When MakerBot opened some years ago it used open source approaches to developing its products. While they produced 3D printers, they also made available the plans to make them, open source-style. That changed with the introduction of their Replicator 2 model, much to the consternation of their open source followers.
Why did MakerBot make this move? In a word, competition. Their open source plans were (legally) taken by overseas competitors to produce less-expensive version of MakerBot’s products. A number of such competitors emerged, such as the one we’re looking at today: Wanhao 3D Printer.
The Jinhua, China based operation produces the Duplicator 4 that appears remarkably similar to MakerBot’s Replicator 1 product. Of course the two machines are different, as Wanhao has evolved the design with their own improvements, but clearly they got their start from MakerBot. Some replicated machines actually still work with MakerBot’s own software, MakerWare, but we’re not certain if the Duplicator does.
Sharing open source works if you’re not trying to profit from the venture, but MakerBot apparently was. Because of this phenomenon we’re pretty sure that MakerBot will never again offer open source designs, particularly after their acquisition by Stratasys. We also suspect new 3D printing startups may also question the strategy of open source, particularly if they have developed a radically new approach.