3D printing has a way to go before it becomes a mainstream consumer activity. If it ever does cross over from its hobbyist and commercial roots, MakerBot and its CEO Bre Pettis can claim a decent share of the credit.
The MakerBot Replicator and newer Replicator 2 3D printers are fine products, but the company's marketing know-how is also a significant factor in its success. MakerBot's Thingiverse Web site hosts plans for more than 26,000 printable objects, all free for anyone to download and print. Pettis' media-friendly demeanor has landed his company's name on the digital and actual pages of every major mainstream and tech news publication. The company also continually showcases designs from its creative Thingiverse users, of which there are hundreds, if not thousands.
A large public company like 3D Systems, or perhaps some upstart such as Formlabs, might be the manufacturer that finally brings 3D printing to the mainstream. But for many people, MakerBot is the 3D printing company they think of first.
For more on this story, see our full MakerBot Replicator review.