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Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?

3D Printing & Imaging
Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?

This article (and its follow-up) is an opinion piece by Rob Giseburt, an active member of the 3DP open source community. It does not necessarily represent the opinions of MAKE. Its purpose is not to prematurely punish MakerBot for their recent decisions and future directions in which they may (or may not) be headed, but rather, to get a reasonable dialog going about the import of such changes to open source hardware in general and 3DP in specific. – Gareth Branwyn

The consumer-level 3D printing industry has grown very rapidly over the last couple of years. This is, in part, due to many of the players being completely open source and freely sharing their advancements, slightly leveling the playing field against the 800lb gorillas in the industry that have held the industry hostage with patent portfolios for decades.

Recently, however, there was an odd little hiccup. A new player on the field by the name of Tangibot arrived, not with a new printer or even an innovative new derivative, but with a near-exact clone of arguably the most prominent printer in the market: the MakerBot Replicator. The primary selling point was a lower price, supposedly due primarily to it being made in China vs the US.

This was met with mixed feelings from the community. This was partly because they were attempting to crowd fund using Kickstarter, and had mentioned the MakerBot trademark a few too many times. Others were outraged by the concept of it being made in China. Many thought is was great that it would become cheaper, regardless.

But a few seemed to really see the argument here: can a hardware company grow and thrive as completely open source?

MakerBot has always been very clear about their open source roots. Cofounded by Zach “Hoeken” Smith, one of the founding members of the RepRap Research Foundation, Adam Mayer, and MAKE alumni Bre Pettis, the company has been key to DIY 3D printing, which is, in turn, something that draws a lot of people to the maker movement. To date, their devices have been completely open source hardware and software with the electronics based on that of the Arduino.

The Arduino being open source is what allowed MakerBot to base their electronics on the Arduino, and prompted the community, myself included, to contribute freely to MakerBot’s success. MakerBot and its community’s contributions dovetailed with those of the general DIY 3D printing community, including those from the RepRap project, and has created an unprecedented free exchange of innovation in designing 3D printers. This has resulted in freely available plans for industrial-quality CNC devices that are made of and consume materials that are readily available and consumer-safe.

This freely shared, patent-free innovation has recreated, in a few years, what has been locked up in patents and sold at hundreds of times the retail price for decades. This has truly democratized 3D printing, and helped spark off desktop manufacturing and all of the promise that it holds.

However, because of this cloning issue, a few have wondered what would happen if MakerBot were no longer open source. On solidsmack JF Brandon said, “If [Tangibot’s funding] is successful, MakerBot will have to revise their Open Source policy and become closed source. This would be a real shame – they are one of the only 3D printing companies that is so gung-ho on free unfettered Open Source 3D printing.” Tangibot did not reach its $500,000 goal.

So, for the sake of argument, what if MakerBot did start to close the source to their devices? What sort of harm, if any, would that have on the DIY 3D printing and maker communities? We could just as easily ask these same questions about Arduino, Ultimaker, or half a dozen other open source hardware companies.

There are a few closed source companies that are associated with the maker movement. It is unlikely that the black box tools that they provide could be — even if free — any more than mere utilitarian tools. As a maker, you can’t “remix” or learn from the technology inside these tools, and attempts to remake them could become a legal entanglement at least. Actually, they are specifically attempting to prevent that behavior by being closed source. These companies aren’t really in the “maker convention,” but are instead mere vendors at the door that are selling — sometimes for the price of “free” — interesting doodads. By no longer sharing their innovation with the community, MakerBot would no longer be a part of the convention either. They could no longer truly be a part of the maker community, but would instead become another company offering us their trinkets, with the understanding that we’re not to peer inside them or try to improve on or duplicate them.

A company also cannot be partially open source. They can utilize open source in a closed source project, with great legal care. But you cannot, as a company, expect to have an outward ethic of sharing your innovation with the world, yet still have key technologies in one hand behind your back. In the PC world there are several vendors that have proven this repeatedly. Even though they have clearly used a large amount of open source software in their operation systems, it hasn’t prevented them from building layers of patent-protected intellectual property on top of it, and then starting epic legal battles with competitors.

Another possible approach to being partially open source would be to only release the source for products that have been retired or the sales have matured. This is no different than selling a black-box trinket. It is no more open to the customer’s that use it than a fully closed source product. That is actually worse than people waiting for a patent to expire. At least with patents the plans are revealed. A product that’s closed source until it’s end-of-life is, essentially, only of archeological value. Looking for value there would be like dumpster-diving.

Obviously, the pressures on a company, once they reach a certain point in their growth, to do whatever they can to prevent or eliminate competition in order to maximize profits is immense. Even MakerBot, born of the culture of sharing and leveling of the playing field, cannot be immune from these pressures. They still have employees that, even though they have a heroic ethic of democratization, still need an income to put food on the table. We can only hope that CEO, cofounder, and maker-hero Bre Pettis can resist these pressures and see past them to the long game.

