October 30, 2015      

The 3D printing industry is racing ahead, but it has hit some bumps in the road. Some of the larger players in the consumer and corporate markets have been both winners and losers.

Stratasys Ltd. said its Makerbot Thingiverse unit has reached 1 million uploads and 200 million downloads. The website is a sharing platform for 3D designs and has more than 2 million monthly active users.

However, Stratasys said that it will have to write down the value of the consumer-oriented MakerBot because of slow orders in the third quarter. Some Wall Street analysts have said that Hewlett-Packard Inc. could buy Stratasys since it plans to join the 3D printing market next year.

“We are disappointed with our third-quarter results, which reflect a continuation of the challenging macroeconomic environment and weaker conditions in our market that we observed in the first half of 2015,” said CEO David Reis. “Despite these near-term challenges, we remain convinced of the long-term growth opportunity within 3D printing.”

MakerBot is laying off another 20 percent of its staff after a round of cuts this past spring. It is also reducing the number of buildings it occupies in Industry City in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Voodoo Manufacturing opens for B2B market

Despite MakerBot’s difficulties, some of the talent it has acquired and nurtured is staying close by. Voodoo Manufacturing this month began offering 3D printing as a service to small and midsize companies that don’t need to bring 3D printing in house or outsource it to a large commercial printer.

The Brooklyn-based startup allows customers to upload files and get instant quotes on orders of up to 10,000 units. These small batches support rapid prototyping, but the company wants to get into manufacturing and production.

This is similar to the consumer-oriented Shapeways Inc., which allows customers to order 3D-printed items through its Web portal, but Voodoo Manufacturing serves the business-to-business market.

CEO Max Friefeld said that orders of fewer than a dozen 3D-printed prototypes will be 30 percent cheaper than from competitors and that they’ll ship out the next day. “The real goal here is to produce end-use parts,” he told Fortune.

Voodoo Manufacturing spun out of MakerBot in August and still has many connections to its parent company. Friefeld had co-founded Layer By Layer, a Y Combinator startup that MakerBot acquired in 2014. At MakerBot, Friefeld’s team developed software for running clusters of 3D printers.

Although it’s now independent, Voodoo Manufacturing uses 127 MakerBot Replicator 2 desktop 3D printers, runs the networking software developed at MakerBot’s Innovation Center, and shares MakerBot customers such as Autodesk.

A MakerBot Innovation Center opened at Central Michigan University and is the only one in the Midwest. It has 30 MakerBot 3D Replicator printers and five MakerBot Digitizer desktop 3D scanners. It is also connected to a merchandise lab, and the center and the lab cost a total of $800,000 to set up.

Voodoo Manufacturing has raised $300,000 in funding so far. Its clients include Intel, which wanted a 3D-printed dress for New York’s Fashion Week, and Viacom, which needed custom keychains for a Nickelodeon and MTV event.

Both Stratasys Direct Manufacturing and the 2015 Wohlers Report predict that additive manufacturing will increasingly be used for production of final components for the aerospace and medical markets.

3D Systems legal woes lead to CEO departure

Stratasys rival and 3D printing pioneer 3D Systems Corp. said it would challenge an arbitrator’s award of $11.2 million to Ronald Barranco, the co-founder of Print3D, which 3D Systems acquired in 2011.

“We firmly believe the arbitrator’s ruling is not supported by the facts of this case or the agreement between the parties,” said Andrew Johnson, executive vice president and chief legal officer at 3D Systems.

Print3D developed software to give users instant price quotes for printing objects designed with computer-aided design applications.

According to Barranco’s lawyers at Gaw Poe LLP, 3D Systems had promised to create a business unit with him as manager.

“It’s not uncommon to hear about entrepreneurs who sold their company in exchange for an earnout or other deferred compensation, and were then cheated out of what they were promised,” said Randolph Gaw, partner at Gaw Poe.

Avi Reichental this week stepped down from the CEO and president post after 12 years, “by mutual agreement with the company’s board of directors,” according to 3D Systems. Johnson has been appointed interim CEO.