Shenzhen startup Makeblock makes and sells aluminum building sets for building everything from music robots to plotters. Compared to t-slot aluminum beams, Makeblock is much more sophisticated. It has threaded grooves running along the length of the beams, bolt holes running parallel to the grooves, as well as threaded holes on the ends of the beams. You can really get a sense of these features in the photo to the right.
While the beams are great, Makeblock has created an impressive array of additional parts. The wheels and treads are extremely robust. There’s a nice variety of connector plates. Their online store has page after page of different mechanical parts. All this for a startup that was just Kickstarted last December…
The founder of Makeblock, Jasen Wang, quit his job in May of 2011 to work on Makeblock full time–now the company has grown to 10 employees.
Makeblock labels itself as open source and they make the schematics and source files of all parts. mechanical as well as electronic, available for download — for instance check out the page for this stepper motor bracket. Scroll down and you can see the blueprint for the part. They have a code repository as well.
Another example of Makeblock’s coolness, the hole spacing on their beams (8mm) is the same as on Lego Technic parts, enabling the two systems to mesh with surprising ease. In the example above, they used plastic rivets and M4 bolts to add Lego motors, an ultrasonic sensor, and a NXT brick to a Makeblock model. Great idea!
Incidentally, Makeblock is a Maker Faire Startup Sponsor and will be bringing a bunch of robots to World Maker Faire next week, including a “prize claw” game controlled by a Leap Motion, as well as smartphone-controlled laser tanks.