Competition is inevitable, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a supply-chain guru cloning your devices and using your own plans, or a massive company like HP throwing lawyers and patents at you, you will have to compete, and you will always have someone stealing your ideas. If they chose the closed path, then they need to start a patent portfolio and play litigious hardball with the companies that have held these technologies hostage for decades, and hire as many lawyers as engineers in order to compete.

If, however, they chose the open source path, they’ll still need lawyers, no doubt, but at least the law is in the favor of any technology that is a derivative of theirs is fair game for them to use as well. Actually, as Make senior editor Phillip Torrone was quoted as saying to Wired in response to Tangibot’s cloning the Replicator, “Being able to copy or ‘clone’ open source and open source hardware (OSHW) is not only OK, it’s celebrated. OSHW has a goal of not only having good designs shared, but the desire to add value to the world when it’s shared and improvements are made.”

There are many many Arduino clones. Most of them are accepted by the community as providing additional value to the community, with the accepted rule that they are not to pretend that they are Arduino and use the trademarked name without permission. This rule has undoubtedly been broken, but it doesn’t appear to be on a scale that harms the sale of Arduinos.

MakerBot is obviously creating with a much more complex device, with equally more complex supply-chain issues and tech support overhead. There is no doubt a need to remain competitive and profitable. After all, they have to be able to afford to put food on the employees’ tables along with continuing R&D to stay ahead of the competition. These are very real problems that have complex solutions.

But it doesn’t appear that being closed source and using patents and licensing will free any company from competitors, but instead will only open them to a different form of competitors. A form of competitor that really, truly is only there for the profit, and doesn’t have the ethics of open and community driven innovation.

And, after all, the target market of MakerBot, along with many open source hardware companies, is the full spectrum of makers. Not just makers of competing 3D printers, but makers of all sorts: artists, industrial designers, engineers, high-school teachers, biology professors, electrical engineers, architects, etc. Makers don’t want black-box trinkets. They want something that, if they want to open it up and learn how it works, they can. They can also, as Massimo Banzi said, scratch their own itch and solve whatever problem they are having, furthering the technology for the entire community.

164 thoughts on “Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?

  1. Matt says:

    I feel MakerBot is unfortunately heading that way. Something that I would not be completely suprised by would be if they branched out and created another branch/company that specialized in industry standard 3D printers considering the just released a similar printer.

  2. Michael Stephens says:

    If makerbot closes source they are going to lose their community and lose some community feedback (I am not in that community so I dont know).

    I say its time for makerbot to revolutionize again. Dont go apple! Go Android. IF China has caught up, its time to start new processes of 3d printing and revolutionize the production of the makerbot.

  3. Sean Ragan says:

    I often think the only intelligent long-term business plan for a hardware startup, even a closed-source one, is to build a product, a market, and a brand, and then sell out to an 800-lb gorilla. Once the gorillas realize there’s money to be made in your space, they can reverse engineer your product and beat you to death with the economies of scale they enjoy. The only protection you enjoy against that treatment is an IP portfolio. Trying to do it with an open source ethos is admirable, but also seems agonizingly difficult, not to say impossible.

  4. Bashtarle (@Bashtarle) says:

    What effect would the makerbot going closed source have on me?

    None, since I can’t afford a Makerbot anyhow ~.~
    And I’m going to take a wild guess that the Replicator2 is going to be even more expensive than the current printer I can’t afford. Sadly all those parts I have started sketching up shall remain unprinted for the foreseeable future …..

    1. Brad Flaherty says:

      You can build a prussa… it’s easier than you think. Find a local makerspace and give it a shot… or join the online community… I had no maker-skills 6 months ago. I now have a functional prussa. OR collaborate with someone who has one… the community is remarkably welcoming.

  5. Eric says:

    >Makers don’t want black-box trinkets.

    My soldering iron is not open source. Neither my multimeter nor my oscilloscope is open source, nor any of my other test equipment. I don’t have CAD drawings for my Wiha screwdrivers, nor do I have plans for all the molds and tools needed to make their parts and assemble them. Indeed, almost nothing in my electronics room is open source. The Arduinos are, their shields, and maybe a few other things.

    I’m quite happy with this state of affairs. I have no interest in deep exploration of most of my tool and supply chain. A few things perhaps, but if I’m ever to get anything done, most of what feeds my projects comes from elsewhere. What’s the ratio of design hours in all my tools and supplies to the design hours I personally spend on my projects? I can’t imagine that it’s less that 1,000:1, and I’d guess it’s orders of magnitude higher.

    My point? Open source has it’s place, but it’s not most of what’s needed for any particular person. For all the things where I don’t want to pay attention to, I don’t need open source for any of its openness. Its greatest value to date seems to be in education (including hobbyists), and I can foresee a permanent niche for it there. It has some traction in prototyping. But open source isn’t going to overtake the world just because it’s open.

