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MakerBot Replicator 2 is Closed Source?

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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 :-D . 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!

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About jf

JF Brandon is contributing author for SolidSmack, loves his DIY, his 3D Printing, the Future and the history of Design and Manufacturing. He runs DShape CAnada and lives in Vancouver, Canada. If you see something on the Internet you think he'd like, pass it along!

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  • ion

    Don’t forget to visit the Makerbot retail store.
    http://techcrunch.com/2012/09/23/inside-the-brand-new-makerbot-retail-store/

  • Lee Lloyd

    I don’t think the problem is that most people have an issue with “closed source” as such. I mean really, aren’t most people designing for 3D print using some amount of closed source software? I think the problem is, unlike some other companies (say 3D Systems), who developed their own 3D printing technology from scratch, Bre Pettis was not only happy to leverage the designs of other people’s open source hardware, but also bask in the glow of open source good will, while building his brand, and making himself a minor celebrity. Now that he has refined the design to the point that he thinks it is ready for prime time, has a strong brand, and has become the poster boy for 3D printing, he seems all too willing to ditch the “hobbyist” open source community, and move on to making real money with a closed commercial product aimed squarely at the same market as all those other closed systems he’s previously been hyping his product as the affordable alternative to.

    I personally never bought into the Makerbot hype, but I can completely understand why this would leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.