Desktop 3D-printing firms flopping puts segment’s future in doubt

Desktop 3D-printing firms flopping puts segment’s future in doubt
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
26 Feb, 2018

The picture for desktop 3D-printing looks much gloomier after two companies in the segment got shuttered, probably due to a mighty squeeze from cheap do-it-yourself kits that allow easy, widespread and accessible 3D-manufacturing for all.

Last month, Oakland-based Type A Machines reported that it was shutting down operations. "It is with a heavy heart we announce that, after six years of serving the maker community, Type A Machines is closing its doors," said Andrew Rutter, founder and chief executive. Founded in 2012, the company that was a rival to MakerBot, LulzBot and Printrbot, came up with Series 1 printers, arguably the first with Wi-Fi support and including material profiles in software. 

Following in the footsteps of Type A Machines this month, Pasadena-based New Matter announced its decision to shut shop.

"...We regret to inform that New Matter will be winding down its operations and we will close the company effective from February 28 (Wednesday). It has become clear that our aspirations to transform the industry simply don’t fit profitably into the current market dynamics in desktop 3D-printing," chief executive Steve Schell wrote in a letter posted on the company's website.

Arriving on the scene late in 2014, the company launched its printer MOD-t 3D, priced from $300-400, through crowdfunding site IndieGoGo. As part of the crowdsourcing programme, it raised an amount that was double its goal ($683,804 from 3,550 backers) and went on to secure funding worth $6.5 million through a Series A round. The company, which had given away printers for free to several educational institutes and learning centres, had launched a new model of its 3D printers in 2017. 

"In 2014, New Matter began our journey to make 3D-printing accessible and affordable to homes and classrooms across the country. We introduced the MOD-t, the world’s most elegantly simple 3D printer, and sold more than 10,000 units to enthusiasts, kids, parents, and schools around the globe," Schell wrote.

Amid shutdown, Schell said his company was looking to ease up its customers. "...We intend to keep the New Matter Store operational through mid-summer 2018, and we will make limited technical support available through mid-summer as well," Schell added. 

Once the Store goes offline, Schell said that MOD-t users will still be able to print by installing an updated version of MOD-t Printer Tool desktop software available for free. "Once the updated version of our software has been installed, you will then need to download and install a third-party 'slicer' software application (we recommend a free program called Cura) to convert your 3D files to G-code and send them to your MOD-t through our MOD-t Printer Tool software application."

Schell also said the printers will lose Wi-Fi functionality soon but will operate via a USB connection and the MOD-t desktop app.