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MakerBot Gets $10 Million Investment 160

First time accepted submitter chrisl456 writes "MakerBot Industries, makers (hah!) of 3D printers / personal fabrication devices, just got a big boost in the form of $10 million from an 'all-star lineup.' Replicators, here we come!"
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MakerBot Gets $10 Million Investment

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  • Anything that could potentially drive the cost of 3D printing down is a win, IMHO!

    • Makes me kinda wish I had gone with MakerBot rather than my Prusa Mendel (expecting the last bit of parts in early next week). For me, price was the selling point but an investment like this could easily push MakerBot in front in terms of the community.
  • by Quadzi ( 1055522 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @10:43AM (#37191212)
    Would this be referring to the Star Trek Replicators (SWEET!) or the Stargate Replications (RUUUUUUUUUUUUUN!!!!!)?
  • As long as these printers can't produce a real-looking dvd/blueray case, including insert, I'm not impressed.

  • Until the "You wouldn't steal a car..." warnings come true and I can download myself a brand new Ferrari LOL
    • I am not shitting you, I am seriously looking into building a custom car with 3D printed body panels and interior framework.

      I'd have to scale-up an open source printer (like an Ultimaker or Makerbot) to AT LEAST 6'x6'x3' build volume (although a monstrous 10'x10'x5' would be ideal to avoid unnecessary seams) and then I would design and print the ABS panels to go on a chromoly or stainless tube-framed car. The panels would be only for aerodynamic and weatherproofing purposes.

      Forming the body out of fiberglas

      • by tom17 ( 659054 )

        Hmm, but the resolution on the Ultimaker/Makerbot is very low (As previously mentioned in this thread). How will you get a smooth, presentable finish?

        I too am in the planning phases of a build. My first build will use standard premade fg panels, but I have pondered a second build (if I like building) and was considering a large 3d router to construct bucks to make cf moulds from. Again, the bucks would likely need a lot of preparation before making the moulds from them.

        If your idea pans out then it may also

        • I'll just slightly overbuild and sand the panels if they can't be made smooth enough (as is almost certain to be the case). Then I'll paint over them (I wasn't planning to go unpainted, but that would certainly be a good option for an offroad vehicle - look at ATVs with this kind of body). I'm planning metallic black on black plastic. The Lotus Elise already has ABS panels so you can look at how bodywork is done on those. Many newer cars have some ABS panels as well.

        • How will you get a smooth, presentable finish?

          Sand it smooth? ABS sands just fine. If needed, print it slightly oversize to allow for losses.

          Alternative suggestions I hear are heating (heat it up with a heat gun to soften, then smooth it) or acetone (acetone dissolves ABS, so use a little bit to soften it and then smooth it).

      • Re:Can't Wait... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @12:10PM (#37192286) Homepage Journal

        My understanding is that the most agonizing part of fiberglassing is making molds. If my jackass brothers could make surfboards, I'll bet you can glass into a mold. So... print molds, then smooth them out for actual use, and then lay fiberglass, or vacuform some lexan... I like Lexan because you can paint the inside and it looks awesome. You could even fade the paint to transparency and/or mask off sections to leave transparent windows to the understructure where it looks cool. But fiberglass doesn't require a big oven...

        I'd also settle for nothing but vacuforming the interior pieces if they're not made of metal. That's how the big boys do it. You can do it with a shop-vac. In my acrylics class way back in junior high we had a locally made oven constructed from sheet metal, insulated with fiberglass, and filled with heat lamps. Any jackhole ought to be able to build one of those. I've priced a hand roll/break and you can get one for $200 that will handle the sheet metal you'd need to conveniently build one big enough to handle a whole dashboard.

        My dream toy car is a tube-frame Lancer with a TDI+Quattro drivetrain...

        • by tom17 ( 659054 )

          I think the problem with printing a mold is that the finished product typically has convex curves. This means that the mold would have concave curves which would be very hard to do surface finishing on.

          I think the best way is still to CNC the buck (a replica of the finished shape) from foam, finish that and make your mold from that.

          Also, you don't need an autoclave to do CF work. You can use the fibre and room-temp resin. The problem is that you get too much resin for the amount of fibre. Vacuum bagging hel

          • by tom17 ( 659054 )

            Oh and mine is a Caterham R500 replica :) That's the first build, 2nd (if I go there) will be some mid engined 3 seater with some kind of body.

            • I considered a 3-seat layout, keep in mind that the McLaren F1-style layout makes the car wider and makes overtaking difficult, especially on the street.

              I'm planning a 2-seater that be easily changed between RHD and LHD. The only parts you'd actually need 2 of are the steering rack itself and some hydraulic hard lines (even then, you could probably get away with using soft lines to allow the master cylinders to be relocated, but I'd rather not).

              • by tom17 ( 659054 )

                Cool, locost? something else?

