The news that MakerBot missed its financial targets (only 7% revenue growth in 2014 versus the projected 25%) and had to lay off about one-fifth (120) of its employees may be big news within the media. But here at the 2015 Additive Manufacturers Users Group (AMUG) conference, it is not even discussed. More than 800 engineering users of 3D printers and Additive Manufacturing systems are not all concerned about the probably temporary troubles of one company.
Some media stories are hinting that MakerBot’s issue is a sign that the desktop 3D printer market is in trouble. You wouldn’t know it here at AMUG. Everyone in attendance is gung-ho for 3D printing / Additive manufacturing and eager to learn all they can about making the most and best use of these machines. Granted, this conference is focused more on larger prototyping and production printers.
And some media stories focus on the wisdom of Stratasys acquiring MakerBot. At the time of purchase, in my humble opinion, it was a great move on Stratasys’ part as it quickly filled in a gap in the company’s offerings. I won’t go into whether the purchase price was good or not. If you’re focused on short-term gain, you have your answer. If you’re thinking long term, then the game is not over.
MakerBot closed the doors on three of its retail stores. However, there has not been any news about Staples or Home Depot closing down their consumer focused 3D printing sections.
The consumer focused desktop 3D printing industry is very different from the professional user side, and obviously there is still work to do to understand this part of the market. While artists, marketers, and other creative people love these units, the average homeowner—purportedly the biggest segment for consumer 3D printers—has yet to show the same level of interest.
The concerns for the home market have been commented on before: these desktop consumer oriented printers have a way to go in terms of reliability, ease of troubleshooting, ease of programming, and ease of use. Your average homeowner probably has very limited exposure to CAD programming, for example.
MakerBot’s news is more about the missteps made by one company, not an indictment on the whole 3D printing industry.