posts tagged with the keyword ‘ultimaker’

2012.01.23

MakerBot Industries

I meant to write this post about a month ago, but writing it now just validates the points I was going to make anyway, so read on!

Back when I wrote 3D Printing is the Future, I mentioned a number of companies, including MakerGear, Ultimaker, and of course MakerBot Industries. Four months later, I’m going to update my thoughts on them, and specifically focus on what the MakerBot folks do in the area of marketing.

Wait… Marketing? If you read the piece in Fast Company you’d know that MakerBot Industries doesn’t do marketing:

… When I speak with MakerBot’s Keith Ozar, he seems offended when I refer to such undertakings as “marketing.” His background is in underground music promotion, and he joined MakerBot when the company advertised a “marketing experimenter” position in early 2011. MakerBot doesn’t really market at all, he counters; it actively participates in the community the company seeks to both cultivate and create, involving “people who are creative, people with imaginations.” That means a presence at Maker Faire-style events, where hardware hackers congregate, and more recently at comics conventions and the like.

Here’s where I haul out the disclaimer: I work at a marketing company. I also market myself, and the things I do. Almost everyone does, even if they don’t call it marketing. If MakerBot doesn’t want to call it “marketing” I’m fine with that, but let’s be honest, that’s what it is.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the marketing that MakerBot does…

MakerBot Web Site

MakerBot has a web site. Hmmm, that’s nothing special. Let me rephrase that: MakerBot has a good web site. Their web site clean, well designed, and organized. There’s a store, there’s info on the community, including links to User Groups, Twitter, Flickr, Google Groups, etc. as well as a link to Thingiverse. Their support page has a lot of links to their wiki, and then there’s the blog.

The MakerBot blog isn’t just some “look at me!” thing where they talk about themselves (though it has been a lot of that lately, due to the recently launched MakerBot Replicator.) The blog also highlights things that members of the community are doing/making. And the blog is updated very often. Very often. That’s key.

Ultimaker

When the Ultimaker came out I heard a lot of talk about how much better it was than the Thing-O-Matic, and it may be better, but take a look at the Ultimaker web site. It just looks like a blog, and as of my writing this, it’s been over a month since it’s been updated. And before that it was a month and a half. I know blogging takes time, but for a small company it can get you the most bang for your buck when trying to tell people about your product.

MakerGear

In the world of RepRap, reprap.org is packed full of information, but if you want to buy a RepRap kit, MakerGear is a pretty well known and respected seller of the Prusa Mendel kit. They also recently came out with the MakerGear Mosaic, which is their own design, and is a capable machine from all I’ve read.

Visit the MakerGear web site and let me know what gets your attention… if anything does. There is a “What’s New?” link on the home page, that links to a page with a post that was written nearly two months ago. (With a typo in the title.) I’m a MakerGear customer, and I think they’re a good company, but I wish things looked a bit more professional. For a first timer visiting their web site (or the Ultimaker site) I don’t think they’re going to be impressed.

But then, maybe these companies don’t want to impress people. Maybe they’re only targeting the alpha nerds, who know the inside scoop, and think that MakerBot is for people who don’t know better, and the real desire is for servicing a niche market. If that’s the case, then that’s fine… I honestly don’t know.

So besides the web site, what is the “MakerBot Marketing” you ask? I’ll just throw a few things out there.

MakerBot: has good photography, has good videos (including MakerBot TV), they have a curriculum for schools, are behind Thingiverse, they’ve implemented an Artist in Residence program, did the Project Shellter thing, scanned people’s heads, and on and on.

Some of those things take a bit of money, which smaller companies may not have, but there’s no shortage of clever ideas, some of which are relatively cheap, and if it gets people talking about you, isn’t that what you want?

So yeah, MakerBot Industries does marketing, and it may be marketing on their own terms, and in their own way, but in the end, if people find out about you, and keep hearing about you, that’s building your brand, and that’s worth a hell of a lot.

Here’s the thing: You can have the greatest product in the world, but if no one knows about it, you won’t have any customers, and no customers equals no business, so marketing is important… even for nerdy 3D printer companies.

(Oh, there’s one more thing that’s key to MakerBot’s marketing effort, which I’ll probably talk about in another post.)

2011.09.20

3D Printers

As you may know, I’ve been playing around with a MakerBot recently, and at first I wasn’t sure if it was just me, or if 3D printing was really starting to catch on… but now, I think it’s safe to say it’s catching on, and I’m pretty confident in saying 3D Printing is the Future.

I really don’t give out these predictions very often… Sure, I was an early adopter of things like blogging and podcasting, but this whole 3D printing thing is a “disruptive technology” that stands to change the world.

So with that, I’ll give a brief primer on some of the technology.

3D printing has been around for quite some time, but it’s always been very expensive, and a 3D printer was never a thing you’d have in your home. Of course, in the olden days you’d never imagine you’d have a printer in your home. Printing was something you paid a printer to do. It was complicated, and messy, and expensive. I bought my first ink-jet printer around 1999 and it was probably over $200. In 2007 I got a new one, and it was $110, and it even has a built-in scanner. Nowadays no one thinks that printing on paper with ink in their own home is anything special, so how long will it be before we think the same thing about 3D printing.

It’s fair to say that Adrian Bowyer, creator of the RepRap project, is one smart dude, not just for coming up with a 3D printer that can print itself, but for his ideas of how this technology could change the world. It’s also been said that the RepRap is “the invention that will bring down global capitalism, start a second industrial revolution and save the environment…” You know, in a good way.

Now, the 3D printing revolution is happening in a different manner than the “cheap desktop printer” revolution happened. For one thing, you can assemble all the parts for a 3D printer right now, thanks to the RepRap project and it’ll be cheaper (and some say “better”) than the affordable 3D printers you can buy today.

Yes, there are affordable 3D printers you can buy today!

MakerBot
The folks at MakerBot are sort of the granddaddies of the 3D printer arena. Their “Cupcake” came out a few years ago, and their newer model, the “Thing-O-Matic” is their current offering. They’ve got the most well known brand right now, and if you doubt 3D printing will be big, they just took a $10 million investment.

MakerGear
I hear nothing but good things about MakerGear and the quality of their products and support. Well, I do hear one negative… products are always out of stock! Besides that, I think MakerGear has some good offerings. Besides their own model, the “Mosaic” you can get full-kit for a Prusa Mendel RepRap. (You know, if it’s in stock.)

Ultimaker
New to the game is the Ultimaker, which looks impressive! Watching the videos, it looks like it trumps the MakerBot in many areas. If MakerBot is the established brand, I’m glad to see some competition coming in and forcing them to up their game. :)

BotMill
There’s also BotMill, which seems to offer two models, both based on the RepRap Mendel. (I don’t know much more about BotMill.)

The Others
There’s also the Buildatron and the Solidoodle, of which I know little about, and just today I came across the Origo (not available yet) which aims to be the first “reliable easy to use 3D printer for ten year olds.” That “reliable easy to use” part is the nut that everyone is still trying to crack.

Besides those commercial offerings is the real granddaddy of this whole thing, the RepRap. If you think of the MakerBot as Windows, and maybe the Ultimaker as Mac OS X, then RepRap is Linux. It’s DIY. You can build it yourself. You’ll spend a lot of time tweaking it. It’ll be cheaper, but you’ll have to figure out your own support. Sort of… Nearly all of the commercial units are based (somewhat) on the technology from the RepRap project, so if you want a name brand, and support, and a company behind it, buy a commercial unit. If you’re a hacker, or a maker, or cheap, build a RepRap.

I’ve got a lot more posts about 3D printing, and the RepRap specifically, so stay tuned!

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