Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer took a field trip to Brooklyn yesterday to check out the headquarters of MakerBot Industries, a company that makes desktop “3-D printing devices” that enable users to manufacture plastic products of their own design at home. In his 2012 “State of the City” address, Mr. Stringer mentioned how MakerBot was “leading the revolution in 3-D printing right here in New York City” and is an example of the type of business that can help make the city “a go-to hub for innovation.” During his trip to MakerBot’s headquarters, Mr. Stringer got a tour of the facility from co-founder Bre Pettis and asked what New York’s elected officials can do to help tech companies take root in the five boroughs.
MakerBot ‘s “Replicator” starts at $1,749 and uses plastic filament to draw 3-D versions of objects rendered in digital design programs. Prior to his company, Mr. Pettis said 3-D printers cost between $100,000 and $1 million and were the province of “elite institutions. According to Mr. Pettis, the Replicator has a variety of uses including building architecture models, making small custom toys, small parts needed for home repair projects and by people who make 3-D prints of their skulls from CT Scans to help doctors diagnose neurological problems.
“You can do that for politicians hopefully,” Mr. Stringer joked.
Mr. Stringer said MakerBot reminded him of the “Steve Jobs story.”
“When we hear people saying the next Apple starts in Brooklyn, I’m like, we’re here already,” Mr. Pettis said.
“He’s right, this is 1978,” Mr. Stringer said. “This is the next thing, I’m convinced.”
Mr. Stringer said the nascent 3-D printing industry appeals to him, because he believes New York could become its central hub.
“This could be our industry, we could own it,” Mr. Stringer said.
Given his interest in seeing 3-D printing find a home in New York, Mr. Stringer asked Mr. Pettis if MakerBot has competitors coming from other locales. Mr. Pettis said there are 3-D printing companies in Denmark, the U.K. and Minnesota, but he believes MakerBot is at the top of the field.
“We’re ahead and we’re going to fight to stay ahead,” Mr. Pettis said.
“What can the city do to help keep you on a level playing field?” Mr. Stringer asked.
Mr. Pettis replied that his company is looking to expand to new headquarters, possibly in One MetroTech Center. He said MakerBot was already being helped by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and its president, Seth Pinsky.
“They’re awesome,” Mr. Pettis said of the NYCEDC.
Mr. Stringer concurred.
“I think Seth Pinsky gets this.”
At the conclusion of the store, Mr. Pettis presented Mr. Stringer with a MakerBot-made plastic replica of a Manhattan landmark–the Empire State Building. Mr. Stringer thanked Mr. Pettis, while noting ethics regulations preclude him from keeping the model for himself.
“We can put it in the office, not home,” Mr. Stringer said. “That’s the law.”