UltiMaker Software Integration: Unraveling the Future of their Combined Environments

By on June 7th, 2023 in Ideas, news

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Putting Ultimaker and MakerBot together [Source: Fabbaloo]

I’ve been wondering how UltiMaker will tie together their software environments, which could be quite interesting.

The two “original” desktop 3D printer companies tied the knot some months ago and are no doubt in the midst of optimizing the combined operations of both. This is a challenging management task, especially for companies that have never been involved in a merger or acquisition previously.

One step that the company has taken already is to sort out the branding of their equipment. They announced that the UltiMaker brand will be used for professional equipment and services, while the MakerBot brand will be used for the educational market. Because of this decision, the MakerBot Method 3D pinter is now the UltiMaker Method, for example.

While that was a sensible move, there are many more things to clarify. One very important dimension is the software environment. Let’s take a look at the software systems in play in this scenario:

UltiMaker Cura: The key software for the UltiMaker series, which provides not only slicing capabilities, but also links to the rest of the UltiMaker ecosystem. UltiMaker Cura is also an open source product that is widely used by third party 3D printer manufacturers as their slicing tool of choice.

MakerBot CloudPrint: A cloud-based slicing tool that is used to prepare prints for the MakerBot Sketch environment, but also for the Method series and some Replicators that might still be supported.

UltiMaker Digital Factory: A comprehensive cloud-based service that provides 3D printer management services and a digital parts library that can be used by workgroups.

Thingiverse: MakerBot’s original model repository for 3D printing, which today still remains the champion in number of printable models stored, but has had limited innovation over the past few years. (Although there are signals that is changing.)

YouMagine: The “Thingiverse equivalent” for Ultimaker, which never grew as large. Our understanding is that YouMagine is no longer part of UltiMaker, so it will not participate in any future software reconfiguration.

Putting MakerBot and Ultimaker Software Together

If those are the building blocks, what will UltiMaker do with them? Whatever happens, I expect the following goals to be pursued:

  • Maintain support for all active devices during any transition
  • Reduce the complexity of the environment to minimize future support resources required
  • Provide a single professional portal for all relevant equipment and services
  • Provide a single educational portal for all related equipment and services (which could be the same portal)
  • Set up for expansion of the ecosystem in terms of equipment, material and services

UltiMaker Cura is well-known and clearly one of, if not the best slicing tool available today. It has many features not available in the MakerBot slicer, so one would expect that over time the Method series will somehow gain support within UltiMaker Cura.

I also expect UltiMaker Cura to remain an open source product that continues to be used by many third parties. Why? If UltiMaker were to pull third party support they would experience a very significant backlash from the community that might very well damage their reputation. There’s also the point that with UltiMaker Cura running on many different systems, the company is able to collect data on all kinds of 3D print activity from which they can make more intelligent management decisions and software feature changes.

The cloud environment is harder to call. CloudPrint is pretty extensive, but UltiMaker has been developing their own cloud services for some time. Would we see the UltiMaker features slide into CloudPrint? Or vice versa? This could be a toss up, and I’m interested to see where UltiMaker decides to go, since it makes no sense to maintain two different cloud systems.

The one strange item here is Thingiverse. It doesn’t really fit within the professional environment and only somewhat in the educational market. It would not be surprising if UltiMaker eventually dropped support for Thingiverse, as that would make business sense for them: why spend resources on a service that doesn’t directly affect their core products? However, like UltiMaker Cura, they would experience a tremendous backlash from the community. Designers would migrate to other platforms and it’s possible UltiMaker could lose connection with them forever.

My expectation is that some day in the future UltiMaker will have to make some hard decisions about Thingiverse. One possibility is that they may spin it off as a separate entity, or perhaps sell it to an interested buyer that could benefit more from operating it than does UltiMaker.

These are the issues I’m sure UltiMaker management is dealing with — or should be dealing with. It’s entirely possible that we may see some very intriguing announcements about the company’s software future in coming months as the merger continues.

Via UltiMaker

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!

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