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Makerbot’s 3D Printers Are Innovative Alright, But That’s Hardly The Point

It’s the idea of innovation driving innovation that really excites cofounder and CEO Bre Pettis. Here he explains how MakerBot has built an Innovation Ecosystem to help “creative explorers” iterate faster and more affordably.

At MakerBot, we are an innovation company and we innovate so others can innovate.

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To remind ourselves of our core innovative nature, we created a philosophy dubbed “The MakerBot Way.” It reads:

“We are fearless, we take on challenges and show our work; we empower our users and ourselves to make a difference; we show up and get things done; we make friends and we work to keep them; it all matters; and full speed ahead.”

I would encourage anyone to create a manifesto-like document for how they want to approach life. If you do, remember to be bold and modify as you focus your vision.

With our manifesto in mind, we are creating a 3D Ecosystem designed to make 3D printing easy and accessible for everyone. It goes well beyond hardware to include software, apps, and partnerships with leading companies, like Home Depot, Microsoft Stores, and Amazon. Additionally, the MakerBot Leaning department offers training, MakerBot retail stores deliver up-close experiences, and Thingiverse, our thing-sharing website, makes sharing 3D designs easy.

Each addition to our 3D Ecosystem feeds the machine, acting as an innovation multiplier because traditional barriers tied to age, professional status, time, and space are instantly removed. For example:

  • Last fall we introduced MakerBot Flexible Filament, which led to the Bristle Dress. This 3D printable couture dress is customizable and downloadable for free from Thingiverse. Since the dress’ introduction, 3D printable fashion has taken off among the Thingiverse community resulting in several innovative new designs.
  • Three years ago, after losing four fingers in a woodworking accident, a South African named Richard Van As stumbled across a video posted by Ivan Owen, a designer 10,000 miles away in Washington State. The video featured a crude prosthetic hand Owen had created as part of a sci-fi themed costume. The two quickly teamed up and—with no prior experience—designed the first version of Robohand Project. By sharing on Thingiverse, designs for this inexpensive, snap-together prosthetic hand were instantly available around the world.
  • Last year Suman Mulumudi was a rising ninth grader who spent a few weeks figuring out how to 3D print an iPhone case. When his father told him doctors couldn’t record data from the sound of a heart beating, Suman couldn’t believe it. He was inspired and designed a diaphragm to collect low-frequency sounds and send them through a tube to an iPhone’s microphone, turning the phone into a stethoscope. Instead of searching for financial backing or a factory to work with, Suman was able to iterate and innovate in a matter of days using his MakerBot Replicator Desktop. He named his invention the Steth IO, made more 3D printed prototypes, and founded a company that applied for a patent and plans to seek FDA approval.

The other critically important element of an Innovation Ecosystem is enabling innovation at the earliest stages. It’s not practical to think that our current education system has the resources or knowledge to nurture tomorrow’s creators. To that end, we added one more element to the MakerBot 3D Ecosystem: MakerBot Academy, which is an initiative to put a MakerBot 3D Printer in every school in the United States. This too is part of a much larger community effort, including a White House initiative to inspire the next generation and strengthen America’s global competitiveness, as well as a partnership with AmericaMakes to further U.S.-based manufacturing and expertise.

Its stories and initiatives like these that inspire us to continue improving, taking risks, and developing tools for our users. We’re fiercely dedicated to building a 3D Ecosystem because we do not view what we are doing as just selling 3D Printers and Scanners to engineers, architects, designers, and others. We view it as inviting consumers to join a community of innovators working in the MakerBot 3D ecosystem. We can all be innovators and at MakerBot, we can’t wait to see what you make next.

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Bre Petis is the CEO of Makerbot.

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