proceed verily to my rant. MakerBot started out as a company built by a few guys around creating a controller board to run a 3D printer in the wild, west days of personal 3D printing. This project was open sourced in that anyone could get the schematics and improve upon the design/code/idea/whatever. The feel of the company and the products was VERY “What ya doing? Can we help?” As are most open source projects and in this rich environment MakerBot stared to grow, fast.

The idea of MakerBot was that they wanted to bring 3D Printing to the masses. “A printer in every home” much like Ford with his Model A. The idea was to bring this lofty dream of 3D printing to everyone. This goal was lofty to be sure, but with an easy-going, “how can we help” attitude people are willing to believe and follow along and dream with you. With success comes change.

MakerBot grew and grew and launched several versions of their flagship Replicator printer. This printer was at first open sourced as well and later the hardware became proprietary and the software remained open-ish via a firmware update (Sailfish). Then the storm hit. MakerBot under the control of Bre Pettis sold to rapid prototyping conglomerate Stratasys. This in and of its self was not a bad thing, as it meant that instead of defending the small company from endless, debilitating patent infringement attacks from Stratasys they were now able to use Stratasys patents freely and in theory build even better products. However, the dirty side of the coin was that Stratasys and MakerBot are both 3D printing tehnology companies and that is where the similarities end. Stratasys is a huge corporation that sells equipment costing between $10,000 USD to well over $1,000,000 USD to corporations requiring rapid prototyping. All of these systems are sold to companies as a managed service with very high, and in many cases mandatory service contracts that are billed annually.  And therein lies the rub.

MakerBot users are on the whole small companies or consumers using the MakerBot printers for personal or small business prototyping. MakerBot printers are for the most part products that require a bit of “tinkering” along the way to keep them running right. (And most MakerBot users have historically been tinkerers!)

This relationship between MakerBot customers and MakerBot has historically been a pretty casual one up until  the latest corporate pus down from the mothership, the $100.00 Question.

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 11.14.37 AM
The new policy as it sits on the MakerBot website

As Stratasys struggles to find out how to make the MakerBot acquisition stop diluting their considerable margins, they have instituted what most consumers would call ridiculous.

“Got a questions about your MakerBot after the 60 day warranty period? Give us $100.00 and we will listen to you.”

While this may be acceptable in the corporate world where service contracts are ubiquitous this is unheard of for a consumer.  MakerBot may make occasional exceptions however they are just that, an exception. The rule stands.

They take Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and even Discover!
They take Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and even Discover!

  • What does this blinking light mean? – $100.00
  • Can replace this broken part? – $100.00 + parts
  • Why is my fan making a vibrating sound? – $100.00 + parts
  • Why do my prints look (insert descriptive term here) – $100.00
  • Why _______________?  – $100.00
  • How _______________? – $100.00

You get the idea.  If you opened a ticket for the above questions you could have bought a brand new PrintrBot for the same cash!

At this point even Comcast, the company ranked as having the worst customer service in the United States for several years running now actually has better service than MakerBot for customers with printers over 60 days old in that they still have customer service!

In closing I will say that to be fair 3D printing is a new category and most companies that are bringing it to the consumer are very much figuring it out. However, before you buy a printer from someone you should fully understand just how alone you will be standing atop the rather steep learning curve cliff.

Be safe out there and good luck!

Build a Makerspace – Part 2 – Walls going up!

So the day has come. Today is that day, and that day has arrived! Ok, enough stalling, grab a damn hammer.

After much planning and plotting and estimating and… Crap, I’m doing it again. Lets get to work.

If you have not read my first post as to why I am doing all this I recommend you do so, as this task will not be an easy one and will consume your weekends for several months (That is if you have gainful employment with requirements that force you off the job from 9-5 or so.)

We started our day with a serious trip to our local big box hardware emporium depot.

The List:

  • about 50 – 2″x4″x10′ lumber
  • 350′ of 12-2 electrical wire
  • 20 outlet boxes
  • 20 electrical outlets rated for 20 Amps
  • 2 shiny new 20 Amp breakers
  • 18 rolls of faced, – insulation with tabs
  •   5000 1/4″ staples
  • 1 DeWalt Heavy-Duty Staple Gun
  • a huge box of nail gun nails
  • rented a framing nail gun. (This is what puts the POWER in power tools. For once i did not feel like a weenie wearing safety glasses and ear protection.)
  • Bought 4 – 6″ recessed lighting cans and bulbs and cones
  • 1 Tyvek Coverall Suit (Insulation installation)
  • 3M Respirator with Valve (Insulation Installation)
  • Protective eye wear
  • One huge bottle of water, this is gonna be a big day.

In all this shopping trip took about an hour and a half. cutting deeply into my budgeted time for the day. However my father in law Don showed me how to pick lumber out that will make everything easier. Check each 2×4 for straightness and bow. dotty buy crappy lumber unless you want crappy walls. when it comes time to nail a wall together you will appreciate the time you spend here VERY MUCH!

We loaded it all into my SUV and his truck and off we went home. Load out sucked as i don not have a drive under basement we had to drag all the hardware to the basement from the first floor. This killed time and caused a sore back for certain. In the end we only got one wall completed…

Much more to come in Part 3!

Build a Makerspace – Part 1

Hi! if you are reading this then like me you are likely into the maker movement that is turning hobbies in to companies and merging  the silos of engineering, science, chemistry, design and art into a single phrase, making! This series of posts is going to detail the process that I am undertaking ignored to Make, my own Maker space in a part of my unfinished basement. This process started as a plan and has quickly become an obsession. So to see if this is relevant to you I will describe my plan, my skill set, and my goals with you to help you on your journey to create a space all your own just like I am.

The Plan

Continue reading Build a Makerspace – Part 1

SD Cards for the MakerBot Replicator, Replicator 2, and Replicator 2X

MakerBot SD Cards are made of magic and must be shipped in a golden Shrine!

Did your SD Card die like mine did? or do you find yourself needing a new SD Card for your MakerBot Replicator, Replicator 2, or Replicator 2X? If so you may be like me and confused as to why your standard SD Cards don’t work in your unit. Well apparently the issue lies with the firmware in your device not supporting cards over 2GB and not supporting cards formatted as FAT, FAT32, or practically anything else that is widely used today… The only supported format is FAT16, and no, it is not easy to format a card this way in todays modern computing world of 64-bit architecture.

Enter the solution!

The Transcend 2 GB SD Flash Memory Card This is the card that I found to work right out of the package, no formatting, no fiddling with it in the system terminal, it just works. I found this solution after buying several other cards that did not work with my apparently very picky MakerBot. Don’t buy a 1GB card from MakerBot for $10.00, PLUS the unheard of +$14.00 freight that they charge on this 4 gram item!
For under $8.00 and free shipping if you have prime or if you order it along with a few other small items I can tell you from experience that this card will work like a charm!

MakerBot quietly kills off the Replicator 2

Well, it had to happen sometime. With many 3D printer enthusiasts flipping their nose at the 5th generation MakerBot and opting instead for the older (and over $800.00 cheaper) Replicator 2 with similar if not slightly better printing specs.  The time has come for this inconvenient problem to end. And so, MakerBot is fixing the problem…

Continue reading MakerBot quietly kills off the Replicator 2

From my brain to yours.