Makerbot Gets Cloned…Again

Well that escalated quickly.

Open source hardware hasn’t really been a thing for very long, so it doesn’t have many success stories. Arduino is probably the only obvious one. Makerbot is quickly becoming the second. How can you tell when an idea is successful? Easy, it gets copied.

Matt Strong figured out how to source the parts for a Makerbot Replicator from China and joined Kickstarter with a proposal: if he could gather $500,000 he would offer his TangiBot (a clone of the Replicator) for 30% less. How that turned out and what it means…after the jump.

It doesn’t seem like it turned out well for Strong. His Kickstarter ended with 1/10 of its goal. However, there is another company offering Makerbot clones (the Thing-O-Matic and the Replicator).

Mbot has two printers that are obviously based on Makerbot’s printers, but unlike the TangiBot they are not identical. That’s not particularly interesting; the open source 3D printing community makes small improvements to existing designs all the time. What is interesting is that the price for the Replicator clone is the same price that Strong was quoting for his Replicator clone.

I can’t back this up, but I suspect that when Strong shopped his Bill Of Materials (BOM) around China he got more than just parts suppliers interested.

Brian Benchoff of hackaday.com sided with the “yay cloning” crowd because he thinks that 3D printers are too expensive and need more competition. He complained that it was unfortunate that Strong’s cloning business didn’t take off because the only way to bring down the cost of 3D printers is to get mass production into the picture. If Strong couldn’t get public interest in reducing the cost of the industry’s top-of-the-line offering then it might have a cooling effect on other companies thinking about selling 3D printers to the masses.

Well, if my theory about Mbot is correct, Benchoff might not have to worry that much. Whoever funded Mbot obviously thinks that cloning open source hardware has potential.

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