                • Custom Elise-like mid-engined thing. It'll probably cost almost as much as an Elise when it's done, but at least this way I'll get exactly what I want, and if I need to stop spending on it I can put the build on hold, and won't have a ruined credit rating and repo men at my door :-P

                  • by tom17 ( 659054 )

                    Good job! You going for an Elise type chassis or a more conventional tube-frame? What donor?

                    • Conventional tube frame, RSX powertrain, although I keep thinking about electric powertrains (I'll be kicking myself if they surpass ICE performance shortly after the car's done) or some TT LS1/LS6 monster (might be doable if there was an affordable transaxle that could handle that power in a mid-longitudinal layout...)

                    • by tom17 ( 659054 )

                      The same layout I was idolising for my 3-seater idea, although with some euro screamer V6/8 (BMW S65 anyone? :) ).

                      I haven't done any hard research on it yet, but so far the most common transaxle seems to be an inverted Porsche jobbie. I always wondered if a formula (FF etc) transaxle would be an option too.

                      I hear you on the electric, I went to see someones almost-finished electric build recently and i'd say, for now at least, stick to ICE. Hey if you are building a middy anyway it shouldn't be toooo hard to

                    • Hey are you on GRM forums? I'm on there with the same username. If you aren't on there you should join up, it's one of the best car forums.

                    • by tom17 ( 659054 )

                      Yep, I've done a lot of poking around on there but never signed up. Time I did I guess!

              • Maybe you should use electric power steering so you can get away from the hydraulics entirely.

                Another option is to leave the rack alone and use a chain drive to connect the wheel to the rack... Or a belt I guess, but to my mind, a chain is superior.

                Going to duplicate all the master cylinders, too? Or are you going to use linkages to carry the pedals across?

                • My idea is to basically have the holes and fittings for the master cylinders and steering rack duplicated on both sides, and to have a section of hydraulic hard line that's removable between the left or right sides and the lines going to the brakes and clutch in the center. So one side has blanks covering the holes in the firewall and the controls are installed in the other side. To swap them, you move the steering rack and gauge cluster (remember I planned an easy to work on modular dash), move the pedals

        • tube-frame Lancer with a TDI+Quattro drivetrain

          I'm curious, why that combination? If you're going to start with a Lancer, why not take the Evo version and have a more performance-biased drivetrain than any (Audi, I presume) quattro? And the 4G63 can be tuned to astronomical levels, so why replace it with a TDI?

          • I meant an Evo, but it's just a layout. The only parts I would be using from the original would be suspension parts, and even then, I imagine I'd want to just get all adjustable racing parts anyway. So the only Evo parts I would use would be cosmetic (reproductions of same anyway) and the measurements. :)

            I don't need astronomical power, because I like to do the super-twisty stuff that happens at lower speeds. I've had more power and it only gets me into trouble. Maybe that's a character flaw, but so be it.

  • Throw in some meat and it'll be "perfect".
  • when a car company puts such devices in all of their service departments, and simply FTPs the CAD files to make replacement trim parts on demand --- my truck has a broken seat adjustment handle --- I haven't even considered asking the dealer what a replacement part, w/ shipping would cost, but in a couple of years, I predict that I'll be able to just drop in and they'll be able to make such on-demand.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Why would you do that?
      Glue yours together, scan it, then print its replacement yourself.

  • Seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @10:56AM (#37191360)

    I don't see why everyone's so fascinated with those extruding printers. They're extremely complex, extremely slow and their output is very low resolution. They have to fill solid parts with extruded material in a zig-zag pattern... takes forever and the output is a joke.

    This [], on the other hand, almost looks like magic []. This thing makes one whole layer at a time with extreme precision. It's also extremely simple in design: a single motor on one axis, one projector and a container for liquid resin.

    Compare the output of the two types of machines []. If you still prefer the MakerBot-type machines after seeing the video and the photos, please explain because I can't see any reason for the MakerBot to even exist. It's like wanting Windows 3.11 instead of Linux or Mac OS X.

    • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

      Because a liter of that resin costs hundreds of dollars, that is why. Also it is UV fixed, meaning storage is an issue and that stuff tends to go bad with time as well.

    • Re:Seriously? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by paskie ( 539112 ) < minus city> on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @11:10AM (#37191552) Homepage
      Couple of random reasons: The material seems to be very expensive, AFAICS $200 per kg of resin vs ~$20 per kg of ABS. The hardware, software *and* the resin seems to be proprietary. And it didn't materialize yet, you can't get one so far.

      (Also, I'm not sure about the resin properties, i.e. if they are as good as the plastic.)

      The fact is, for many simple items the current resolution is doing just fine. And if you don't need to produce large quantities or aren't in a big hurry, taking time may not be an issue since you can just let it print and go do something else.

    • While that project is indeed extremely cool, and the fact that it is a DIY extremely impressive, I suspect that the $200/liter feedstock material has something to do with it...

      With the hobbyist printing systems, once you get too far up in price, you start to bump uncomfortably close to the services that rent out time on big serious pro gear, with the advanced capabilities that offers, on a per-piece basis.

