Maker Pro News: Printing Houses, Flying Cars, and More

Maker News
Maker Pro News: Printing Houses, Flying Cars, and More

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“Builders hire the factories to manufacture homes in sections… like giant Legos.” —Bloomberg

Is VR Still a Maker Pro Market?

Facebook rolled out a beta this week of its social virtual reality app, Facebook Spaces, in the first major crossover between the web giant’s eponymous social properties and its Oculus (@oculus) acquisition. The takeaway for maker pros: it’s as unclear as ever whether the future of VR — assuming it has one — will be typified by mega-corps like Facebook or by the DIY tinkerers we highlighted in Make: Volume 52.

The irony, of course, is that Oculus itself was a maker pro startup, until it took a $2 billion buyout from Facebook. Founder Palmer Luckey (@PalmerLuckey), who left the company in the wake of the sale, literally hacked together his first prototype in his parents’ garage.

Needless to say, what really excited us this week was the news that mixed-reality hardware startup Avegant (@avegant) closed a $13.7 million investment to further develop its elegant, next-generation headset.

Focus on Factories

Factories that build houses on an assembly line, like automobiles, have been driving the Chinese construction industry for years. Get takes from both Blueprint Robotics (@BlueprintRoboUS) and Ritz-Craft Corp (@Ritz_Craft), a pair of manufacturers profiled by Bloomberg, in a fascinating read on how the trend is now catching on in the domestic market.

“Builders hire the factories to manufacture homes in sections,” wrote Prashant Gopal (@mrgopal) and Heather Perlberg (@HeatherPerlberg), “which are transported on trucks, then laid down on foundations by cranes, like giant Legos.”

In textiles, Amazon won a patent this week for an on-demand clothing fabrication system. The maker pros at watchmaking startup Shinola (@Shinola) have been touting the company’s progress in bringing jobs to Detroit. And flat-pack furniture outfit, Ikea is trying to lift some 200,000 people out of poverty by opening production camps in Jordanian refugee camps.

Also, mea culpa. When we wrote about distributed manufacturing last week, we failed to mention Xometry (@Xometry), a growing name in the space that raised $23 million this year from investors, including GE Ventures (@GE_Ventures).

Are there other distributed manufacturing companies we should be aware of? Send us an email at

Automotive Updates

The perennial futurism of the flying car is back, again, in the form of Metro Skyway, a Tel Aviv startup that says its Jetsons-esque debut vehicle will hit the skies by 2022. According to the company, the vehicle will be powered by liquid hydrogen. No word on its miles per gallon or where you’ll be able to fill its tanks though.

It’s easy to forget that the embattled Uber has a deep interest in the future of self-driving cars. However, in the midst of a legal battle with Google and a series of embarrassing revelations about the company’s workplace culture, Uber took yet another hit this week when Sherif Marakby, who headed the self-driving program, left.

Fabrication Frontiers

We’ve got a flurry of fabrication coverage on the Make: blog this week as part of our 3D Printer Guide. Fabrication editor Matt Stultz (@MattStultz) reviewed the PRO4824 and the Tormach PCNC440, and also covered Refil PET, a filament made from recycled plastic bottles.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Schachter (@schac_attack) gave Inventables’ (@Inventables) latest X-Carve high marks for its value and ease of use, and Matt Dauray was equally impressed by the company’s latest Carvey unit. Chris Yohe found the Nomad 883 Pro to be a “highly capable carver.”

Check out our full 3D Printer Guide here.

Elsewhere on the Maker Pro Web

Proto Labs (@ProtoLabs) vice president Robert Bodor drew on his lengthy manufacturing career to pen this primer on the steps you should take before taking your design to the factory floor.

Chiara Cecchini (@ClaireCecchini) published a pair of terrific foodtech stories this week: Florae & Co. is selling a beautiful, compact planter called GreenCube; and Ugly Juice (@getuglyjuice) is a Bay Area juicer that makes its product out of aesthetically challenged fruits and vegetables.

YouTube personality Scotty Allen (@scottyallen) demonstrated the incredible resources available in Shenzhen by assembling his own iPhone 6S from parts he acquired in the marketplace there. Check out Allen’s YouTube channel, Strange Parts.

Former Make: editor Gareth Branwyn (@garethb2) checks in with a piece on the European trend of repair cafés. Some are permanent and others are brick-and-mortar, but the concept at all of them is that you bring your broken stuff to draw on the tools and expertise of a frugal maker community. Cool!

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DC Denison is the co-editor of The Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection of makers and business. That means hardware startups, new products, and market trends.

DC manages customer stories at Acquia, the digital experience company.

View more articles by DC Denison

Jon Christian is the co-editor of the Maker Pro Newsletter, which covers the intersection between makers and business. He's also written for the Boston Globe, WIRED and The Atlantic.

View more articles by Jon Christian
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