When I saw the Replicator 2, and Makerbot’s slick new marketing, and the glaring lack of ANY reference to providing the design files, I asked the question.
So did a lot of other people, including Josef Prusa, the guy who put together the Prusa Mendel and and sells the Ultimaker. In the tweet heard ’round the open source hardware world, Prusa reported that he called Makerbot support and was explicitly told that Makerbot’s new printer is not open source.
The silence from Makerbot was deafening. They obviously didn’t simply forget to mention that the Replicator 2 is/isn’t open. Unfortunately, when Bre finally did address the issue, it was to use 1,000 words to say “maybe.” Or, in Bre’s own words, “We’re working that out and we are going to be as open as we possibly can while building a sustainable business.” There’s a pretty good timeline over at Tales of a modern life.
What finally motivated me to write this article is a something very sad that happened today. Makerbot turned closed source, or at least all the signals lead to it…And you know what is the biggest, sneaky move? Not mentioning it while they announced it. My guess is, that they will mention it when first pre-orders ship out. Which is after OPEN HARDWARE Summit where Bre gives a talk (I wonder about what, lol) and Makerfaire and all magazines writes about them as Open Hardware heroes.
To put things into perspective, Prusa is so committed to the ideals of open hardware that he has an image of a RepRap infill-ed open hardware logo on his wrist, and he’s tweeting stuff like this glassdoor.com page with negative reviews of working at Makerbot.
It looks like this Replicator 2 release is shaping up to be a real turning point for the infant open hardware community. We’ve got comments going back and forth on slashdot, Make Magazine, and reddit. I wonder how much impact the community will have on Makerbot’s business decisions. Back when Makerbot was as just the team of Bre, Adam and Zach they talked a really good game about not only being part of a community, but being motivated by the goal of “as open as possible.” That Open Source FTW page was last edited back in October 2001 (325 days to be precise). I hope their goal hasn’t changed since then, but it’s hard to be optimistic when Bre (just Bre) says that building a sustainable business is more important than being open.