Open source 3D printer manufacturer Printrbot has announced the close of its business, citing poor sales as the reason for the decision. A simple statement on the Printrbot website from founder Brook Drumm reads:
“Printrbot is closed. Low sales led to hard decisions. We will be forever grateful to all the people we met and served over the years. Thank you all.”
For the time being, Drumm will reportedly be “unreachable” for comments, and plans to share his views and plans for this “final chapter” in due course.
The 3D Printing Community however has take to social media in mourning of the company, with figures including Joel Telling (YouTube’s 3D Printing Nerd), Thomas Sanladerer, and Dr. Adrian Bowyer himself weighing in on the close.
Printrbot was founded by Drumm in 2011 a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Marketed as “your first 3D printer,” backing for the original Printrbot 3D printer reached $830,827, reportedly breaking Kickstarter’s record for tech pledges at the time.
Though generating a deal of cult support in the year’s following, there have been difficulties within the growing 3D printer market and the open source movement itself that have proved challenging to navigate.
Open Source challenges
In our interview with Drumm for the 10th anniversary of the RepRap project, he outlined the impact made by changes in the wider industry:
“A key part of the puzzle in the rapid spread of 3D printers across the globe is the rise of open source hardware businesses, like us, that sell inexpensive 3D printer kits. We were able to scale up faster than organic, grassroots growth alone could achieve,”
“The downside was that our innovative designs were also being used by companies with even bigger distribution channels and much deeper pockets.”
In addition, Drumm addresses some of the flaws with the open source movement itself, saying, “I have found, from the beginning of Printrbot in 2011, that Open Source was synonymous with disorganization,”
“I was trying to herd cats while finding the needles in the haystacks of ideas to chart Printrbot’s course. The 2nd law of thermodynamics is called to mind… things seem to tend toward disorder. Not much has changed since then.”
Still, his belief in the necessity of Open Source remained strong, “There is still a need for OS projects, of course,” he states, “The educational benefits of 3D printing alone are enough of a reason for me to stay engaged.”
Effect on the maker community
Since the announcement on 18 July 2018, Printrbot fans have taken to Twitter expressing their condolences for the closure, with some setting their 3D printers to half-z in tribute.
Adrian Bowyer, father of the RepRap movement that bore Printrbot 3D printers and other open source machines of this kind, also expressed his sadness at the announcement:
3D Printing Industry has contacted the Printrbot team for further comment on the company’s closure.
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Featured image shows Brook Drumm and some early 3D printers. Photo via Printrbot.