These guys really did a mean thing to the maker community. Not only did they betray the trust of everybody that helped on that project, but it seemed like they wanted to take credit for 3D printing, as if capital M makerbot was THE THING that had suddenly made 3D printing explode.
No. It was the efforts of thousands of hackers all over the world collaborating that made 3D printing explode, and it wasn't fair to those people to see Bre's face all over the news, as if he had personally designed and built all of this stuff.
Time heals all wounds, obviously, and I hope there are good things for everybody involved with (or previously involved with) makerbot. But I hope that this is a lesson: being mean to people isn't cool, and they will turn on you and market against you when you do.
What makerbot, and Bre Pettis, did was truly awful. That was an absolute betrayal of trust to everybody who had been working on that project.
Good that makerbot is doing poorly.
Could this be a blessing in disguise?
It is only made more frustrating to people who advised them that this was the outcome at the end of their path if they chose to go this way, and they could not listen.
I find that sad.
I own a Printrbot Simple Metal, which is a nice machine. But the simple reality is that this is not a consumer machine:
- Given a choice between driving to town to buy a part, and firing up the printer, I'll drive.
- Given a choice between buying on Amazon, and firing up the printer, I'll buy on Amazon.
Where 3D printers are awesome is when I'm in "tinkering" mode—when I've taken out my toolbox and my calipers and my Arduino and I want to make something that doesn't exist yet. I can design a part using OpenSCAD, mess with the tolerances a bit, and run off two or three generations of prototypes in an afternoon. When I'm done, I can upload the schematic and some images, and other people can download it. It makes hardware almost as much fun as software.
But the reality—at least for machines using hot plastic—is that you need to learn about how plastic heats and cools, about what kinds of shapes are easy to print, and about how to model things using CAD software.
Until the open source laser sintering printers come down in price, the only "mass market" for 3D printing will be the kinds of people who have always hung out around RadioShack and Home Depot, or who browse SparkFun and Octopart regularly. 3D printers are awesome because they encourage hacking and entrepreneurialism, not because they give you a push-button desktop fab.
If anything, seeing the printers in action made me realize just how inessential their product seemed from a layperson's point of view.
For all of the potential 3D printing has, at the moment it is a solution looking for a consumer problem, and most consumers aren't looking to make custom figurines or embossed text.
A few months ago, I walked by the storefront and it was totally empty. Apparently I wasn't the only one disillusioned by seeing their product up close.
That said, 3D printing is still pretty lame. Cheap plastic parts are rarely the critical element in a device. And even knobs etc often have retaining clips or friction-fit holes with sub-millimeter tolerances, that 3D printers cannot achieve.
However 95% of the time I'm printing something for a prototype or some little thing I'm tinkering with.
There are always going to be people who buy homebrewing apparatus - but their numbers will always pale in comparison to how many people just go to a pub or bar and buy a beer.
Of course, it's a matter of time before tech advancement fixes this problem, but today there's little reason to buy one of these machines if all you are planning to do is actually print useful stuff, rather than experiment with 3D printers as a hobby.
I've fixed our commercial (China quality) lasercutter using parts made on a cheap FDM 3d-printer. Fixed powertools like drills and drill-presses. Replaced parts on my bicycle. Made functional scissors, and a haircomb that I needed when no shop was open.
The issues are that for commodity items, in the first world, it is quicker to just buy them (if we don't have them already). They will also be prettier.
Or if it is a custom item, one has to actually design&test, which is something that requires CAD skills and some hours of work. Teaching this will take some time.
Most people just watch kitten-videos and play Farmville using their Internet-enabled devices. Does not mean the devices are low-quality and cannot be used for useful things.
This way you can combine rapid iteration with high-quality production. When designing new parts, I often do up to 5 iterations a day. Sometimes engaging up 3x 500 USD printers at the same time, to keep iteration time down.
Not surprised things aren't going well. Seems like the vision died long before the sale.
The other day I attended a talk about the history of personal computers, and certainly it rhymes.
