“Well-designed products don’t just pop from Steve Jobs’ brain into mass production.” — Luke Iseman
From the editors of Make:, the Maker Pro Newsletter is about the impact of Makers on business and technology. Our coverage includes hardware startups, new products, incubators, and innovators, along with technology and market trends. Please send items to us at [email protected].
Announcing the Pitch Your Prototype Contest
This week, Make: and Cornell University are kicking off the Pitch Your Prototype contest. The idea is to submit an innovative prototype that you — or your team — has developed and you could win $5,000. Winner will be announced at MakerCon New York this September.
You can find the full rules and online entry form here.
FAA Releases Potential Drone Regulations
Among the prospective rules are stringent line-of-sight requirements that might effectively prevent certain ambitious plans — such as Amazon’s prospective package delivery system — from going forward, which could dampen multi-billion dollar predictions for the drone industry.
Tindie: A Yelp For Makers
Tindie, an online marketplace for Makers to sell their wares, debuted a Yelp-style review service this week called Tindie Biz where Makers can share their experiences with, and rate, suppliers and manufacturers.
The service is currently soliciting reviews before a full launch, planned for later this year. The goal, according to the founders, is to remove some of the uncertainty and guesswork from choosing manufacturing partners.
Advice for Young Hardware Startups
Writing for the blog of Y Combinator, which recently started funding hardware startups, Makers Luke Iseman (@liseman) and Jeff Chang (@doblet) each rounded up seven guidelines for thriving as an early-stage hardware startup. Some highlights:
- Form a posse: Join groups where you can learn how others dealt with sourcing, production techniques, and other challenges to going pro.
- Stick with things that work: Instead of mastering each new tool or platform, find ones that work for you and use them to build an impressive prototype.
- Iterate elements: Break your prototype into “discrete units of functionality” and focus your energy where there’s the greatest potential for improvement.
- Don’t do it from scratch: Use resources that already exist instead of reinventing the wheel.
“Well-designed products don’t just pop from Steve Jobs’ brain into mass production,” Iseman wrote. “They’re iterated into existence through many rounds of fast experimentation on each element that matters.”
50 Global Issues for Makers to Tackle
Makers looking to invest their resources in projects with the highest global impact can look to a new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Institute for Globally Transformative Technologies, where researchers have proffered a list of the top 50 technologies that could combat poverty.
The idea is to persuade innovators to think on a larger scale about advances that could address urgent issues around the world, including the group’s top concern, water desalination. Other priorities: vaccines to control major infectious diseases, smart textbooks that can adapt to user needs such as language, affordable internet access, and a new generation of durable, lightweight, and affordable homes for the urban poor. The full list is broken down into several categories ranging from food security to gender equity and arranged by scales of complexity and commercial potential.
“Invention is a powerful tool for improving lives when focused on problems worth solving,” Carol Dahl, executive director of the Lemelson Foundation, told Berkeley News Center.
Voltera: Print Circuit Boards on Your Kitchen Table
A Kickstarter campaign for Voltera’s circuit board printer V-One smashed through a $70,000 goal in just half an hour this week, and continues to grow beyond $300,000 at press time.
Voltera promises a no-nonsense setup that will print circuits, dispense solder paste and provide heat to reflow electronics onto boards. They showed off a prototype at CES this year, where it won the $50,000 TechCrunch “Hardware Battlefield” contest.
The Week In 3D Printing
Taz 5 Drops Early
Lulzbot, citing skyrocketing sales figures, unexpectedly released their flagship Taz 5 printer ahead of schedule this week. The Taz 5 will feature an all metal hot end, which can reach temperatures of more than 570° F, and a PEI bed surface that they say will be lower maintenance.
Also of note is a tantalizing chart, released by Lulzbot, which shows how the company’s sales have grown over the past three years from just thousands of dollars per month to nearly a million.
Getting 3D Printers Online
Printr’s latest crowdfunding initiative incorporates two separate components — one hardware, one software — that work hand-in-hand to help facilitate printing projects for the average consumer.
The first part of the project, The Element, is a USB plug-and-play device that allows a consumer to connect her PC to a 3D Printer, connect the 3D printer itself to Wi-Fi, and coordinate commands from multiple printing devices at once.
The second part, Formide, is a cloud-based service that simplifies 3D printing commands into individual apps, suggests appropriate materials and slicer settings, and provides a database of pre-made models.
The goal is that the combination of The Element and Formide could allow consumers without a robust knowledge of hardware and software to create high quality 3D printing products on their own.
The Writing’s On The Scrawl
In a venture that evokes last year’s dark comedy “Her,” robotics outfit Bond has launched a beta service that analyzes your handwriting, uses a robotic arm to write notes on fancy stationery in its best facsimile of your own writing, and then dispatches the letters on your behalf. According to Fast Company’s Rebecca Greenfield (@rzgreenfield), though, the system’s too-tidy penmanship creates a kind of longhand uncanny valley.
Keeping Customers Interested
After a product is funded, manufactured, and shipped, it’s important to stay on your buyers’ radar. Ted Hall, CEO of ShopBot Tools and maker of Handibot (@Handibottool) — a digitally-controlled power tool for cutting, drilling, carving, and other machining operations — says he addressed that issue by focusing on the upgradability of the product to keep it “fresh” for consumers.
Incremental changes, rather than flashy overhauls, are essential for product evolution to maintain consumers’ interest, Hall writes — and they keep your profits coming in without going bankrupt producing ambitious replacement models.
“Being able to competitively employ digital fab in production opens the door for incremental upgradeability,” he wrote. “That’s because there is little or no cost to evolving a design and doing it frequently.”
Maker Pro Tool of the Week
Open the doorway to new, exciting projects by combining the processing power and connectivity of your Android phone with the physical computing versatility of Arduino.
This microcontroller board integrates a USB host controller and an Arduino Mega2560, making it Google ADK compatible.
Interface with the outside world and display sensor data on your phone.
Get it in the Maker Shed. Was $84.99. Now $54.99!
Upcoming Maker Faires
Maker Faires ramping up!
- Kalispell Mini Maker Faire (MT): February 28, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Cairo Mini Maker Faire (Egypt): March 7, 2015 – Premiere!
- New Orleans Mini Maker Faire (LA): March 7, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- NoVa Mini Maker Faire (VA): March 15th, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Jalisco Mini Maker Faire (Mexico): March 27-29, 2015 – Premiere!
- Benicia Mini Maker Faire (CA): March 28, 2015 – Premiere!
- Kent State Mini Maker Faire (OH): April 10, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Saint-Malo Mini Maker Faire (France): April 11, 2015 – 2nd annual!
- Fresno Mini Maker Faire (CA): April 11, 2015 – 3rd annual!
- Greater Newark Mini Maker Faire (NJ): April 11, 2015 – 2nd annual!
What’s ahead further down the road? Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest Faire to you.
Hat tips to this week’s contributors: Jon Christian, Dan Raile, and Jennifer Nowicki.