MakerBot Faces Lawsuit Alleging Fraud Scheme, Knowingly Shipping Shoddy 3D Printers

A class action lawsuit filed against Makerbot and its parent firm Stratasys alleges a "fraudulent scheme" to knowingly ship shoddy 3D printers. According to the lawsuit, Makerbot and its employees were aware that the company's 5th generation Replicator 3D printer was full of problems, but went ahead and shipped them anyway in order to maintain an artificially inflated stock price.

As the allegation goes, the scheme backfired, resulting in a deluge of customer complaints, product returns, and warranty service. Sales then plummeted, and the company's stock price followed suit, leaving both investors and owners of the 5th generation Replicator in a bad place.

Makerbot Replicator
"In pursuit of an aggressive growth strategy to keep up with encroaching competition, Defendants rushed MakerBot’s 5th generation printers to the market despite their knowledge of serious quality and reliability issues plaguing the printers," the lawsuit states. "Most significantly, the Smart Extruder promoted by Defendants was severely defective, frequently clogging with filament and rendering the 5th generation printers inoperable, among other problems."

In a related petition demanding a product recall, a mechanical engineer named Marc details his experience with a 5th generation Replicator, noting that it typically takes him four trials to get a print to start. He also claims that he had a specific part replaced three times during the 3D printer's six-month warranty period.

Makerbot Extruder

"I have been in touch with Makerbot Support and they advise me that typically an extruder (or a print head from a 3D printer's perspective) lasts between 200-500 hours on average (I have a reference for this from Makerbot Support)," Marc explains. "This may seem like a long time, but many of the prints I do (and I'm sure a lot of people do) take over 20 hours -- i.e., Makerbot believes that it is acceptable to print 10 models and have the printer fail, and purchase a new print head worth $175. I'm sure if most customers knew this at the time of purchase they wouldn't spend the $2,899 on the product."

Makerbot doesn't disclaim that the print head for its 5th generation Replicator only lasts 200-500 hours. Instead, a video promoting the product claims the technology behind it is "setting the standard in reliability, quality, and connectivity." Interestingly, for a limited time the company is offering $50 off the price of an extruder replacement when users return their worn extruder to Makerbot.

Regardless of what's going on, it's at least true that Stratasys' stock price has taken a hit, going from a high of $130.83 in early 2014 to $33.06 currently.