    It is conceivable that, in the future, there will be systemic effects that lead open source to be superior to commercial offerings, either better quality or less expensive or both. It hasn’t happened yet, even in software, where there’s almost nowhere where open source software has entirely displaced commercial software because it’s so obviously superior and has created effectively insurmountable barriers to being cannibalized by other interests. This might be an artifact of a relatively young field; time will tell.

    1. evilad says:

      You mention open-source hasn’t over-taken much commercial software but that is probably as most open-source software is written by hobbyists and during people’s spare time.

      Look at commercially backed open-source software like openSUSE, Ubuntu, Apache; these are all far superior to much that is out there. It isn’t open-source that leads to inferiority it merely needs better support.

    2. kasbah says:

      I think you don’t care about your tools and software being opensource as long as everything works fine. When you find a fault or would like something to work differently then the proprietary nature of your tools will get in your way.

      As for proprietary software losing out to open-source alternatives just look at the web-browser and server field where Firefox and Webkit, and Linux and Apache rule.

      I am disappointed to see the MakerBot seemingly changing their tack and closing up their products.

    3. bobster23 says:

      >It hasn’t happened yet, even in software, where there’s almost nowhere where open >source software has entirely displaced commercial software because it’s so obviously >superior and has created effectively insurmountable barriers to being cannibalized by >other interests.

      You couldn’t be more wrong. One area that open source reigns supreme is Linux on servers, and that is because Linux IS better. Apart from that many of the things you own may be running Linux. For example if you have an android phone, android OS it is based on Linux and that is because Linux is considered a reliable stable OS (and there are many more examples of products you may or may not know run Linux on them).

      I agree with you that allot of people aren’t interested in “looking under the hood” of the things they own, but the thing about open source is that things have a tendency of developing much faster and better than in a closed source, and not just a bit faster, but in a few orders of magnitude. A very good example of this IS Makerbot. People forget that Makerbot started as an improvement to the reprap project which was (and still is) open source. In a matter of just 6-7 years (?) these projects have created printers that are much cheaper, and better than some commercial products (Stratasys uPrint+). I personally find this amazing (and very none trivial). So in other words even if your not interested in “looking under the hood” it is in everyones interest that others will and the project remains open source, so that everyone can get better, cheaper products.

      1. Eric says:

        I didn’t say “nowhere”, I said “almost nowhere”. Apache is the single most significant success of open source software, and Linux rode its coattails onto the server. And there’s plenty of embedded Linux. Yet in terms of all the software that’s written (as opposed to number of installed units), this is all a drop in the bucket. And as I said also, time will tell.

        >the thing about open source is that things have a tendency of developing
        >much faster and better than in a closed source, and not just a bit faster, but
        >in a few orders of magnitude.

        The 1000:1 ratio I mentioned is not a uniform ratio. There have always been hot spots of attention and they generally result in success. Extrusion-plastic 3D printing is currently one of them. That’s where one lamp post is today. There are some other lamp posts, and that’s where a lot of people are looking for the missing success of open source, the success over the rest of the darkness.

        Look, I prefer the open source principle over its alternative. It has the potential of making the world significantly more wealthy because it is a much more highly-leveraged use of engineering talent. But that leverage happens exactly because of duplication. It happens when it’s very low cost to use (and zero price to acquire is not the same as low cost to use). The habitual use of the market to sell in one-to-one sales (including support services) does not naturally lead to the right incentives to create this world.

  6. evilad says:

    Perhaps bordering on the naive but I would hope the maker community continues to support businesses running an open source model, and ensure that whatever clones or knock-offs are available more cheaply, that we keep companies like Makerbot alive and at least sustainable.

    The new Makerbot looks stunning and it still amazes me how excitable Bre gets over his own product.

  7. ǝɔʎoſ ʇʇɐW (@openfly) says:

    Open Source is a hell of a lot harder from the inside than most people realize. In software or hardware.

  8. Josef Prusa says:

    I called Makerbot phone support and asked. Replicator 2 isn’t open source.

    1. Cymon says:

      Thanks for that. Makes me sad.

    2. Sean Ragan says:

      Indeed, thank you.

  9. Jason Gullickson says:

    I’m not familiar with JF Brandon enough to know why he knows that Makerbot would have to go closed-source if the Tangibot was funded…

    …that said the proof is in the pudding, and the Tangibot was *not* funded, regardless of being an identical but less expensive Makerbot.

    Awhile back I read an interview with Bre where the question was asked what Makerbot would do when this situation came up. He said that they would simply out-innovate the competition and I think this is a valid (and healthy) response.

    I hope that this continues to be the strategy at Makerbot, but they are not the only company using this approach toward building a sustainable business on open-source hardware so the change wouldn’t be as disruptive as some may now think.

