Stratasys Spins Off Bold Machines, Its 3D Printing Incubation Unit Run By MakerBot’s Bre Pettis

Some more reorganization afoot at Stratasys, the 3D printing and manufacturing company: it has announced that it has spun off Bold Machines, a unit of the company founded in September 2014 focused on incubating new products made with 3D printing. Bre Pettis, the founder and former head of MakerBot (acquired by publicly-traded Stratasys almost exactly two years ago for $403 million) will leave Stratasys to lead Bold Machines.

While it looks like Bold Machines will be run independently, it will be basing its business around Stratasys hardware. Specifically, Stratasys says Bold Machines will use PolyJet, Fortus, Solidscape, and MakerBot printers.

It’s not clear why Bold Machines has been spun off from the bigger company, especially considering how closely it will remain tied in with Stratasys products.

There could be a couple of reasons. For one, while Pettis has worked for two years within the bigger Stratasys group, this is a return to the kind of community building that helped build up MakerBot’s reputation in the first place.

“I have built tools that empower other people to build products for the last decade, and I’m excited to jump over the fence and build products myself,” Pettis said in a statement. “With a strong passion for innovation and the future of product design, we will begin a new chapter with Bold Machines. We believe that by changing the way things are made, 3D printing will have incalculable impact on our lives and our future.”

The move also follows some controversy at MakerBot — including layoffs and mutiple leadership changes, and claims that the company was misusing open source intellectual property, claims since refuted.

Then there is the issue of the wider 3D ecosystem and what it may need to grow. MakerBot is one of the bigger makers of 3D printers, as of February of this year selling more than 80,000 units of their devices. However, that relatively small number speaks to how the industry is still nascent and in need of platforms to help design and usher more 3D products into commercial life.

To date, “dozens of innovators” have worked with Bold Machines on potential products the company says. Objects incubated there have included bionic limbs (illustrated above), objects for film animation, and architectural modelling components. It’s not clear which of these have made or will make the leap to wider production plans.

”It’s important to have entities such as Bold Machines to advance the adoption of 3D printing and make it more accessible,” said David Reis, Chief Executive Officer at Stratasys, in a statement. “Bre is a visionary and has an unceasing desire to answer the question ‘What’s Next?’ I look forward to a continued close-working relationship with Bre. Stratasys will continue to innovate new products, as well as work with its partners and customers to pioneer ground-breaking applications, to make 3D printing more accessible and widely adopted.”