“In defense of open source innovation and polite disagreement”


In defense of open source innovation and polite disagreement.

I’ve been seeing a lot of inflammatory language in my news feeds the past couple days about the Replicator 2, specifically whether or not it’s open source. I haven’t got enough information to say, but I think well of Bre and Adam and the MakerBot team. I believe their ideals regarding open source software and hardware are more or less in line with my own, and I trust that they’ll do their best to meet those ideals.

What concerns me is the inflammatory language many have used to criticize MakerBot.  A lot of fundamentalist, angry language is being thrown around; language similar to that we usually hear from people that blow things up, or that buy elections. I don’t think this kind of language is necessary. I have an aversion to fundamentalism of any sort, even when it’s in support of my own ideals.  It leads to bad things.

Good post by Tom, read the whole thing – this is an interest topic, let’s all discuss it and be excellent to each other while we do so!

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  1. Fanning the flames, eh?
    He raises a very important question…then walks around the answer -“Question 1: Is the MakerBot Replicator 2 Open Source?”

    I enjoyed his answer and thought it to insightful. But it fails to answer the question. I took it to mean –

    No, not right now. We’re in a tough spot on deciding which way to go with this awesome technology and want to make sure we can
    a. pay the bills.
    b. pay for continued innovation
    c. pay back what we’ve taken from open source.

    The moment we can a 100% say open source does those three, we’ll do it. You are going to have to trust us. Hopefully, our success has bought a bit of that.

    Now, the optimist in me says – But open source will drive innovation of achieving those three much faster. Sure, there’s the risk that someone might do a better job at it than you, but not open sourcing just delays the inevitable of them overcoming you and you having nothing to show for it.

    It’s a tough call, and not one to be made lightly when 150+ families rely on you not making a stupid mistake that stops putting food on the table.

  2. @ken – do you have any evidence or proof of this accusation? please post links, etc. otherwise please do not post these things – thanks.

  3. Before you start trashing folks why not think of what the end goal is? I think this is the next logical step to pull 3D printers into mainstream use and eventually homes. I doubt that everyone involved will forget how the movement started and I know the future is in good hands. I have faith in the ones who are leading the way. You should as well.

  4. I really believe and continue to believe that Makerbot’s #1 priority is to bring 3d printing to everyone. It’s a simple and beautiful idea that I imagine is really hard to realize.

    Reprap’s goal is I think to both pursue the idea of a self-replicating machine and to spread 3d printing to the maximum amount they can.

    The challenge I see though is that reprap’s success is predicated on a base of individuals that already know how to build a 3d printer from the ground up. Which to mean means that their potential numbers are really the same number of makers/hackers out there.

    Or in other words, it’s never going to spread quicker or beyond the making community. I’d love to be wrong on this, but I just don’t see them becoming mainstream. If I was overseeing a university department and I had to choose between a finicky Reprap, a $2000 Replicator that “just works” and a $50,000 proprietary 3d printer that “just works” + cost, I’d go with Makerbot.

    Which seems to be exactly what they’re doing. Spread 3d printing to the masses that immediately see the benefit of it, such as artists, designers, architects and engineers and soon everyone else will follow.

    if they have to close off some of what they do to make that happen then so be it. I’d still 100% rather have Makerbot at the forefront of consumer 3d printing than some large corporation that doesn’t make it easy to work with their stuff.

  5. @ken – please keep the politics off the site and follow our comment policy “be nice” – spreading rumors from slashdot isn’t helpful. thank you!

    if you want to give makerbot feedback or ask them question we hope considering post on their site as well where they are asking for just that – http://www.makerbot.com/blog/2012/09/20/fixing-misinformation-with-information/

  6. I’ve read various comments about the current Makerbot happenings both on thingiverse, and about the Replicator 2. One thing that I’m having a hard time with is the leash that Adafruit seems to be putting on comment. Almost every comment I’ve seen on Adafruit has had a challenge/fact check retort from Adafruit.

    It’s probably a good policy to keep comment streams from spinning out of control, but probably best if you allow the other commenters to pose the fact check. Otherwise, Adafruit starts to sound like they work for MakerBot.

    My only real comment here with respect to the MakerBot stuff is that I just hope their hardware can be open sourced, for those who care about that. At the same time, I think it would be fine if it weren’t, as long as their electronics were absolutely rock solid. I’d love to be able to buy a main board from them, and would not care if it were closed source, as long as I could just plug it into my project and know that it would work reliably.

  7. @william, there were personal attacks, cursing (we removed those) – and there is a lot of speculation and untrue things. that is not the tone we will have on our site, we encourage debate – but please read tom’s article that addresses exactly what we are talking about.

    we’re also asking people to post on the makerbot site where they are asking for feedback.

    what "leash" are you referring to?

    if someone is going to make accusations, we’ll kindly ask to back it up with facts, links, etc. not rumors from slashdot of all places – and of course, we’ll ask that you be good to each other and keep politics like the presidential candidates off our site. it’s completely off topic.

    we cc’ed your email as well if you want to discuss this directly.

  8. this new printer will be not open source…not because of bree and gang…but because of there investors…can’t make money if everybody has your information…just my 2 cents

  9. This is really going to show how ignorant i am on this topic, but didn’t all the old makerbots use an arduino for the controller? Does the new closed source makerbot use an arduino or something a bit beefier?

