Manufacturing guy-at-large.

Re: Makerbot's layoffs

Added on by Spencer Wright.

PREFACE to all of this: My heart goes out to the 20% of Makerbot's workforce - some 100 people - that were laid off this week. 

I think this - the layoff announcement, the Reddit thread about the layoff announcement, and the eulogies for what Makerbot used to be -  is mostly a sign of the industry (and Stratasys, though to be fair they probably knew this all along) realizing that desktop 3d printing is a relatively small market. Jordan - a colleague at Undercurrent - has this thing about "mean time to kitchen drawer," which is basically a measure of how sticky (or unsticky, if the customer ends up putting it in their kitchen drawer) your product is. I think most people don't use their Makerbots nearly as much as they anticipated, and anyone who uses a Makerbot a *lot* is likely to graduate to something a bit fancier (probably SLA). So the growth really isn't there, and what they're selling is commodity hardware and some really user friendly software, and that type of business can cut operating costs to something less than Makerbot's were while they were approaching the acquisition.

I think there are two ways forward with desktop 3d printing. The first is to drive the cost down as much as possible, which ultimately means reducing R&D and other fixed costs, and also probably paying less for labor by moving it somewhere other than Brooklyn. The second thing is to look *really* hard for the next technology. That CLIP stuff - Carbon3D - is one direction (though I don't think it's the next big thing). Or maybe it's closer to what HP is working on, though I suspect that machine will cost six figures. Regardless, I'm betting *against* FDM being the predominant desktop 3D printing technology in, say, 5 years.

Either way, you cut costs on anything that touches FDM, and invest a *lot* of money in R&D on the technology that will eventually kill it off. Which I suspect is exactly what Stratasys is doing.