Brooklyn startup MakerBot Industries just introduced something really cool. It’s a new part for its 3D printers, a “stepper motor-driven extruder that can turn at a consistent rate.”
That esoteric sounding gizmo did not exist until MakerBot spent five months building it from scratch. MakerBot needed the motor to do more detailed printing.
3D printing is pretty much what it sounds like. Come up with a design using CAD, then print it out.
The first thing MakerBot made was a shotglass. Since then, cofounder Bre Pettis and crew have aimed to make a once expensive and exclusive machine available to nearly anyone, effectively democratizing manufacturing.
“Making things is messy,” he said. “But when you think about it, we can print out a bottle opener, a whistle, a new doorknob. We needed a doorstop yesterday, so we printed one out. Rather than go out to be a consumer and buy something that’s been manufactured overseas and put on a boat and brought to a store on a truck, you can go to your living room.”
MakerBot sold its first 20 units in two weeks, something it originally thought would take two months. As of this morning it has sold over 3,800 printers.
This isn’t their only revenue stream. From their online store, MakerBot also sells various upgrades for their printers, a 3D scanner kit, ABS plastic used in 3D printing, and even assorted open source hardware like the Arduino, famous for electronics prototyping.
Are they making money? A little, says Pettis: “We’ve been turning a small profit since day 42. It all goes back into the business and we didn’t pay ourselves for the first year.”
But it doesn’t look like Pettis is in it for the money. He says, “I’d rather do something awesome and have people find out about it. I guess our business plan is just to be awesome.”
There have been two versions of MakerBots - the CNC Cupcake and the Thing-O-Matic.
From the cups, the parts go into bags, then into boxes for shipment around the world.
There are plastic models everywhere. Pettis says he can't keep enough around - he usually gives most of them away.
The MakerBot vending machine serves up open source hardware like the Arduino, not snacks.