3D Printer Manufacturer MakerGear Is up for Sale

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MakerGear has been making high-quality desktop systems for over a decade. Launching with the simple MakerGear Mosaic in 2011, Rick Pollack´s firm went on to develop sturdy machines with linear rails, strong chassis, enclosures, and a high degree of functionality. Never very flashy or braggadocios, the company was not very well known internationally, but it made some excellent 3D printers. Now, the Ohio-based firm is looking to be acquired.

Long lead times and supply chain interruptions have made it difficult for the firm to fulfill orders and keep printers in stock. Rick and the team have always been direct and honest, so they didn’t hide these issues but were up front about them to customers, even before they bought a new MakerGear product. The company also noted that, previously, the 2018 tariffs on Chinese imported parts hurt the firm, as well. Pollack explained the situation in the following message:

¨MakerGear is a small, self-funded business and the impact of major disruption after major disruption is more than we can absorb….In order to deal with these challenges, we have scaled back operations. At this moment, we are selling our existing printer inventory, trying to maintain a consistent stock of spare parts and providing technical support. As we sell out of printers, we do not know when (or if) we’ll be able to restock.

For MakerGear to move beyond this transitional period, we are looking for new leadership. We are seeking an individual, team or entity to take over MakerGear. This could be either through a direct acquisition or it can be done through a transition plan (explained below).

This will require an individual or team with engineering, sales, marketing, and operational experience. MakerGear has solid existing product lines, thousands of customers and we are well established in the Additive industry. Our business model that focuses on building quality products, providing excellent customer service, and making as much as possible in the US has worked well for many years but the challenges over the last four years have seriously hindered our ability to innovate. The new team will need to be able to invest in innovation while engineering costs out of the existing products.

If you are passionate about what MakerGear does, have a vision for what we can be and, most importantly, have the demonstrable ability to execute that vision, we’d like to talk to you.

If you have capital and would be interested in directly acquiring MakerGear, please contact us.

If you have the experience and skills but lack capital, contact us as we are open to working out a transition plan for the right person/team. In other words, for the right person or team, we’ll make the transition as painless and low-risk as possible.

MakerGear is currently in year fourteen, we have thousands of customers and we have solid existing product lines. We are seeking the person or team that can take MakerGear beyond what we have been able to accomplish and provide continuity and a path forward for the MakerGear community. If this resonates with you, contact us.¨

The company urges people to email future@makergear.com to find out more. MakerGear is an excellent company, but a difficult business. The firm has been great at customer service, keeping promises and making actual 3D printers. As a true manufacturer of 3D printers, it is far better than nearly all of its competitors. It has never been excellent at marketing or making promises it can’t deliver on. Additionally, MakerGear has lacked the scale and capital to truly internationalize its business and grow. Even within the U.S., it could have had much better distribution and more partners. It could have also been more of a powerhouse online.

From the sturdy M2 to the great M3 and the enclosed, industrial Ultra One, MakerGear has a complete and quality lineup of devices. With some capital and a big marketing and PR push, the firm could definitely find a future for itself. Given its systems reliability and repeatability, as well as general sturdiness, they roughly have two options as an independent firm and several more as an acquired subsidiary.

If MakerGear Remains Independent, It Could…

Go Pro

MakerGear could make machines for manufacturing. Similar to 3ntr, the company could produce robust, repeatable manufacturing devices for factories, service companies, and machine builders. It could develop an excellent Service Lever Agreements and offer to replace machines next day, as well as offer 24/7 support. Truly modular manufacturing devices with high repeatability and reliability would be an excellent play. They’d have to look at how to make even more components in the U.S. and obtain good capital, but there is a lot of growth in this segment.

Go Military

MakerGear could become a specialized manufacturing tool maker for the US military. The company previously won Gold at the U.S. Air Force Rapid Sustainment Office (RSO) Advanced Manufacturing Olympics (AMO). It also has a number of U.S. government clients.

The MakerGear design language and way of making printers is very much about sturdy, reliable machines. A hardened, tough 3D printer built for active deployment would really be a beautiful tool for the U.S. military. No one owns this niche as of now. It’s easy to see how MakerGear could go on to dominate this niche if it managed to make even tougher 3D printers with all or almost all of its components sourced in the U.S.

This would take patience and a long view, but would be a very large business in the long run. Militaries are essentially UPS with guns and around six people serve one active soldier protecting them and all of their stuff in the field. Any FOB repairs, MRO, or similar work could save a lot of money. This could be especially true if MakerGear recycled all of the billions of PET bottles the U.S. military consumes as filament, for example. If engineers could then design battlefield upgrades suggested by soldiers to their kit, they could then be printed out near the frontline to make armies more capable of modifying their kit to fit the war.

If MakerGear Gets Bought, It Could Be…

A Foreign Subsidiary in the U.S.

The most obvious play would be for an overseas company that is seeking U.S. sales, service, and marketing support to buy the firm as its US arm. Similar to why Prusa Research bought PrintedSolid, a foreign business could instantly have U.S. employees, as well as vehicle for selling wares to the U.S. government and better serve U.S. customers. To me this would be a hell of a opportunity to an overseas firm, especially given the speed and low price concerned.

An In-House Manufacturing Firm

Another option would be for it to serve as a defense contractor or in-house 3D printing service and manufacturing unit for large industrial firms. Large businesses, such as auto, engineering, and manufacturing businesses will need to deploy hundreds or thousands of printers across the organization in the coming years. These companies could buy the systems themselves, but currently no one offers the service that they would need to maintain them. So, a conglomerate could build this capacity internally and then use it to serve other customers. Companies such as GM, Ford, GE, Wabtec, Lockheed, Exxon, Lear Corp, Patrick Industries, Dover, Fortive, Parker, ITW, Cummins and more would be well placed to have MakerGear as an internal service to supply it with 3D printers.

A Machine Tool Company

A machine tool company could easily expand its product lineup using the MakerGear 3D printers and sell to its installed base. Companies like Haas, Cincinnati (which is close by and has invested in 3D printing) and Gleason could easily enter the 3D printing market through such an acquisition.

On the whole, this story shows us that you really need to be aggressive in marketing and sales to survive in the current climate. I really like MakerGear and hope that they find the right partner with whom to grow.

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