Reverse that Z-axis and cool the extruders. The print beds of the 3D Printing scene are amalgamating into a massive prosumer platform with two 3D Print manufacturers joining forces. Two weeks ago we reported on the rumored acquisition of MakerBot. Our first guess was Stratasys and although we thought that it was “highly unlikely that Bre would hand over his iconic 3D printing brand this early,” it turns out it was just the right time. Stratasys has announced the coming acquisition of MakerBot and merger of the two companies. Some see this as a slap in the face to the roots of DIY 3D printing, others are calling their stock portfolio manager and still others are wondering how exactly this could change 3D printing.
MakerBot meet your Maker
When we were at the new MakerBot factory opening, little did we know that the final pieces were being put in place. Pieces that would seal a deal between Stratasys, a Minnesota-based company founded in 1989 by Scott Crump who first patented fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology, and MakerBot, a New York-based company founded in 2009 that built on the success of the open-source RepRap Project that used Stratasys-inspired FDM tech, renamed to Fused Filament Fabrication (FFF). Why Stratasys never thought to deliver a consumer-grade desktop 3D printer in its infancy or when the RepRap “Darwin” made over half of its own parts in 2005 is beyond comprehension, but in competition with the aggressive acquisitions of 3D Systems in software, hardware and services and the 3D Systems entry into personal 3D printers with a new community portal, a move had to be made.
The details of the proposed merger and transaction are fairly specific. The companies will merge in stock-for-stock exchange, 4.76 million shares in Stratasys for 100% of outstanding capital stock in MakerBot. This deal has an initial value of $403 million based on Stratasys’ closing stock price of $84.60 as of June 19, 2013. The $604 Million amount comes from an additional performance-based earn-out of 2.38 million shares through the end of 2014, which adds an addtional $201 million to the mix. MakerBot will continue to operate as usual, but as a subsidiary of Stratasys, with the benefit of mixing talent, intellectual property, tech know-how and resources once the merger has been complete.
What does this all mean?
So what does the acquisition of a consumer 3D printer manufacturer by a professional 3D printer manufacturer mean? For MakerBot owners it may be a bit of a shock. For share holders an attractive buy. For soon to be buyers, perhaps an improved product and reason to start saving for the Replicator3. MakerBot lost their open-source appeal when they decided to close up their machine specs and deliver an off-the-shelf product with high-priced filament. Even with the typical 3D Printer tweaks required to get good 3D prints, it’s still the easiest plug-n-play solution, which is where they have obviously shifted the appeal. (It’s the very reason we bought one.) Stratasys is likely to build on this appeal and with it, there are a few other important aspects we see.
More corporate-y videos?
MakerBot will soon be a subsidiary of Stratasys. Objet is another acquisition and subsidiary of Stratasys. First of all, let’s hope and pray that the marketing people responsible for creating the Objet 1000 jingle (WARNING: VIEW/LISTEN AT YOUR OWN RISK!) will not deliver the same fate upon MakerBot. If they dodge a MakerBot jingle, we’re convinced this means…
The “content-to-print” strategy of 3D Systems (acquiring software, development tools and manufacturing tools) makes them a more diversified company, spreading them across more verticals. This is an aspect making 3D Systems attractive in the stock market and plays directly into their higher revenue. 3D Systems has their own line of personal 3D printers as well. Now Stratasys, while they have the lower-priced professional Mojo and uPrint Desktop 3D printers, has a cost-friendly addition to desktop printing that many design firms are already using, which introduces Stratasys to…
A new community
Stratasys bought a 3D printer manufacturer, but at the same time they also bought a community. Thingiverse is the largest 3D-models-for-3D-print community online and no other 3D Printer manufacturer has this. 3D Systems is in the early stages of building a community from scratch built around the Cube 3D printer, but Thingiverse extends out to users of multiple disciplines and various 3D printers, brought together by access to ready-to-print 3D models. This all works together in…
Spreading the message/material
Stratasys has a lot of other printers, business segments and services; products like the Mojo and uPrint, Dimension and Fortus systems used in industries from Aerospace to Dental with access to Stratasys’ Redeye rapid prototyping production service. With their global reach puts the MakerBot brand in front of a wider array of people. And for MakerBot users, it would be quite interesting to see Stratasys materials (particularly ABSplus and Ultem) transition over to the MakerBot platform. Ultimately, this means…
More money/exposure for MakerBot
They’ve had a $10 million infusion of funds before. Although the Stratasys acquisition is all stock-for-stock transaction, Stratasys has the deeper pockets, deeper resources and that global reach which brings a lot of growth potential to the MakerBot product line–least we forget they are developing a desktop 3D scanner as well.
Time to MakerBot?
Where do you see this going? Is it the start of a new, stronger line of consumer 3D printers? A reason to hold off on buying one? Or are you duct tapping yourself to your MakerBot Thing-o-matic and jumping through a window in protest?
Update: Joris over at Voxelfab has a very insightful write-up on the acquisition and what it means for MakerBot owners, Stratasys share holders and the 3D Printing community at large. A very good read!