While MakerBot may be one of the most prolific and recognizable 3D printer manufacturers in the world, they’re no stranger to upheaval. The company has had four different CEOs in four years, with current CEO Nadav Goshen replacing Jonathan Jaglom only a little over a week ago. It remains to be seen what kind of direction Goshen will take the company, and it’s too early in his tenure to make any strong predictions, but one thing does seem clear – MakerBot has no intention to deviate from at least one of their core values: education.
A few months ago, MakerBot officially announced that their focus would be on users in the educational and professional markets, exiting the consumer market where they got their start. This week, MakerBot has been at the Future of Education Technology Conference in Orlando, where on Wednesday they made a big announcement: they’re launching a new MakerBot Educators program, a community of teachers dedicated to using 3D printing in the classroom and exchanging knowledge with other educators, as well as with the MakerBot team.
“After recently establishing Thingiverse Education, now the largest collection of 3D printing lesson plans online, we saw an immediate response from hundreds of teachers who were excited to contribute content and share best practices with their peers,” said Drew Lentz, Manager, MakerBot Learning. “The new MakerBot Educators program is taking it a step further by forging a closer relationship between MakerBot and the most engaged teachers of our community.”
To become a member of the MakerBot Educators program, teachers will need to have access to a MakerBot 3D printer and have contributed to Thingiverse Education. Members, once they’re accepted, will be invited to participate in monthly “missions” designed to increase student access to 3D printing, expand content available for classroom use, and promote the benefits of STEM learning and creative design thinking. Participants will receive a welcome kit with exclusive MakerBot gear and will also have the chance to earn prizes like MakerBot PLA filament by participating in monthly challenges.
“By starting early in middle school and high school, we can now send students to college already possessing 3D design skills,” said Dr. Paul Gerton, a Thingiverse Education contributor who has joined the program as a MakerBot Educator. “They are then better prepared for classes, co-ops, and internships right from the start. I am a MakerBot Educator because I want to equip my students with the knowledge and skills that they will need in the future.”
It’s understandable to be a bit concerned when a company goes through so many big changes in such a short period of time, but this Stratasys subsidiary is determined to reassure its customers and would-be customers that they can still be counted on to deliver quality products, attentive customer engagement, and continuous innovation. The company released a slew of announcements in September, including new hardware, software, and collaborations. One of the newly released printers is the Replicator+, which, according to MakerBot, was created with a tremendous amount of teamwork between the company’s hardware and software teams.
“Our thinking in developing the Replicator+ was guided by feedback from in-depth customer research and the collective expertise of our teams. Based on insights from these sources, we set a variety of goals for the Replicator+, like faster printing, greater reliability, higher print quality, reduced noise, and improved ease of use,” the MakerBot team explains in a recent blog. “Even though many teams collaborated across MakerBot to achieve these goals, one collaboration especially drove the effort: the mechanical engineers from our hardware team and the toolpather engineers from our software team.”
A lot of work goes into developing a new 3D printer, obviously, but MakerBot describes, in-depth, how teamwork from all sides made the Replicator+ what it is: a professional, reliable and fast 3D printer. The mechanical engineering team and toolpather team worked together from start to finish, brainstorming ways to increase print speed while reducing vibration, troubleshooting extruder issues (wisely taking care to avoid a repeat of the Smart Extruder debacle of a couple of years ago), and continuing to work together now that the printer has been released.
“The toolpather team and our mechanical engineering teams can and do work together to introduce new printing features through MakerBot Print or the MakerBot 3D Printer Firmware, such as further speed improvements…Collaborations like these set MakerBot apart within the 3D printing industry. Both teams take direct input from each other to best inform what they do,” MakerBot states.
You can get an inside look at the collaborative process in the video below:
MakerBot’s emphasis on collaboration both within the company and with others seems designed, again, to reassure customers that despite leadership changes, team dynamics will remain strong and operations will continue to work like a well-oiled machine. The company also recently drew our attention to a collaboration with exercise tech startup Peloton, which used a MakerBot Replicator to 3D print several parts of a new commercial bike that they introduced at CES 2017. You can read the full case study here.
Despite the changes, MakerBot clearly has no intention of slowing down or losing focus, and they’re keen to make sure that their customer base knows that. If the above examples are any indication, the company is getting off to a strong start for 2017, and we look forward to seeing in what direction their new CEO takes them. Discuss in the MakerBot forum at 3DPB.com.
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