    1. JF Brandon says:

      Hey @Jason Gullickson. JF here. When I wrote that piece, I thought of all the investors and the Board of Directors of Makerbot, not just Bre or his Open-Source Cohorts. Those guys are interested in making money, not being absolutely principled. If a strong competitor came along using your schematics, I think that the most logical strategic maneuver would be to become closed-source. Especially if your product cycles are getting longer and longer and your returns are becoming smaller and smaller due to heavy competition. And even worse, because you’re competitors are innovating directly because your documentation and not releasing their stuff. Businessmen are interested in minimizing risk wherever possible or prudent.

      1. jasongullickson says:

        Hi JF, I wasn’t sure if you were part of the Makerbot team and had some “inside information” or someone observing from the outside like the rest of us.

        I disagree that closing the source is the most logical move at this stage (the cat is already out of the bag so to speak); I think the best strategy is to come up with something that is not anticipated by the “clone” makers, but based on the products we’ve seen (and the other aspects you pointed out) that wasn’t on the map for Makerbot at the moment.

        This was surprising to me. There is an enormous amount of room for innovation in this space and providing incremental improvements in existing product vectors, while admirable, is not the kind of result that provides open-source anything with what is needed to surpass cloning efforts. Instead the objective is to make your previous product obsolete in light of the new one and keep your competition guessing (and your customers enchanted).

  10. Dave says:

    So much of this is bizarre. You can’t be part open source, part not? Bull. Lots of companies large and small do that, and thrive. It has been that way for a decade or more.

    If a company clones your open source hw, you have to go closed source? Why? I see no A-therefore-B there. And let’s be clear here… there’s nothing revolutionary about makerbot products to begin with.

    And why do we care if someone makes a cheaper 3d printer? The prices haven’t exactly been coming down over the last few years.

    1. tiefpunkt says:

      Totally agree. GitHub, has been running a mixture of open- and closed-source, and they seem to be doing fairly well, and there are tons of people using it.

      Secondly, I can understand many people thinking about the way of going closed source when someone copies your stuff. However, this has a security-by-obscurity-feel to it. It won’t work. Maybe on the short run, it does. But in the long run, you will have to out-innovate your competition.

      I’m totally fine with MakerBot not opensourcing all their Replicator2 design files. They are still an open source company at heart, and I’m sure they will share many of their innovations with the open source community.

  11. Hank Snow says:

    Considering Makerbot wouldn’t have been possible if they hadn’t developed their line of products (hardware, electronics and software) *heavily* based on the open-source RepRap designs, tool chain, and research, I find their decision to close-source their product line and software very disappointing.

    Fortunately, there are a lot of excellent open source printers out there. From Tantillus to the Ultimaker to the Ord Bot. (Not to mention the ultra-affordable Mendel variants )

    Perhaps it’s time for the Open Source Maker community to pick a new standard bearer.

  12. swordfishBob says:

    “..will only open them to a different form of competitors. A form of competitor that really, truly is only there for the profit, and doesn’t have the ethics of open and community driven innovation.” No, those competitors will exist regardless of your open/closed stance.
    Part of being open is that Tangibot are free to build replicas (though not to abuse trademarks). Further, an endeavour such as Tangibot would realise that yet another company can come along and try to undercut THEM. This is all to be expected when designs are open and public.

    There is something I see as a greater difficulty. There’s a well-known vendor of open-source UAV components, who provides excellent after-sales support. They’ve been afflicted by another company making clones and marking them identically (breaching trademarks, but operating in a country where it’s difficult to resolve/enforce); their clients are then calling the first company for support, believing they bought “genuine” supported product.

  13. Robert Rothermel says:

    Most open source companies make a living providing a service instead of just a good. I only have experience with the software side of things, but take Red Hat as an example. CentOS is basically Red Hat released free by the community (because Red Hat as a product is open source and can be duplicated). However, Red Hat continues to turn a profit despite the existence of CentOS by selling support contracts.

    Another example… Drupal is a really great open source CMS. Even though Drupal doesn’t make a dime alone, there are many companies that make a living building websites using Drupal. In return, they realize their success is tightly linked with the success of the Drupal community as a whole. Every time someone finds a bug, it goes through the original Drupal community for both troubleshooting and repair. Programmers who use Drupal are the same people that contribute to Drupal, and success is shared as a whole.

    I don’t know how this would translate to what MakerBot is doing. I honestly don’t… Which makes me a bit sad. I really hope they find a niche. I feel like every successful open source project needs at least one corporate champion (I’m thinking Acquia, Commerce Guys, NodeOne… Red Hat, Canonical… etc).

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      You make a great point.

      Open source, recall, is a term that originates in software, which has “source code” that can be “open” to the folks who use the software, or “closed” to them.

      Open source has had dramatic successes in the software world. Software is not hardware. Both software and hardware cost money to develop, but after that the picture changes radically. Hardware has significant per-unit manufacturing costs; software costs essentially nothing to mass-produce. If you’re making open source hardware in the US, you have to worry, for instance, that the 800-lb gorillas are going to sniff out your profits, reverse engineer your product, and then beat you to death with the economies of scale they enjoy, among the most significant of which is access to dirt-cheap foreign labor.