      The extruders are substantially limited; but they can also knock out comparatively high-volume pa
    • Exactly. Same problem with new born babies. Completely useless and always will be.
    • The video you link appears to be a DIY stereolithography [] machine. These machines are very nice and create 3D parts with extremely high resolution. I have seen the output from one of these machines at a company I have worked out, the resolution is better than 100um and the parts that it produced needed no additional machining (in fact they were producing parts that could not have been produced in a single piece by machine). However the machine itself cost over $100k, and the resin costs $100's per liter.

  • And I'd like that in my 3D printed coffee mug please.

    • by tom17 ( 659054 )

      Attempting to calculate answer to your question: why you want dried leaves in boiling water.

  • I am a fan of the whole RepRap thing -- built one myself (not a MakerBot model) -- but I can't see what they need $10M for. With the prices they are charging, compared to the costs of other kits out there and what you get for them, they should be rolling in dough given their current sales.
    • R&D. Their margins probably anywhere near sufficient to support staff to sit around all day working on better versions or techniques.

      Sometimes, you're lucky like Tesla and you fund your R&D with expensive cars. Sometimes, you need outside money.

    • by Anrego ( 830717 ) *

      Hopefully to fund research.

      That's kind of the problem in tech.. you have to have a selling product to fund research.. but keeping that selling product current requires resources itself.

      A huge cash boost (should) let them do some R&D for a while .. and we might get something more practical.

      As an aside, I realize the current generation of makerbot isn't all that useful or practical.. but I still really want one! :(

      • Yeah, frankly, there are much better kits out there from one- and two-person operations, that are supporting themselves full-time on shipping kits and hardware and doing a great job. They're also innovating, producing new, better designs for both components and bots. Again, without all this seed money. Maybe they'll do great things with $10M, who knows, but I'm not anywhere near convinced it's necessary for what they're doing.
    • That is what makes them a good investment. They have a business model that is working but could be more successful if they had more capacity. Not something that will work if you throw enough money at it. Once upon a time investors also used to care about book value vs market cap too.

  • Needs some Maker Bot Love, I would love it if they would open up a facility on the west coast!
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @12:29PM (#37192594) Homepage

    Additive machining is cute, but not a miracle. It's a slow process. Building up objects one layer at a time takes forever. The consumables are rather expensive. Injection molding and casting are probably 100x cheaper in quantity.

    High-end [] additive machining system [] are getting to be quite good. The low-end machines, though, are not yet very useful. The precision is too low, the surface quality is poor, and the material options are too limited. TechShop has both a high-end commercial machine, which is usually busy, and a machine at the MakerBot level, which is almost never used. If you're making tiny parts, you need high precision.

    The big advantage of many of the additive processes is that they don't have work-holding problems. The big limitation of CNC machining is that you have to clamp down the workpiece, and the clamps get in the way of what you're doing. Some part of the workpiece will be inaccessible. So most work requires multiple setups, each of which has to be aligned with the previous setup to 0.001in or better. Designs have to be planned to be clampable.

    The more interesting processes [] can work metals. But they need 500W to 6KW lasers. If you're going to work in steel, you need enough power to melt steel.

    For comparison, here's a high speed stamping press. [] This is how most of the small metal parts in the world are made. Once you get the tooling set up, parts come out at machine-gun speeds.

    • by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @01:27PM (#37193406)

      Additive machining is cute, but not a miracle. It's a slow process.

      Sure, but that's not the point. If you need 100,000 greeblies, you can probably afford to have a $100k mould cut for your high-speed injection moulding process. The exciting property of 3D printers is that it's now possible to create plastic (or metal) parts in small numbers.

      Printing also has some advantages over the usual machining techniques; clamping is one. The absence of tools means you can create structures that are too fragile to achieve with a milling machine. You can print objects inside one another.

      For some industries, the 3D printer is a revolution. I build scale models. Until now, the model kit cottage industry created kits by hand-building a master (a process in which it is basically impossible to get curved surfaces exactly right) and then casting resin copies of it. The 3D printer means that we can create sub-mm accurate masters, or even sell the 3D parts directly (though they still are more expensive than resin cast parts).

  • Hopefully this means bringing the kit price down to under $500 and cheaper feedstock. I had just saved up enough money for the Cupcake kit when they were discontinued in favor of the new version at twice the price.

  •'s not the printer that will tear your budget apart, it the consumables.

    Imagine if someone could invent a 3D printer or InkJet printer that could work on recycled goods (powdered or not), now THAT would take care of that ever growing garbage pile problem of ours, but noooooo... it wouldn't bring any money on in...well...not enough billions anyway, besides - the car running on water was invented over 60 years ago, but you wouldn't depend on gazoline then...and money Money MOOOONEY!

    • There are projects to make extruded ABS filament from recycled ABS parts for the reprap printer. They are crude projects but it doesn't look that hard to do. Just need to be able to shred the plastic into small enough parts and then push those parts with an auger through a heated 3mm hole.
  • Ain't technology sweet?

MESSAGE ACKNOWLEDGED -- The Pershing II missiles have been launched.