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“Crowdfunding has opened the door to individuals with big ideas yet empty pockets” –Maker Batteries Founder Micah Toll

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MakerBot Founder Bets Big on Artisanal Fabrication

Former MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis (@bre) launched a venture called Bre & Co. this week that aims to market meticulously designed heirloom gifts, fabricated with frontier-pushing technology and drawing design inspiration from sources as far-flung as the 1980s staple DeLorean supercar and the geometry of Buckminster Fuller.

In a lengthy post about the project, Pettis frames his eclectic résumé as a puppeteer, public school teacher, and videographer — not to mention his work as the co-founder of the consumer-grade 3D printer outfit MakerBot — as a journey to help people express creativity. As such, he argues, Bre & Co. is as much about exploring the nature of gratitude and reciprocity as it is about fabrication.

The idea took seed when Pettis set out to create a handful of elaborately crafted gifts for some of his friends. The question of what comprised a really meaningful present started to consume him, and after a conversation with his father during a walk in the woods, he decided to pivot the concept into a business.

“I’m opening a new chapter in my life exploring friendship and craftspersonship,” he wrote. “I want to have deeper relationships in my life and in the world.”

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Q&A from the Trenches of Kickstarter: Maker Batteries

Maker pro Micah Toll (@MicahToll) is in the throes of a Kickstarter campaign to fund Maker Batteries, a line of kits that let hobbyists create their own lithium ion battery packs. We checked in to hear how he conceived of the project — and what measures he took to bolster its chances of success.

Make: What gave you the idea for Maker Batteries?
Micah Toll: After I had learned the ropes of battery building I started teaching others online how to build their own batteries, but most people didn’t want to invest in a bunch of tools to build one battery. Ultimately, I designed what I call Maker Batteries, which are kits of pre-welded lithium battery modules that can be assembled into larger batteries with just a soldering iron.

M: How do you think crowdfunding has changed the way products are brought to market?
MT: I think that crowdfunding has opened the door to individuals with big ideas yet empty pockets. You no longer have to impress venture capitalists to get your innovation out in the world in the form of new tools and products. The more people fall in love with your idea and want it to succeed, the more likely it will. This process is better for both the public and the makers.

M: Do you have any advice for someone launching a Kickstarter campaign for a hardware product?
MT: Plan for everything, from design to fulfillment. I filled notebooks full of designs and drawings before I made my first prototypes. I had to plan out all of the business aspects of production to be ready to produce the day after the Kickstarter ends. Make sure that both you and your product are prepared for success and you can fulfill your promises.

Making the Leap from Idea to Action

Auburn University business professor Paul Swamidass wants to empower the types of engineers and scientists who often labor in secure corporate positions to instead bring their own ideas to market.

In Engineering Entrepreneurship from Idea to Business Plan, released this week by Cambridge University Press, Swamidass breaks down the complex road from product development to market into 10 digestible chapters — and highlights the ways that the culture of finance is changing to advantage independent, lightweight players like maker pros.

“This book motivates and shows engineers and engineering students how to become inventors of commercial products for their own pocket book and for wealthy investors,” Swamidass told us. “This is a new opportunity.”

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Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web:

Kickstarter announced big news this week in the form of Kickstarter Live, a real-time video platform that will mesh with the company’s crowdfunding services. How campaigns use Kickstarter Live will make or break it; at its worst it could be banal, but at its best it could offer fascinating glimpses into the behind-the-scenes action of prototyping and fundraising.

Drones were once the domain of the military, or at least serious geeks. But new data shows that they’re breaking into the consumer hobbyist market in a huge way — even, according to Reuters, becoming a major holiday sales driver. In a sense, that’s complicated news for the industry: 3D Robotics, you might recall, crashed and burned after it vastly overestimated its holiday sales last year.

Speaking of holidays, London-based studio Gambody (@Gambody_com) spent this Halloween season pushing its high quality STL files inspired by video game characters. CEO Aleksandr Ignatenko imagines a future in which revelers buy and print files instead of heading to the costume store.

Speaking of 3D printing, Shapeways’ iDesign Challenge, which solicited designs for unofficial Apple accessories, was a rousing experiment in crowdsourcing an ecosystem around a iconic tech product. Entries ranged from an Airpod bracelet to an acoustic music amplifier; they’re all worth checking out.

If you’re interested in prototyping electronics, you should take a look at Octopart’s epic rundown of connectors, from the humble RCA jack to HDMI ports, chip sockets, and much more.

A Makerthon in Bandung, Indonesia, is confronting urban waste by encouraging participants to prototype hardware solutions to the issue. The event is part of the SEA Makerthon series, which is tackling social issues through innovation across Southeast Asia.

We get some of our best coverage ideas from readers. Don’t ever hesitate to shoot us an email at [email protected].

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