      The gorillas’ advantage is chiefly in manufacturing. If you’re making software, where manufacturing costs are slight, an open source product can (and often has) beaten the pants off the gorillas’ closed-source offerings. The gorillas may be big, but they are often slower-moving when it comes to development and innovative thinking.

      Point being, I think we may be talking apples and oranges to freely compare open source hardware to open source software, especially in this particular discussion.

  14. HW guru says:

    Again, do not compare third party projects to your own, and respect other peoples decisions.

    Maker-bots strength is its constantly improving – great for technical people.
    Maker-bots weakness is its constantly improving – horrible for non-technical people.

    As long as there is innovation, the derivative fork of Rep-Rap known as Makerbot will remain popular with it’s large user base. I often wonder how much credit is actually given back to the community in general by Makezine, or even if the company donated a single $1 to the authors of the original software. I may not philosophically agree with closed source in general, but I do respect their choices given some understanding of project funding and hypocritical businessmen.

    Note, groups will be ready to release some improved designs next year that they hope will further improve performance. And indeed, our software is Apache licensed (not just GPL) for extra goodness, and remember to support the actual developers with tax deductible donations.

    I applaud peoples success, and want everyone to improve…
    Personally, I’d be re-writing the firmware within the first 10 minutes of buying a machine.

  15. physical0 says:

    If an open-source hardware company can’t compete with clones, they should go Closed-Source. Honestly… an open-source company shouldn’t even try to compete with clones, forks, etc. They should embrace them in hopes that they will improve the product.

    You shouldn’t try to kill the clone just because they are using the information which the original made freely available. If the clone can assemble the open source specification for less than the original, that is good. This will lead to lower costs and more users. More users is good for an open source project.

    A company who’s goal is to make the open-source project more affordable is a good company.

  16. Matt says:

    As much as I could go on about open source and the influence of MakerBot towards the 3D printing community, I feel that MakerBot Ind. has been strongly influenced by the fact that they took money from VC’s and are now under some of there command. They can’t afford to loose any money from things like TangiBot. And as Josef Prusa (I appreciate everything you have done for the 3D printing community and would like to say thank, if you read this) found out, that is why there new products are closed source.

    1. Christian Restifo (@restifo) says:

      I think this, more than anything, explains (if it’s true) the move to closed source. VC funds have one goal in mind: invest in a company and develop it to a point where they can sell it to someone else or cash in on an IPO. Even Bre once commented that if he’d had something like Kickstarter around, he could have taken that route instead of VC money.

      Open source scares a lot of potential buyers or IPO investors. “What do you mean they give away their designs for free? They can’t protect their own IP? You mean competitors can just copy their designs without any royalty payments or risk of patent infringement? What’s to stop a cheap Chinese knock off from eating their lunch?”

      Anyone evaluating the company for purchase or IPO price is going to take these things into account. Unless they develop some closed source items, the financial market will write a big “0” for the present value of IP, revenue streams, etc. I’m not saying this because it’s “true”, it’s just that the current system has not caught up to the idea of open source hardware the way it has in regards to open source software.

      As with all companies that do so, MakerBot gave up autonomy and control when it took on VC money. VC funds don’t care about advancing markets, democratizing production, or pushing open source. They care about making bets on companies to make money, and they act accordingly. (I’m not saying this is wrong; they serve their purpose in a free market system. Their nature, however, is not in line with what I perceive MakerBot’s original mission to be. It’s a marriage of convenience.)

      Disclaimer: I have a Cupcake (one of the last ones made), and I love it. I’ve hacked the hell out of it, but I’d be wary to buy a Replicator that I can’t easily hack or improve because certain things are “off limits.” I’ve been thinking about getting a bigger printer, but I think I’ll go the Prusa route.

      1. Jose says:

        You can update your cupcake(much bigger area, quality and so on):

        1. Christian Restifo (@restifo) says:

          Interesting, but it appears to use the old 4 rod z axis system. Too prone to skipping/jamming for me. I remade mine to use the type A z-rider ( which simplifies a lot of things.

          1. Jose says:

            Skipping is mainly caused by the enormous not evenly distributed weight it has to support. My (early model, it was double digits serial number, less than 30) Cupcake changed weight distribution a lot.

            ultra-bot removes the problem, first not having to lift anything, in fact what it does is just go down in a controlled way. No motors up means no weight up, enormous stability. Bowden tube means super fast and precise.

            I regret having given to someone else my Cupcake(I have Prusas it2 now) . Ultra bot would had made it young again.

  17. Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source? wyojustin says:

    Regarding the statement “A company also cannot be partially open source.” This is not true. Our Open Source Mavens at Evil Mad Science also sell their own closed source designs (interactive LEDs for instance)

  18. Mr Whizzerz says:

    Load-O-crap, most of this, Makerbot is simply an early knock-off of the RepRap, Zach Hoeken added a motion board early in the game, (long since superseded) and is simply a Rep-Strap – nothing more.