  10. Hermann- You can make money if everyone has your information. Adafruit and Sparkfun are both good examples of OSHW companies that are financially successful.

    It seems like many folks are jumping the gun on the MakerBot open source issue and assuming the worst. I’m sure the folks at MakerBot will listen to what their end users have to say and take their concerns into consideration.

    It’s my belief that desktop 3D printers are rapidly becoming a commodity market. On one end you have inexpensive DIY printers (there are already over two dozen unique designs available) and on the other end you have high end machines from companies like Objet. It would seem that MakerBot is trying to distance themselves a bit from the lower end DIY kits by offering a plug and play desktop unit with a good working volume at a reasonable price point. It certainly looks like a very nice machine for the money.

  11. I find it interesting how some people are stuck one way or another way without considering when one option would be better than another.

    I will give an example that I think many can relate to. There are so many people that are advocates of KiCAD over other freeware just for the reason that it is open source and that it could be potentially improved in the future to meet the current need. This approach is fine for someone that has a need for free software and does not mind spending a large amount of their time working around the bugs/inefficiencies, because that too is part of their hobby. For them this aspect is fun.

    Compare this, though, to a company that is designing boards day in and day out. To take an open source program and bring it up to the level needed to compete in the commercial market for large volume work may require resources that are not available (including time and long term cash outlay that will require many projects to be able to amortize that cost). In this case it will be cheaper in the long run to invest in something that already works and has the work flow improvements needed for this type of business, with a promise to keep upgrading the software to meet future needs.

    Put more simply, a spoon is a great tool to eat soup with, and they are available to almost everyone, but why dig a trench with a spoon if you have access to a backhoe? It is important to consider what your needs are, and what tools are there to best meet those needs.

    In the case of MakerBot, does this new incarnation devalue the previous incarnation if it is not open sourced? I would submit no. This device would then be targeted towards a different audience. Does this mean that they have somehow violated some moral code? No, they have just adopted a different business model that serves another community.

    This is the most important question for this potentially alienated community to ask themselves; why did you not make this happen yourselves? MakerBot gave you all the base knowledge to make it happen, you could have done this, but chose not to. Is this new machine so revolutionary, not really. It is now using materials that allow it to achieve higher accuracy, albeit at the sacrifice of higher cost.

    If indeed, this device stays closed source, I invite the community to do something more constructive than complaining on the internet forums and comment sections and start writing code, and creating a new design to compete. Put this open source concept to the test and compete, there is nothing holding you back except yourselves waiting for someone else to do if for you.

    No relation to the MakerBot Adam (Mods may check my IP and Email addresses to confirm if needed)

  12. “At MakerBot, we take open source seriously. It’s a way of life for us. We share our design files when we release a project because we know that it’s important for our users to know that a MakerBot is not a black box. With MakerBot, you get not only a machine that makes things for you, but you also get an education into how the machine works and you can truly own it and have access to all the designs that went into it! When people take designs that are open and they close them, they are creating a dead end where people will not be able to understand their machines and they will not be able to develop on them.” –Bre Pettis

    Except now it’s not. I have commented on their blog, but I see the statement from Bre as pretty clear, they currently don’t intend to follow the philosophy they pushed to get the backing of the community (quoted above). I do not wish them harm, but I also won’t support them if they do this move. When asked, I will not recommend them as a purchase over other makers of 3D printers.

    I will go so far as to say that if there were two comparable closed source 3D printers, they would fall to the bottom because they burned the trust they once had.

    The printer is a little high in price compared to others, but not enough to worry about that (I spent a little over $2k for a 12″x12″ all steel reprap), this would have been right in the sweet spot when I was buying. I also wanted a fully assembled printer, so that’s not a big deal for me either.

    For those interested in a good read on emerging technologies, see the Gartner’s Hype Cycle http://on3dprinting.com/2012/08/22/3d-printing-at-top-of-hype-cycle-gartner-reports/ , from other tech I have seen in the past, this is pretty accurate placement for the 3D printers. What this indicates is that the 3D printer marketplace is going to have a few tough years. They are at the peak of the hype curve, and a lot of money and press is going to them, soon they will start the crash as they don’t meet the expectations people fabricate in their minds (companies selling them also help generate unrealistic hype), and people get disillusioned, and disappointed. Finally, the companies that make it through that bubble and pop, will start producing a good stable platform that meets customers needs and expectations.

    Why bring this up, I feel that the move by MBI hurts them, it burns the trust of the community needed to make it through the tough years coming. This would actually be fine if it was just MBI, but it isn’t, they were a poster child for the movement. When they go closed, it hurts every person that wants to create a business on open source hardware in the future. It makes the community that would support them question if they will are just using them to get in a position to close things off. This is what irritates me, the harm they are doing to the movement. It would have been better had they been closed from the start instead of become the face of OSHW (things like the WIRED cover shown prominently here), then pulling the rug out from under it’s feet.

  13. hey folks, we are closing down the comments here – too many personal attacks, cursing, etc. that we had to remove or moderate.

    at this time here is our statement for those who keep asking us what we think, here’s a quote from our founder 🙂

    “There’s debate about open source hardware? I’m going to keep shipping open source hardware while you all argue about it” – Ladyada, founder of Adafruit Industries

    please post your comments on the makerbot site where they are asking for feedback.


    be good to each other, these are interesting times, let’s be respectful and have healthy debate.

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