The only 3D printing company anyone’s heard of just laid off a huge chunk of its staff

Waiting it out.
Waiting it out.
Image: AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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There were supposed to be more of us using 3D printers by now, but the concept has been slow to materialize. And MakerBot, the company that was supposed to bring 3D printing into the home, is suffering for it.

The desktop 3D-printer maker announced today (Oct. 8) that it’s restructuring and cutting 20% of its staff. This comes only a few months after it cut a previous 20% and closed all its retail stores.

MakerBot was acquired by Stratasys, a large, industrial 3D-printing firm, for $600 million back in 2013. Up until that point, MakerBot arguably was one of the companies that could’ve disrupted Stratasys, if it had figured out how to move 3D-printing technology beyond something that could slowly make plastic tchotchkes into some sort of home-manufacturing device.

It seems like we’re still years away from that happening, though—if it ever happens at all. Right now the best use cases for 3D printing appear to be in medicine. Scientists are 3D-printing drugs, replacement body parts, and even human tissues now—none of which are things you’d likely want to make in your living room.

After the last restructuring, MakerBot’s CEO Jonathan Jaglom told Quartz that the company was shifting its target customer from consumers to the education market, as sales to hobbyists stagnated. The company also started marketing packs of MakerBots and the software to chain them together, for thousands of dollars.

Jaglom said that MakerBot printers were in more than 5,000 schools across the US, and the company is aggressively trying to grow that business. So MakerBot isn’t dead yet. There’s perhaps a lot riding on its next-generation printer—MakerBot hasn’t yet said what it will do or look like, but it did say today that it’s going to contract out its production to a third party. But there’s also a lot riding on the market’s acceptance of 3D printers in general.