    Makerbot capitalized and self promoted while riding on the shoulders of innovators like Adrian Boyer and Vik Oliver. and the many contributors to RepRap

    Getting the accountants involved is COMPLETELY antithetical to the premise set out in the RepRap project which Makerbot paid some lip service to initially.

    Closed source? Open Source will overcome since innovation is still occurring in the real (non-commercialized) 3D printing community.

    If some VC puppet masters break the ethos and this company goes away it has no impact on the Open Source 3D Printing community at large any more than the disappearance of the Altair had on personal computing (what?! you never heard of the Altair?)

    1. Rob Giseburt says:

      No one outside of MakerBot really knows what’s happening in there, but we shouldn’t just assume that it’s the VCs behind this decision.

      The VCs obviously put their money into an open hardware company, and they would have done their homework on the ramifications of that.

  19. dorkmo says:

    props to the vc. gotta have balls to invest in a technology whos goal is to self replicate.

    isnt part of the open source legal stuff having to share derivative work? is replicator2 redesigned from the ground up? just curious. i dont really understand.

    1. Mr. Whizzers says:

      But you see, THAT is the problem, RepRaps’ goal is to self replicate, maker-bot is a johnny-come-lately knockoff, who’s goal is to make money – not remotely the same goal or process – only a small percentage of the Maker-bot parts can be made on the Maker-bot – it is an inferior derivative of the RepRap and a poorly concealed theft of the concept – it contributes nothing to furthering the goals of the project it is derived from. And now barely 3 years into the process its abandoning even the pretense of being a meaningful part of that community. poor sportsmanship all-round.

  20. The Cloud, Open Source, API and the new world | Startup Iceland says:

    […] Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source? ( […]

  21. GegoXAREN says:

    Seeing the amount of ***** that are in the “Maker” community it is funny to see them complaining that “what if it goes closed source?”.

    I think that it is oxymoronic to not use an full F/L/OSS Operating System and call your self a “Maker”. It is just so far from — what I perceive as — the ideals of the maker movement.

    1. James Patrick says:

      Someone can be a maker and never touch a computer for their entire life. There’s more to making than understanding electronics.

  22. batlard says:

    It would only be fair if the sh!tstorm now closing in on makerbot is equal to the size of the sh!tstorm about tangibot.

    btw: i vaguely remember a post about the tangibot on the makerbot blog. that post seems to be deleted now.

  23. Remmar Gorpa says:

    Our unfortunate time bucket never got its fair share of the historical revolutionaries. Instead it got us. We the incurably neotenic bunch of clueless … I’d say cowards, but even cowardice requires a certain degree of cognizance. We who think we can take on history’s biggest challenges ever while masturbating, watching TV, playing with toys, doing drugs, amassing riches, and generally goofing off. We who think we can simply trick history into diverting its course, without putting on the line even a single drop of our own blood. We who simultaneously subscribe to an assertion and its logical opposite (hence whose Gandhis are war mongers). The saddest part of it is that we are setting history up to so throughly forget us that we won’t even leave behind a cautionary tale.

    1. Sean Ragan says:

      Wow. Catastrophize much?

      1. HW guru says:

        True we already invented Prozac,
        but some people prefer a depressing arrogance to wisdom.

  24. Jonathan Dahan (@jedahan) says:

    MakerBot going closed source not only hurts makerbot, but faith in a) open hardware/software as a viable business and b) the niche open hardware tech scene in NY that has been growing steadily.

    It seems like an unnecessary and poor business move.

  25. rageahol says:

    Makerbot going closed source because someone has decided that they can build something cheaper is shady, but that’s one thing.

    Makerbot fcking over everyone on thingiverse with licensing is quite another
    fck mkrbt nd vryn ssctd wth t.

    1. Phillip Torrone says:

      i’ve emailed gareth and sean – part of your comment should be removed. debate and conversations are fine (and encouraged) this is an interesting topic, but you need to leave the cursing and attacks off the site.

      1. Sean Ragan says:

        TY Phil!

    2. Sean Ragan says:

      Without taking a stance one way or the other, I think the point you raise about Thingiverse licensing is totally valid for discussion. I agree that the F-bombs and, especially, the tone of the last sentence, take things too far. I’ve disemvoweled the objectionable bits.

    3. EhisforAdam says:

      Thing is…YouTube and both have the exact same sort of statement in their TOSs and I suspect just about any website you upload user created content does too. It certainly hasn’t negatively effected the people who upload content there. If you don’t want to use a website to load content onto with a statement like that in the TOS, make your own website.

  26. Rob Giseburt says:

    On the topic of Thingiverse ToS, Bre commented in the Thingiverse blog pointing out that they didn’t change yesterday:

    He explained the changes when they happened here:

  27. James Patrick says:

    I think it’s up to us. If we decide to support the open-source option with our wallets, then the closed-source option won’t stand a chance. If Makerbot ends up losing sales because we choose China, then we will be to blame when they go closed-source.

