Local-born company MakerBot has long touted its “made in Brooklyn” cred. But now the 3D printing leader will be ending its factory operations in the borough and moving all of its manufacturing to China, the company announced Monday.
The news is not altogether surprising
Although MakerBot dramatically expanded their Industry City manufacturing operations to much fanfare in July of 2015, a series of layoffs announced in October and early April foreshadowed a much larger change.
“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,” wrote CEO Jonathan Jaglom in Monday’s announcement.
In essence: making MakerBots in China makes more financial sense than making them in Industry City.
MakerBot was tied to Brooklyn the brand
Born in 2009 in a Downtown Brooklyn hackerspace, MakerBot Industries was one of the first companies to bring 3D printing to the consumer market. In its early years, the open-source hacker ethos of the organization made it a major player in Brooklyn’s bootstrapped maker scene.
As MakerBot Plant Manager Diana Pinkus told the crowd at last year’s Make It In Brooklyn Summit, “Brooklyn is itself a brand and it became a part of the MakerBot brand. And vice versa. MakerBot is part of Brooklyn.”
But the company eventually outgrew its scrappy origins
MakerBot sold to 3D printing giant Stratsys for $403 million in 2013. In April of last year, Stratsys brought on a new CEO for MakerBot, Jonathan Jaglom, who previously led Stratsys’ Asia business. As the most business-minded of MakerBot’s CEOs, Jaglom had some tough decisions to make.
Kinks in the printer’s manufacturing process and design had delayed a total public embrace of the technology, and user growth was stalled. It’s no surprise that hand-assembling electronics in Brooklyn comes with a higher financial cost.
In an effort to efficiently scale their efforts, MakerBot is exiting Brooklyn manufacturing altogether, though their headquarters and design and engineering teams will remain in the borough. They also plan to lay off staff, although they did not say how many.
Company headquarters remain at MetroTech in Downtown Brooklyn. MakerBot will also retain about 135,000 square feet at Industry City, about half of its previous space, according to Crain’s.
“We’ve done a lot of great things here in Brooklyn,” Jaglom told The Verge. “But we are really following a global trend, which has been around for many years now, whereby we’re stepping away from manufacturing in Brooklyn.”
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