Rumors have abounded about whether or not Makerbot is going to release the documentation for their latest machine, as they have with the Replicator and the Thing-o-matic. Open-Source is Bre’s middle name. Tangibot threw a wrench into Makerbot’s narrative to be the biggest hardware company in the Open Source world. Lucky for them, the combination of bad press and a boycott scratched Tangibot’s plans (although $500K was a silly target to aim for). Was the Tangibot affaire the close-call investors needed to keep the Replicator closed source? We don’t know.
It’s the Source of Some Flack
Bre wrote a rather long blog post and responded to almost all the comments put forth in an effort ‘to fix misinformation with information’ (rad). But that nagging question he himself posed – “Is the Replicator 2 going to be Closed Source” wasn’t answered. “We’re working that out and we are going to be as open as we possibly can while building a sustainable business.”. Or in other words, maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Jozef Prusa, the very man who developed the RepRap Prusa was livid about Makerbot’s actions. “We now have a Replicator 2 and it is closed source. Hey look, we took all your improvements you shared on Thingiverse, compiled it into one package and closed it for you . Same with MakerWare.”. Big, 3D Printed words.
In reality, things have been overblown. The specs of the Replicator 2 are no different from a lot of commonly found 3D printers. How each part works together, how the design has been perfected – that’s a costly venture and often worth protecting. Especially if it means you get a better product. And if you don’t want to pay for it, get a Reprap. Lots of the tools I use are closed-source – I am writing on a Mac, my Black and Decker drill is closed-source. I don’t care about the documentation because I can’t make one as good as before, nor improve it. I leave that to the experts, who I pay handsomely for.
What Bre Should Have Said
Yet for a Community of hacker, it’s only a matter of time before someone reverse-engineers and documents how one works. Especially now. A smart move for Bre would have been to say, “We’re not going Closed Source, we’re just giving you a challenge to hack it and make it Open Source. Come on, I thought you said you could HACK!” And people will, and they will find there’s nothing terribly special, and forget about it. By which time, a new Replicator has come along. As Bre said, he wants more community engagement from Makerbot – get ‘em hacking your Replicator!