  28. Parker says:

    I have no problem supporting Makerbot even if they close off their machines. This printer is AMAZING and i would much rather buy this–and have it work out of the box–than build a REP RAP and have it NOT work because i have NO experience in hardware OR software engineering/building/troubleshooting. I do however have experience in 3d modeling and would love to realize some of those creations in plastic, from my home…And this is the issue Makerbot has to face. they are in a transitional state between catering to the engineers that have propped them up, and building for the mass market that doesn’t care if there is an Arduino, Pi, or some alien technology running it as long as the product does what it says it will do–without glitches–… As long as their customer service is top notch and their product is good quality they will find a broader audience than the ‘maker convention’ can give them with this product.

  29. Manuel McLure says:

    So, has MakerBot actually said they’re going closed-source? I read this article as a “what-if” yet many of the comments are reacting as if MakerBot going closed-source is a done deal. I think many people read the title of the article but not the article itself.

  30. Josef Prusa says:

    Done deal. Can’t imagine someone would write that while wanting to open source the design :-D “Maybe it will be open source, or not!” Very sad!

  31. Darkwood71 (@Darkwood71) says:

    There seems to be a lack of understanding here about what open source really means (no offense intended). Open source, from a software perspective, is a LICENSE that allows you to use, modify and distribute the code. And, here’s the important part, the original coder of an open source program does not, and has not given up his or her rights (as in copyright) to the program. That’s why open source has worked in our world filled with lawyers. If you violate the terms of your open source license (such as trying to sell a closed source version), the copyright on the software is enforced, an you no longer have any rights to use, modify or distribute the software. A careful read of the GNU GPL License will explain all of this in great detail.

    As far as open source hardware goes, there’s nothing stopping the maker from patenting his or her invention (the main form of protecting hardware innovations), and then licensing it in a similar way as the GNU GPL. It’s the license that makes it open source, not the fact that you can get the information on the device or its workings for free.

    All to often we only look at the “For Free” part without thinking about what that really means. Creators of open source hardware SHOULD protect themselves from being ripped off by using patents, copyrights and licenses to stop these situations from occurring. And, getting educated about the differences between public domain, open source and closed source should be at the top of any makers agenda when considering how to release their project.

    Personally, I wouldn’t fault the Makerbot crew if they decide not to release their project information for free in the future. I believe they could find a way using copyrights and licenses to protect themselves better, but I’m sure it’s a huge frustration for them to have to deal with people taking advantage of their goodwill. In my opinion, they’ve gone well above and beyond being generous with their knowledge, and have earned the right to not have to deal with jerks like Tangibot (or being maligned on the Make blog for protecting their work and livelihood).

  32. Makerbot Might Be Going Closed Source « openalia says:

    […] for the infant open hardware community. We’ve got comments going back and forth on slashdot, Make Magazine, and reddit. I wonder how much impact the community will have on Makerbot’s business […]

  33. mattmaier says:

    For what it’s worth, I don’t see how anybody loses by Makerbot becoming more successful. It is a bit off-putting that they would respond to the community with empty rhetoric, but moving up-market makes total and complete sense.

    The elephant in the room is that $10M round of funding they got. I wasn’t there, but I doubt it was charity. Someone will be expecting that money back, plus interest, and they’ll be looking for it in a couple years. There’s no way Makerbot was ever going to grow while selling exclusively to hackers. The hacker market is too small. They have to build themselves into a brand that people who don’t turn allen wrenches will buy. That market is big enough to make them at least kind of secure.

    A bigger market for 3D printers means better quality parts, at lower prices, which will only help the open source hardware community grow and do greater things.

    Makerbot isn’t the last good idea the open hardware movement will produce; it’s just one of the first.

  34. Mårten says:

    It wasn’t particularly smart of whoever is making the tangibot to do an exact replica, it just generates a lot of bad will. He could have made some minor improvements and called it superior instead. That is essentially what makerbot did when they launched a comercial “repstrap” machine. It is not like the makerbot was invented from scratch, it is basically reprap technology. I do not think makerbot need to worry to much about tangibot though, they have a huge advantage by having a strong brand, large community, being the “original”, “made in the USA”, etc. But the worst thing they can do is alienate their fanbase.

    The goal of reprap is to make 3d-printers affordable by everyone in the world, anyone that help achieve that goal is doing a good thing.

  35. a guy without a makerbot yet says:

    Reading all of this and then some im still not sure i understand everything. The replicator 2 is closed source. Thingiverse did not change its TOS. Those are the two facts i can find. Makerbot took VC funds and are now being forced to operate under VC terms. This does suck. But what i dont know is this…. Will Makerbot continue on supporting older open source models and will they continue to update those products while also maintaining a closed source product or products too? And why do so many people point at the Tangibot kickstarter attempt to explain all of this? The community killed that and it never took off. Clearly Tangibot did not pose a threat. I think this is more related to the acceptance of VC funds. Im on the fence really. Would suck to see Makerbot sell out to VC funds and stop being an open source company. But its not my company and they can do whatever they want to with it.
    REPRAP is still an option.

