Sunday, July 12, 2015

Slow Saturday Special: Hot Off the Printer

Came straight from the factory:

"With consumer demand soft, 3-D printing goes back to school" by Curt Woodward, Boston Globe, July 11, 2015

A few years ago, 3-D printers were touted as the hottest new gadget by the technology world’s early adopters.

Regular people, it turns out, were less excited by the idea of a device that could turn gobs of melted plastic into toys, art, and spare parts for their broken appliances.

The gap between startup hype and market reality has been best reflected by New York-based MakerBot. Founded in 2009, the company offered one of the first mass-market desktop 3-D printers and raised $10 million from venture investors including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.

In 2013, MakerBot was acquired by industrial prototyping company Stratasys Ltd. for about $400 million. But earlier this year, after reporting that sales of the consumer-friendly devices were slower than expected, Stratasys wrote down the value of MakerBot by $194 million.

Stratasys also shut down its MakerBot retail storefronts, including one on Boston’s tony Newbury Street, and appointed a new chief executive of the subsidiary, Jonathan Jaglom, to help turn it around.

Jaglom was in Boston this week as part of a 22-state “listening tour” of large MakerBot customers, meant to help him refocus the company on more lucrative markets, particularly education.

MakerBot is hoping to follow a pattern established in the PC era, when schools and libraries installed desktop computers several years before most consumers brought one home. “We see that analogy taking place also in the 3-D printing space,” Jaglom said.

MakerBot’s products are typical of the 3-D printers that have emerged over the past several years. Starting with a software mockup, the printer head traces the form of a physical object while laying down tiny layers of melted plastic, which harden at room temperature.

Industrial designers and engineers in fields like auto manufacturing have used heavy-duty versions of these machines for years to create prototypes and models. These printers can cost more than $300,000.

Makerbot offers several sizes, selling from less than $1,500 to more than $6,000 — prices that were thought to be appealing to consumers who regularly spend thousands of dollars on laptops and high-definition TVs.

Related: U.S. Economy Back on Track

"The typical US household saw its net worth actually decline 1.2 percent from 2010 to 2013....

Incomes for the highest-earning 1 percent of Americans soared 31 percent from 2009 through 2012....

And after 30 years of skyrocketing income inequality, the top 1 percent now control a bigger share of wealth than they have since FDR, [and] not only are the rich getting richer — they’re getting taxed less, too."

That's what they meant by being back on track.

In 2014, Stratasys reported that MakerBot accounted for $66.5 million of the company’s revenue of about $750 million. But sales have fallen, likely because an early community of enthusiasts became saturated before a general consumer market could develop, said Sophia Vargas, an industry analyst with Forrester Research.

Or there just isn't a market or money for such a thing(?).

“I think their focus on education makes a lot of sense,” she said.

Yeah, $crew the schools.

MakerBot’s renewed focus on professional and research markets is similar to the approach taken by some of its competitors, including Somerville-based Formlabs, which has generally shunned a broad consumer market in favor of selling to professionals in art and design fields.

One of MakerBot’s biggest bets in the education market is a mass-installation model that ties together 30 or more printers in a network.

One of the first customers is the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which paid less than $300,000 for about 50 printers of various sizes, along with the software and networking gear to connect the devices to computers across campus.


The MakerBot center is set up at the school’s library, and officials with UMass and MakerBot are testing the connections and working out the kinks before a broad opening in the fall. Eventually, everyone on campus and perhaps people from the community will be able to access the machines, university spokeswoman Carol Connare said.

You might as well; you kids are paying for it.

Some can’t wait that long. Alex Schreyer, a construction technology professor, said he’s been called on to help colleagues from across campus try out the printers — art historians wanting to replicate a sculpture, or biologists who needed a large-scale model of mole paws for their class.

Nice, but is it worth it?

“It’s great to have them here,” Schreyer said. “We can go there and, within a few hours, actually get something printed. And students are always last-minute, as you know.”


And speaking of last minutes:

"Plush UMass alumni club losing money and luster; Launched with high hopes, facility has required $4.3m in subsidies" by Sacha Pfeiffer Globe Staff  July 06, 2015

It was envisioned as a networking hub, a fund-raising tool, and a badge of prestige for a state university system often overshadowed by its elite private rivals. As a bonus, the plush alumni club would pay for itself through membership dues and fees, University of Massachusetts officials said.

But a decade later, the private UMass Club, located on the penthouse floor of a downtown Boston high-rise, has yet to live up to its trumpeted potential.

UMass has given the club subsidies totaling nearly $4.3 million since it opened in 2005, because the facility has been unable to cover its annual operating expenses. This year, as the university prepares to raise students’ tuition and fees by 6 percent to 8 percent, that subsidy is projected to be a quarter-million dollars.

Well, that about does it. When the institution of education has become the corrupt preserve of the money-junkie set, it's over.

In an acknowledgment of the club’s struggles, UMass plans to move the facility to what it considers a more desirable location, replace its management team, and hire a prominent Boston public relations firm to lead a marketing campaign in hopes of boosting membership....

Yeah, waste more money while the kids.... sigh. 

It's a familiar firm, too!

UMass, which receives 17 percent of its $3 billion budget from the state, says no taxpayer or tuition dollars have been used to support the club, which is located on the 33d floor of 225 Franklin St. in the Financial District. Instead, it is subsidized through the university’s unrestricted operating budget, which includes money from licensing fees, bookstore income, and private fund-raising, according to Scales.

But critics say any UMass revenue spent on the club is money diverted from educational purposes and should be considered public dollars.

Well, yeah. It's the same with the aid to Israel.

“The bottom line is, if it’s being subsidized by the university, and the university is being subsidized by the taxpayer, then it’s on the ledger, in my view,” said former state inspector general Greg Sullivan, now research director at the Pioneer Institute, a Boston-based public policy center. “It’s a good thing to have a centralized point and try to unite the alums of UMass in the Greater Boston area, but if it’s not working, then the question is when do you pull the plug?”

Newly installed UMass president Martin T. Meehan praised the “marketing and branding benefit” of having a downtown club but conceded “there needed to be some adjustments” and said he will “look very closely at the club and how it operates.”

RelatedMeehan takes UMass reins, pledges to raise system’s stature

He's getting paid how much?


Nationwide, university-run private clubs have an uneven track record. Many closed or suffered membership losses after the 2008 recession....

Including BU, Northeastern University,  Harvard, MIT, and Yale.


The good thing about the club? 

No Iranians allowed.


Outgoing UMass leader makes hefty profit on condo sale

UMass trustees should address president’s real estate deal, governor says

UMass Built Upon Debt

Well, see you at graduation

I will be going out to get a Boston Sunday Globe that is hot off the delivery truck now.


State college budgets to rise, but so will fees

Couple give $5m to aid UMass-Amherst’s Jewish programs

Do I even need type it?