With a brief note on their site today, digital fabrication tool makers Printrbot announces their closure. Led by the charismatic Brook Drumm, the company launched in 2011 with a hyper-successful Kickstarter for an affordable 3D printer kit, raising $830,000 for a $500 machine, disrupting competitors like MakerBot that were selling kits and printers in the $2000+ range.
Operating from his shop in Lincoln, California, Drumm kept a focus on affordability, open-source, and constant iteration through the years, moving from laser-cut wood to steel and aluminum as Printrbot’s machines progressed. Despite the price, the products produced very respectable results, placing them on the first two covers of Make:’s Ultimate Guide to 3D Printing, and awarding them regular “best in class” badges for various designations.
With their 2014 Simple Metal and Pro printers, the company moved into retail outlets like Radio Shack. In 2015 the company added CNC routers to the lineup, including the revolutionary Crawlbot, a relatively compact machine that would strap to the material it was to cut and pull itself back and forth — offering full-sheet routing capabilities in a package roughly the size of a set of golf clubs.
Unfortunately, software issues kept the Crawlbot from realizing its full potential, and similar woes seemed to haunt other innovative creations from the company, including the cloud-based 2016 Simple Pro printer that Printrbot hoped to leverage as its future. Meanwhile, new printers from overseas manufacturers pushed into lower price points than the Drumm was able to release.
And with that, Printrbot is no longer. Their robust machines and energetic customers will likely help support each other as the dust settles. Meanwhile, the Printrbot website says of Drumm: “He will share this last chapter of Printrbot with the public in due time.”