At the time everybody was saying, a personal computer? who wants this? People do not need a database for cooking, or a spreadsheet, it is a very expensive typing machine and it is very hard to use(command line). It was true.
What happened is that personal (and then mobile) computers evolved from a entrepise-centric to user-centric to grandma-could-use-facebook centric computers.
Most people in the old days could not imagine what the future would look like, because computer did exist, but their applications were different to what they predicted.
In the same way I believe 3d printing is amazing, not for what it is now, but what it will became.
I volunteered giving 3d classes for children and it is incredible what they could do after you teach them the basic concepts.
What is shocking for me is that it is "normal" for those 10 years old to design things that I could only do after studying engineering and gaining experience. Some of them absorb knowledge like an sponge.
I see in them the next Linux Towards, but instead of OSes, it becomes possible to design a car, or a plane over the Internet.Before 3d printers it is so hard that is practically impossible for normal people to do it.
I'm still bullish on the maker space. I saw a functioning prototype of this 3in1 machine in Pittsburgh last year.
CNC routing and laser cutting/etching included and priced much better. The maker machines will just get better and less expensive and I can't wait.
I suspect the market is saturated with such purchases.
Eventually someone's going to figure out exactly what they're perfect for and things will really go bananas. Until then they're fun but only useful to a pretty limited set of people.
If you're hiring full-time employees for short-term goals you're part of the problem, not part of the solution.
If it's just the 20% paycut, all your best talent is going to jump ship and you end up losing people anyway.
Those who are not willing to make the sacrifice probably don't really believe in the vision and thus probably aren't the right people to help you get out of the rut.
And one other caveat would be transparency. That way a company can't just arbitrarily request that their employees make sacrifices when it's not demonstrably essential.
Sorry, but this is a bit ridiculous. You could make the same counter-argument from the employees perspective as well.
"If my company isn't willing to sacrifice to pay my current market worth, then they don't really believe in me as an employee"
Is this company going to pay an extra 20% when things start going well again to make up the difference lost?
When you sign on for a job/salary you shouldn't feel bad for leaving if the company can't hold up their end of the bargain. If you only worked at 75% of the capacity they thought you were going to, you'll most likely be fired.
Also I think there is merit to the point that if someone is not willing to sacrifice in times of scarcity, they are only thinking about themselves and thus are not mentally in a state conducive to helping the company to get out of its financial difficulties.
I've lived this situation. At one point in my career I had people on my team who I thought were truly brilliant, and I vouched to ensure their happiness and comfort in spite of difficult times. They simply took that gesture of goodwill as a sign of weakness and feasted like vultures without any real uptick in output in return.
In the end the lesson is that no matter how brilliant or gifted you are, a true sign of loyalty or dedication to a company's cause in the form of sacrifice is far more valuable than a self-absorbed employee who can churn out good code, but only as long as everything is going in their favor.
EDIT: And that's not to say a company shouldn't find ways to sacrifice as well. For example additional equity should certainly be on the table as an option. You can't expect people to give without expecting anything in return should things turn around and the company should eventually get back on its feet financially.
Why? The 20% that are fired can get other jobs. The group as a whole ends up getting paid more with lay-offs than with pay cuts.
Especially people with families. When faced with the decision of "either accept something at lower pay or risk your family starving or eating in soup kitchens" I think the decision is obvious.
Then again they could wait 6 months or several years more for the perfect position. One that pays similar salary, is in a similar location which will not require a relocation, and similar benefits so no additional out-of-pocket expenses for things like health insurance. The higher up on the food chain you go the less likely you'll fall into a comfortable situation. And even lower on the food chain it's not a certainty that things will work out. It's far less likely they'll be in a position to negotiate. Your first reaction will be "first company to offer me something I'll take" because lower wage employees generally have far less saved away for situations like this.
So net outcome IMO will probably just end up being alot of people accepting less than ideal offers given their less than ideal negotiating position.
Also don't forget that the dynamics of these situations in rural vs urban populations are going to be very different. IMO you probably need to be in a city like New York or London for things to work out in a net-positive way for employees who are laid off.
Regardless, firing 20% will be probably make the best look around anyway.