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MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis moves into new innovation role at Stratasys

"Bold Machines" is the ambitious new effort from MakerBot's parent company. The new innovation arm will be headed by Bre Pettis. Jenny Lawton will take over as MakerBot CEO.

MakerBot's Bre Pettis inside the Bold Machines space, with 3D prints of "Margo" and "Mr. Waltersnap," characters designed by Jose Alves da Silva. (Photo by Brady Dale)
Updated with additional information. (9/22/14, 2:11 p.m.)

Bre Pettis is transitioning out of his role as CEO of MakerBot to lead up a new division of Stratasys, MakerBot’s parent company. The new division — Bold Machines: The Innovation Workshop at Stratasys — opened in Boerum Hill this morning.

Jenny Lawton, currently MakerBot’s president, will move into the role of CEO. Pettis will remain on MakerBot’s board.

“Bold Machines is the innovation workshop of Stratasys,” Pettis explained at a press briefing this morning at the space, as crashes from the aikido studio upstairs sounded from above. He described it as a cross between an innovation space, a collaborative workplace and a showcase for what’s next.

3D printed model train, at Bold Machines

3D-printed model train, on display at Bold Machines. (Photo by Brady Dale)

Here are some of the activities that Pettis said will take place at Bold Machines:

  • Partners coming in to explore how the various Stratasys and MakerBot machines can be used in their industries. As Stratasys recently acquired 3D-printing services companies Solid Concepts and Harvest, this would include the ability to explore taking creations to scale.
  • Workshops with partners to explain 3D-printing applications.
  • Modifying and customizing 3D prints in the garage space, as necessary, for when projects get messy.
  • Gallery openings showcasing artwork and projects made at Bold Machines.
  • Parties.

Every time we’ve heard Pettis speak it’s been about his excitement for making things, most notably, his “and then set it on fire” quote from earlier this year. So it’s no surprise he’s eager to move into a smaller role where he can focus on the creative side of the additive manufacturing business exclusively. That’s what this move represents. He said there was no one he’d rather leave his company in the hands of than Lawton.

Set of Makerbots at Bold Machines launch

One of several rows of MakerBots in the Bold Machines space. Almost all of them were actively running projects while we were there. Pettis said he hopes they will be running constantly. (Photo by Brady Dale)

The new division will be housed 3rd Avenue & Dean Street. Formerly, it was some sort of warehouse and testing facility for MakerBot. The space’s ceiling is adorned with rows upon rows of extension cords tied into coils. These used to be rows and rows of continuously-running MakerBots — right up to the limit of what the building’s electric system could handle, Robert Steiner, Pettis’s No. 2 on the new project told us.

Bre Pettis's Delorean, in the Bold Machines garage

Pettis’s DeLorean, in the garage space. (Photo by Brady Dale)

“We’re going to be working with innovators to explore what 3D printers can do,” Pettis explained.

The space has lots of 3D printers in it now but there will soon be more. The point of the space is to have the full suite of Stratasys printers available. Two more are on their way that Pettis is excited about: super high-definition printers for the home office, including an Objet500 Connex3 multi-material 3D printer, which will allow, among other things, making multi-colored prints without assembling or painting.

Makers can get involved. Keep an eye on the Bold Machines website. It will be seeking proposals for the gallery space soon.


Pettis is perceptibly excited about moving into a space where he can focus on working with really talented makers. His populist streak moved him to kick off a DonorsChoose program that’s placing MakerBots in schools, and has actually placed them in 3 percent of public schools across the country, so far.

Pettis invested $500,000 of his own money to support placing them around Brooklyn schools. But this is a new direction for the executive. “With MakerBot, when we do things we want to make sure anyone can do it,” he said. “With Bold Machines, we want to push the edges … to do things that may not even be a good idea, but we won’t know until we do it.”

The question Stratasys wants to explore in the new space, he said, is “How are 3D printers going to compress the innovation cycle and disrupt industries?”

Margo and Mr. Waltersnap, first characters out of Bold Machines

Margo and Mr. Waltersnap, the first characters out of Bold Machines, and residents of a futuristic Brooklyn. (Photo by Brady Dale)

Bold Machines currently has a staff of four. As a way of showcasing what’s possible, the division released via Thingiverse the first character for what they hope will become a feature film one day: Margo.

Margo is the protagonist of the film-in-treatment. A new character will be released each week, each one adding a little bit more of the backstory to Margo’s sci-fi Brooklyn. Margo and her dramatis personae are a way the new project is demonstrating what’s possible, Pettis said.

Margo's dog has a jetpack, Bold Machines

Margo’s dog, which she will learn has a jetpack after her parents get lost in space. (Photo by Brady Dale)

Bold Machines launched early. It’s something Pettis has wanted to do for a while. The company began talking about it early this year, with the plan to launch the division and make the transition in late 2014 or early 2015. Then there was a memo leak about it, which moved up the timeline. Pettis said the gallery space that hosted the press event was being painted as recently as Friday.

Companies: MakerBot
Series: Brooklyn

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