Open Source FTW

Note: While we still stand behind the core beliefs outlined here, some details listed here are no longer current. For example we do offer fully assembled kits. - Fall 2011

This is a note we sent out to explain our open source approach.

Hey MakerBot Operators,

First of all, we at MakerBot appreciate you as a community. There is so much goodwill, consideration, and creative power in this group.

We've also been talking about this open source, trademark, and sharing stuff around the BotCave a lot lately.

Making your own and open source:

We make it open source so that you will have all the information about the machine. Our goal is be as open about the machine as possible! If you want to improve or hack the machine, you can do so because we are publishing the source code, dxf files, electronic board designs, schematics, and actual source code. If you want to see how something works or dig into the code, go for it. If you want to make it so the machine does something that it doesn't, you can! We even do all our dev work in the open so you can play with the cutting edge stuff if you like.

The thing that makes the community so powerful is that when you hack it, it is anticipated that you will share your findings with the community so that everyone can benefit!

Most people will use the machine as is right out of the box, but some of you will do wonderful things with it that we can't imagine yet. The possibilities that we can't imagine yet are one of the wonderful things that makes us stay up all night hacking on code, working on prototypes, and dealing with supply chain issues.

Trademark, Supporting the Dream, and Licensing:

We have a trademark on MakerBot and MakerBot Industries. We're not big fans of anything proprietary, but we care enough about this machine-making-movement that we don't want to see it undermined.

For us, the worst case scenario would be if someone copied our machine, used our name, and instead of using parts that we've found work really well, they used cheaper, crappier parts that make the machine run crappy and then their customers came to us with support questions that required hours of troubleshooting.

If you're going to make it yourself, it's totally possible for you to do it without us and get all the parts yourself, we're ok with that and for personal use (ie: not selling it), we're cool with freely licensing the name MakerBot for you to put on them for personal use.

If you're going to sell them, please talk to us so we can work out the details and be supportive. We're asking folks to buy all the parts that they aren't manufacturing from us so that we can bundle their orders into our orders and improve the economies of scale. It's also a good way of making sure you get the right parts for the machine. We've been talking with MakerGear and they've got some beautiful classic plywood that they are making bodies out of. Also, we order parts in bulk and so you won't have to buy 100 5mm bolts when you only need 4.

We're going to be putting a "laserless" kit up in the store soon so that if you've got a lasercutter, you can get the rest of the kit parts from us. There's still stuff we stress out about with others doing their own lasercutting, like the variances in kerf between machines that effect the tolerances around the bearings and directly impact the smoothness of the xy carriage, but if you've got a lasercutter, you're not going to mind lasercutting all the pieces out a few times to get the fit right.

We haven't been selling fully assembled kits because it doesn't really make sense for us right now. That will definitely happen eventually. It blows people's minds that you can get a 3D printer for under $1000. As you all know, it takes some tuning to get it right. You wouldn't buy a hotrod if you didn't plan on learning how to change the oil. It's similar for the MakerBot. Putting together a MakerBot teaches you how it works and makes it so that you're comfortable doing some maintenance! In the future we plan on coming out with a "bot in a box" but we've got lots more prototyping to do between now and then to get the thing as bulletproof as possible.

We've now got an official registered trademark on MakerBot. This means that even if you follow our designs, you can't call your thing an official MakerBot, because, well, because you're not us. Cupcake(tm) is one of our products; you can't call your thing a Cupcake either.

Sorry about this, but we have to have control over the product if we're to keep the name. If you want to license the trademark to make official Cupcake CNC 3D printers, give us a holler.

Anyhow, the main idea here is that if you're going to make it to sell, please talk to us so we can support you and you can support us and so your project will contribute to the community.


We've been in the "eating ramen" stage of building a business this year because we want to get as many of these out there and grow the community and we've let the snake eat it's tail so that we could get supplies for more MakerBots with the sale of the MakerBots. We've since moved into the BotCave, hired a shipping manager named Marisol, (who is AWESOME) and even though we daydream of health insurance someday, we're not complaining.

We are doing this because we are dedicating our lives and our savings and our minds to the dream of bringing the tools of manufacturing to all. You haven't let us down, you have put your machines together, helped each other in the forums and on this list, and are innovating! Every day at the BotCave we talk about how awesome you are as a community and whenever we get a thingalert letting us know that there is a new design on Thingiverse, we celebrate and if we can break away from our duties of email, coding, packing boxes, cutting threaded rod and all the other things we do to get machines into the world, we print out your designs and it's awesome.

The worldwide MakerBot community (that's you) is a powerful force in the world.

Again, thanks for being so considerate and smart. I look forward to reading the conversations on this list every day.

TLDNR (too long, did not read)

  • Its open source. build it yourself if you want but remember to post any modifications.
  • If you're selling them, you need to license the MakerBot name from us.
  • Buying parts from us directly supports us and further development in open source 3D printing. It also guarantees a uniform level of quality. It also simplifies your life by only having to deal with one supplier, (us).

Bre, Adam, and Zach
MakerBot Founders

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