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“The impact of ersatz equipment in critical electronic systems…can be catastrophic.” —IEEE Spectrum

Maker Faire Helps Hobbyists Go Pro

The New York Times pointed a spotlight on maker pros this week in an expansive feature about the rise of hardware entrepreneurship that — without actually using the phrase “maker pro” — drew broad connections between the rise of maker-friendly manufacturing spaces like New Lab (@NewLab), growing interest in hardware among venture capitalists, and the maker movement itself:

That you don’t have to be a giant company to have a good hardware idea has been evident for years at Maker Faire events, where inventors showcase their homemade engineering projects. Last year, more than one million people attended Maker Faire events worldwide.

Enthusiastic amateurs can matter a lot in technology. Hobbyists led the personal computer revolution, before it morphed into a huge industry.

The PC market, of course, was swiftly dominated by a handful of enormous manufacturers. It will be interesting to see if the maker pro community, with its vast array of products and business models, could play out in a more a democratic fashion.

Foodtech Frontiers

Make: contributor Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) is back with more stories about maker pros who are shaking up the world of food entrepreneurship. Needless to say, we are excited about her presentation on the Maker Pro stage at Maker Faire Bay Area, which will take place at 11:30am on Saturday, May 20.

There’s FarmBot (@farmbotio), for one, an open source CNC-style system that waters, seeds, waters, weeds, and collects data on the whole operation with an accessible drag and drop interface. Cecchini also took us inside bean-to-bar chocolate factory Dandelion Chocolate (@DandelionChoco), a venture by two founders who sold their last company to Comcast.

“I’ve always had a sweet tooth,” said Dandelion founder Todd Masonis, “and I was curious to know more about chocolate and how to make it. That’s what precipitated us taking over a friend’s garage to set up a tiny factory.”

Hardware Clones Spell Danger on the IoT

A new report by the IEEE Spectrum (@IEEESpectrum) points to the security dangers of cloned hardware. Knockoff plug-in modules for car engines can cause the vehicles to malfunction; a military contractor in Saudi Arabia tried to sell the imitation Cisco hardware — which could easily have been compromised by digital spies — to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Hardware cloners run the gamut from shadetree operations to state-funded manufacturers. The problem, according to IEEE, is that it is not clear when you buy a reverse-engineered version of a known product whether it is an exact copy or one with modifications that open a backdoor for unwanted visitors. With billions of IoT devices projected to go online in the coming years, it is going to be worth sourcing components very carefully.

Countdown to Maker Faire Bay Area

If you come out to Maker Faire Bay Area (@makerfaire) on May 19–21, do not miss our Maker Pro stage in Redwood Hall, where we are assembling an all-star lineup of entrepreneurs from every industry you read about in this newsletter.

Business strategist Carly Jacobson (@MakersSnapshot), for instance, will give a presentation on how to disrupt markets by pairing technologies and business models. ROOT (@growwithroot) founder Eric De Feo (@ericdefeo) will talk about the future of urban farming. Consultant Bob Zeidman (@bob_zeidman) will also be there, and giving the lowdown on how to protect your awesome idea from copyright infringement and other perils.

Watch this space in the coming weeks for sneak peeks of our talent. What do you want to hear about on the Maker Pro stage? Send us your recommendations: [email protected].

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Desktop Metal (@DesktopMetal) has unveiled two new metal printing systems that, if they perform well in the field, could offer unprecedented capabilities at low price points of just $120,000 and $360,000, respectively. Metal printers currently on the market can cost north of a million.

Make: Digital Fabrication Editor Matt Stultz (@MattStultz) reports that Shapeways (@shapeways) will soon give users access to HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology.

Yet another Kickstarter success that is now struggling to deliver, Sixense Stem (@sixensemotion), a VR controller for Oculus Rift (@oculus), is now years overdue. Backers are starting to wonder if the product they paid for is ever going to ship.

Finally, Make: contributor Goli Mohammadi (@snowgoli) lists a variety of ways in which makers are improving health care tech, from open source wheelchair mounts to DIY brainwave mapping.