It’s been a rough year for MakerBot, with layoffs and store closures, as well as disappointing third quarter results, causing quite a bit of whispering within the industry. CEO Jonathan Jaglom isn’t worried, though. Jaglom, who took over the company in March, has been busy restructuring MakerBot and redefining the company’s priorities in an attempt to make the organization much stronger going into 2016. Jaglom is optimistic about the future, and, in a recent interview with the New York Business Journal, he spoke about MakerBot’s upcoming goals, including a mysterious networking project.
In fairness to MakerBot, they aren’t the only company that suffered in 2015. It’s been a disappointing year for the 3D printing industry overall, which Jaglom attributes to unrealistic expectations.
The layoffs, while unfortunate, were necessary for MakerBot to adjust and refocus on its strengths, he continued, at the expense of some of its less successful endeavors. One of those less successful endeavors is the MakerBot Digital Store, which hasn’t caught on the way the company thought it would. While it’s not going anywhere, “we deem it not core to our activities” at this time, said Jaglom. Instead, MakerBot has shifted their focus to improving their firmware and desktop software.
“There is, I think it’s fair to say, a de-hype of the 3d printing industry as a whole, which was in its peak last year and that has impacted everyone, including MakerBot,” he said. “In that space, I think expectations were not set in the time frames that were expected. I think people were expecting a consumer market to be ripe earlier than I believe reality would suggest.”
Part of the staff reorganization that Jaglom undertook was for the purpose of creating more local management teams for MakerBot’s global divisions, rather than continuing to manage them from a distance. Such restructuring ensures that each division has a management team that is aware of and invested in the details of its operations. Quality assurance has also been given a serious boost in staffing, which should come as a relief to consumers plagued by printer issues.
Educational outreach will remain a priority for MakerBot as well. The company has been one of the most active and visible in terms of getting 3D printers into schools and making sure educational 3D printing programs are firmly established in as many schools as possible. When speaking about MakerBot’s future plans in this regard, Jaglom got a bit cryptic, hinting at an upcoming project that would utilize Thingiverse and its networking capabilities to link educators in some sort of Internet of Things-like system.
“We have printers in over 5,000 schools and we’re giving those teachers accessibility through Thingiverse to learn best practices from one another to help them in their courses,” said Jaglom. “Down the road the whole education and Makerbot equation will be a lot more tied up. Imagine if we could let teachers communicate with one another. A teacher in Australia doing a fourth-grade math class using a Makerbot and then streaming that through our means of communication…and someone here in New York City also teaching fourth grade math could use that best practice. But we’re not just talking about two teachers, we’re talking about half-a-million active users at Thingiverse—that’s the population today. If you can tie all of that together and create an experience that is seamless and easy to use, just think of the immensity, the power of that.”
No further details were offered, but a networking project on the scale described by Jaglom could be groundbreaking. If MakerBot has become something of a poster child for the issues that have been affecting the 3D printing industry as a whole over the past year, Jaglom’s optimism about the future should be reassuring to everyone. Discuss this story in the Jaglom 3D Printing forum thread on 3DPB.com.