Dueling 3DP “Education-Marketing” Strategies: How MakerBot & 3D Systems are Duking It Out In Schools & Playrooms To Gain Longterm Marketplace Dominance

 Two Of The Major Players In 3D Printing Are BOTH Focused On Imprinting Their Brands On Malleable “Hearts & Minds” In The Education Ecosystem; MakerBot & 3D Systems Each Strive To School Politicians, Parents, Administrators, Teachers & Students With Their Logo’d Solutions In Different Niches Of The Education Timeline—In Or Out Of The Classroom.

MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis & SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian Exchange With Press During The News Conference At The Inauguration Of The World's First "MakerBot Innovation Center" At SUNY New Paltz, 11 February 2014.

MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis & SUNY New Paltz President Donald Christian Exchange With Press During The News Conference At The Inauguration Of The World’s First “MakerBot Innovation Center” At SUNY New Paltz, 11 February 2014.

In the fevered world of “go-go” 3DP, no one can accuse MakerBot or 3D Systems of thinking short-term. Instead of next quarter, the two publicly held contenders seem intent on capturing stock-boosting positions in the next decade. Payback in the education market requires a parental perspective. Kids and market share may both grow at about the same pace. BUT, once you’ve got some height and stature, you’re unlikely to lose it.

MakerBot is concentrating on older scholars. In November of 2013, it rolled out the “MakerBot Academy” plan. The Academy’s goal is to put a MakerBot desktop 3D Printer “in every school in America.” (For kickoff purposes, the Academy seems to be focusing first on high schools.) Initial big name partners in the initiative are America Makes, DonorsChoose.org and Autodesk.

On 6 February the company announced the “MakerBot Innovation Center” plan to partner with universities (AND businesses) with in-college “makerspaces” writ large as labs. Bre Pettis, CEO, actually helped cut the ribbon on the first “Innovation Center” at SUNY New Paltz campus on 11 February.

Here are some of my MakerBot tweets that present additional views and linked information about these announcements and events:

MAKERBOT DEBUTS WINNING #MARKETING-BY-#EDUCATION STRATEGY! @Makerbot-The #Apple of #3DPrinting-grabs #Edu MindShare! http://ow.ly/3hfvzP 

MAKERBOT RE-PRINTS #3DP #MARKETING? C My Post 4 @MakerBot‘s “Edifying Entrprz” Strategy: Makerbot Innov Ctr Debuts! http://ow.ly/3hhpSt 

@MAKERBOT FOSTERS 21st C. eCOTTAGE #INDUSTRY? Debuts #Innovation Centers 2 Gain From #3DP=#Startups=Jobs! C My Post: http://ow.ly/3hoJ1C 


Avi Reichental (left), President & CEO of 3D Systems Corporation, teaches 3DP'd guitar "making" at a trade show.

Avi Reichental (left), President & CEO of 3D Systems Corporation, teaches 3DP’d guitar “making” at a trade show.

3D Systems Corporation seems focused—at least to start—on the younger set. Earlier this month, 3D Systems announced it would “play” with toy-maker Hasbro to create new 3DP games and toys for children. A few days later, 3D Systems announced that it had purchased Digital Playspaces to build on its “create & make” environments for 3DP in the playroom. (This all atop the acquisition of 3D toy modeling, collectibles and entertainment-services company Gentle Giant in January.)

Here are some of my 3D Systems’ tweets that present additional perspective and  linked information:

@3DSYSTEMSCORP (#3DP) PLAYS W/HASBRO? @MakerBot Tgts HS & Unis; DDD 2 Transform(er) Toys: DIY Printables 4 CHILDREN! http://ow.ly/3hn3eY 

@3DSYSTEMSCORP REPRINTS PLAYROOM? Post Hasbro Deal, DDD Buys Digital Playspace 4 its #3DP “Create-&-Make Experience!” http://ow.ly/3htoVf 


Here are some ancillary topics we’re going to touch on—in this and future posts—around the 3DP Education Marketplace:

  • Playroom Play
  • K-5 Conundrums
  • Middle-School Mode
  • Curricula is Key and teaching the teachers is even Key-er.
  • Afterschool Arcadia
  • LEGO
  • Mobile Model

Playroom Play—

3D Systems is certainly focused on this target market. You can tell when the company is serious about a niche—because Avi starts buying up players in the segment. (See my tweet above about Digital Playspace.) Apple tea-leaf readers (not to mix our organic metaphors) try to track the Jobsian Enigma’s trajectory by is acquisitions—tallying in at over 20 smallish firms with distinct tech in the last 15 months.

DDD “buys” over the last two years plus must now number somewhere in the mid-40s. It’s difficult to keep up with the “3DP IP Vacuum” that is 3D Systems. Still—commentator criticisms aside—it’s also hard to fault this strategy. Especially, if you have the resources (appreciating stock!)—AND can effectively absorb the new tech, foreign biz cultures and key players (the AcquiHire!) purchased.

And, “3DP Toys?” Many of today’s super-low-end 3D printers already look and feel like toys. (Some of DDD’s “Cube” consumer products could be so accused…) BUT, their output quality, speed and software UX are well beyond what was available from mid-range machines just a few years ago. The Hasbro partnership is a great step in an entree process of learning from the topic-leader.

This toy deal is a version of what I might call the “LEGO Transform.” Once upon a time (the 90s!), LEGO was down on its junior kit-builder’s luck. (Yeah, I know, it’s hard to remember such an unLEGO circumstance…) Then—desperate measures for desperate times—LEGO did its first “Theme License.” And, LEGO StarWars was released in 1999. Shazam! The company went from offering construction toys to presenting fabulation toys.

The "LEGO Transform"---From Construction To Fabulation: Some LEGO Star Wars Characters, Many Stories...

The “LEGO Transform”—From Construction To Fabulation: Some LEGO Star Wars Characters, Many Stories…

Sure, you could build things as before—but now you had ready-made script, plot-lines, vehicles, stage sets, costumes, personae dramatis AND your playmates already knew the stories, too.

LEGO has never looked back and now its a Theme-License juggernaut. (What would that “kit” look like? The LEGO Movie!)

3D Systems may be onto a similar story-arc with its Hasbro partnership. Sure, 3D printers build things…just like LEGOs. But, will 3DP really take off in the toy market when Cube printers can easily print—and modify—toys, games and stories from Hasbro’s library of successes?! AND, yes, one of those Hasbro mega-hit toy ecosystems is “Transformers!”


More to talk about in the ancillary topics mode around MakerBot, 3D Systems Corp. and the Education Market.

So, C’mon Back!


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