MakerBot is perhaps the best-known purveyor of 3D printers--and it now has a new owner. The company announed Wednesday that it has agreed to be acquired by Stratasys, a maker of commercial-grade 3D printers.
Under the terms of the $403 million buyout, MakerBot would become a subsidiary of Stratasys, and it would keep its brand name and management team. It would also continue to maintain Thingiverse, a community where 3D printer enthusiasts can share model files.
Stratasys isn't exactly a household name, but the company makes various 3D printers for use in commercial manufacturing and prototyping. It also runs RedEye, a prototyping service that lets companies send off 3D model files to get printed. MakerBot, on the other hand, focuses primarily on consumers and so-called "prosumers" instead of professional, commercial-grade 3D printing.
It's hard to say exactly what this means for MakerBot and do-it-yourselfers just yet, but in the short term, it likey won't have much effect on the 3D-printing community. After all, the company will retain some degree of independence, and its current product line will still be available.
Longer term, however, having the resources of a larger company behind it should help MakerBot develop future products.
Also, Stratasys has experience with what it calls PolyJet 3D printing technology, which builds layers out of drops of liquid polymer and uses UV light to cure the plastic. Similar 3D printing methods from companies like FormLabs allows for ultra-high-quality prints that extrusion-based 3D printers like the MakerBot (which lay down thin layers of plastic) can't yet match. With that in mind, we may one day see a MakerBot printer based on PolyJet 3D technology.