Rob Walker's latest piece for Fast Company profiles MakerBot—a company on the cutting edge of the soon-to-explode 3-D printing industry. Currently, most 3-D printing is done by “tech-oriented artists and superimaginative hackers, engaged in experimental projects, and, really, goof-offs,” says Walker. In the decades to come, however, industry leaders like MakerBot are looking to turn this experimental technology into consumer products that might just change the way we live:
MakerBot Industries is no art project. A young startup in Brooklyn, New York, it has emerged as the leading brand in the nascent consumer-oriented 3-D-printing realm and has recently closed a $10 million round of venture-capital funding. More than 6,000 MakerBot 3-D printers have been sold.That may not sound like a lot, but bear in mind that most sell in the form of a kit—the company’s current flagship model is the $1,300 Thing-O-Matic—that is ordered directly from MakerBot and requires 12 hours or more to assemble. Now that’s customer dedication. In less than three years, MakerBot has gone from three tinkering guys to 50-plus employees and counting. “If I had 20 people outside the door who were perfect candidates, I’d hire them all,” says cofounder and chief executive officer Bre Pettis.