  36. Michael Stephens says:

    Whether its open or not.. its still going to get cloned. Whether its open or not its still going to get hacked. If they start obscuring there boards with chips on chips under glue or something.. then I cry foul.

    Not to mention that this only is as powerful as there ability to patent/trademark/copyright and most importantly LITIGATE. If they are unwilling or cant afford to pony up the IP enforcement bucks, it doesn’t matter whether they are open or closed.

  37. Dave says:

    It is bitter sweet to see them go to the replicator 2. But it was inevitable after investors came along. Its like watching a friend get a new better job. You are glad to see them get a better opportunity, but it is sad to see them go. I hope to see others pick up the riegns and continue the movent. Congratulations to Bre and the rest of the team you have moved to a new market. Now the makers need to unite and continue!!! We need to represent the individual makers!!!

  38. Carlos says:

    Money, money, money, money… Just that!

  39. The Definitive Makerbot Open vs Closed Source Discussion « openalia says:

    […] Makezine- Is one of our open source heroes going closed source […]

  40. MAKE | MakerBot’s Mixed Messages About Open Source, Their Future says:

    […] (This is a followup to my post: Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?) […]

  41. ○DIY/Tip▶ MakerBot’s Mixed Messages About Open Source, Their Future « dot dot dob tob tob says:

    […] (This is a followup to my post: Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?) […]

  42. THE END OF OPENSOURCE? > > > | D I M E N S I O N E X T says:
  43. MakerBot’s Mixed Messages About Open Source, Their Future says:

    […] (This is a followup to my post: Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?) […]

  44. Pinoccio at the 2012 Open Hardware Summit | Pinoccio says:

    […] out the best way to ensure our company remains viable and sustainable.  As is clear with the discussion surrounding MakerBot possibly going closed-source, it will be a really valuable time to discuss the challenges and benefits along with other […]

  45. P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » MakerBot leaves open source – Replicator 2 proprietary says:

    […] (Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source?) […]

  46. ǝɔʎoſ ʇʇɐW (@openfly) says: I put together some thoughts on the matter here. It’s an interesting subject. Made me think. Not sure I have a conclusion yet.

  47. Ep. 8 - Canadian Tech Podcast says:
  48. Chuck Finley says:

    It is extremely ironic and slightly chuckle-inducing to read about this. The shoe is on the other foot. How do you think all of the companies that invested in the R&D of their 3D printing technologies felt when the MakerBot came to be? On one hand the author cries foul for the need to keep food on the tables of Make employees, but then bemoans the high prices of the established businesses fully dependent on their patented designs. It is very empowering for the community to have free and open access to this type of manufacturing technology. I truly believe it is revolutionary and wonderful, but don’t sit there and expect me to feel bad for the employees of the open source based company and not care about the families of the closed source ones. This has nothing to do with keeping food on the table, at least it shouldn’t. It should be about getting amazing things into the hands of equally amazing people. Isn’t that the whole point of open source?

  49. MAKE | Open Source Hardware, Workshops and Summits says:

    […] aka RobotGrrl, on sharing inspiration through the development of robot kits. With all of the discussion and soul-searching going on recently about MakerBot and open source 3D printing (Bre will be speaking in the afternoon […]

  50. ○DIY/Tip▶ Open Source Hardware, Workshops and Summits « dot dot dob tob tob says:

    […] aka RobotGrrl, on sharing inspiration through the development of robot kits. With all of the discussion and soul-searching going on recently about MakerBot and open source 3D printing (Bre will be speaking in the afternoon […]

  51. Open Source Hardware, Workshops and Summits says:

    […] aka RobotGrrl, on sharing inspiration through the development of robot kits. With all of the discussion and soul-searching going on recently about MakerBot and open source 3D printing (Bre will be speaking in the afternoon […]

  52. 20120929 Kickstarter update : End of summer 2012 progress report » Cesar Harada says:

    […] it! Why we are not showing you (or anyone) the most recent designs? You may have heard about the controversy around the new Makerbot Replicator 2 not being Open Source ; because of the threat of a cheaper chinese copycat – well – we […]

  53. Jetzt mach einfach! Makerbot Replicator 2 | STYLE LEAGUE - BOYS DON'T CRY says:

    […] Open Source Fan? Makerbot hat sich aus dem Open Source Bereich verabschiedet. Das gefällt nicht allen. Eine Alternative könnte RepRap sein. Ebenfalls essentielles Wissen zum […]

  54. Cdr Blog: digital convergence, business strategy, innovation » Blog Archive » Is Open Source Hardware sustainable? says:

    […] And an opinion from y Rob Giseburt in the Make Makazine Is One of Our Open Source Heroes Going Closed Source? […]

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