MakerBot stops manufacturing its own 3D printers, slashes workforce

Few would have seen this change of focus coming.

MakerBot has announced plans to stop manufacturing its own 3D printers, and instead will outsource to another company.

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A MakerBot 3D printer, used in both homes and schools.

MakerBot is one of the first companies which developed and manufactured 3D printers not for industry, but for the humble home enthusiast. Building on this niche in the market, interest in 3D printing exploded. and consumers worldwide suddenly had access to 3D printers which did not break the bank.

But it seems all of that is about to change.

On Monday, the 3D printing specialist announced a new partnership with Jabil, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based manufacturing company. MakerBot will give Jabil the production area of MakerBot 3D printers in the near future, while MakerBot will will focus on education and prototyping.

MakerBot blames a volatile market for the move, which is one of new CEO Jonathan Jaglom's biggest decisions to date. The executive took over from Jenny Lawton in March.

"Working with Jabil will position us to better manage the rapid change in our industry and reduce our manufacturing costs to compete more effectively in a global marketplace," Jaglom says. "We expect that adopting a flexible manufacturing model will allow us to quickly scale production up or down based on market demands, without the fixed costs associated with maintaining a factory in New York City."

This is bad news for current MakerBot employees, as the executive admits job cuts are looming as part of the transition, which will complete in the coming months. There is no information available on how many factory staff are facing the axe, but some key jobs in logistics, repair, planning, quality, and operations will be saved.

Parent company Stratasys, which acquired MakerBot for $403 million in 2013, continues to steer the helm in transforming the firm, but without the manufacturing cornerstone, it will be interesting to see if MakerBot as a well-known brand stays relevant in the future.

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