Maker Pro Newsletter – 01/30/14

“History repeats itself, but never in the same way.”

From the editors of MAKE magazine, 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.

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PCH Buys Shoplocket: Promises “End-to-End Service” for Hardware Startups


The Shoplocket storefront

PCH International, once a behind-the-scenes product development and supply chain company, jumped into the world of retail with the purchase of the e-commerce startup ShopLocket.

It’s the second expansion for PCH in the past year. Last summer the company launched a hardware accelerator, Highway1.

With the new retail outlet, PCH now claims to be “the world’s first end-to-end service offering that helps startups to create, develop, manufacture, and sell hardware products direct to consumers.”

Dragon Innovation Offers $100k Bonus


Another indicator that the hardware startup scene continues to grow and evolve: Dragon Innovation, which has a hardware crowdfunding site and a manufacturing consultancy, will give any project that raises $1 million or more in a Dragon crowdfunding campaign an additional investment of $100,000.

There’s a reason for the $100k infusion, on top of the obvious incentive to crowdsource with Dragon, according to co-founder Scott N. Miller: the additional money on the heels of a successful campaign will help companies meet deadlines and execute on their goals.

“Crowdfunding will often cover just the costs of initial production, even at high volumes,” Miller said in a release. “Many companies need extra operating cushion for expanding the team, sales and marketing, or developing their next product while delivering on the promises made to your backers.”


Stratasys Debuts 3-Color, Multi-Material Printer


Printed with the new 3D printer from Stratasys

Put this in your “trickle down” file, as in, “Let’s hope the technology — and the price — trickles down to maker pros.”

3D printing giant Stratasys last week unveiled the Objet500 Connex3 color multi-material 3D printer that combines colors with multi-material 3D printing.

The printer uses three jets that combine droplets of three base materials to produce parts with a wide variety of rigid, flexible, and transparent color materials, as well as color digital materials — in a single print run.

The system is similar to a 2D inkjet printer, in that it uses three color materials: cyan, magenta, and yellow.

The printer uses rubber and plastic as base materials, although Stratasys says that material combinations will be able to offer different levels of rigidity, transparency, and opacity.

The price: $330,000.

MakerBot Partners with Dell, as 3D Printing Moves into the Office


In a move that signals that 3D printing is moving closer to the mainstream, Dell announced that it will soon be offering MakerBot Replicator 3D printers and scanners to small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S.

The MakerBot products will be offered alongside Dell’s existing portfolio of Dell Precision workstations, which are targeted at engineers, architects, and startups.

Dell will begin selling MakerBot products on Feb. 20. In addition to 3D printers and scanners, Dell will also sell MakerBot filament.

The partnership is significant for MakerBot because it signals that Dell believes that 3D printing will appeal to a much wider audience than the hobbyists who launched MakerBot as a brand. In fact, Dell business customers are primarily concerned with efficiency and cost-savings, not cool, cutting-edge technology.

In a release, Dell said it will be carrying MakerBot products so that “our engineering customers can design and test new product concepts quickly; architects can create 3D prototypes during the design phase; and startups can experiment with new product designs and artistic models inexpensively.”

MakerBot already has a partnership with Microsoft, which sells MakerBot printers in its Microsoft retail stores.

The enterprise market could be the next battleground for 3D printing. HP, which is strong in traditional printing, has said that it plans to introduce a 3D printing product soon. 3D Systems, a major competitor to the Stratasys-owned MakerBot line, already has many corporate customers for its high-end 3D printers, and presumably will want to extend its reach to smaller businesses.

After playing a starring role at the CES show in Las Vegas earlier this month, it seems as if 3D printing is ready to make the move from makerspaces to the mainstream.

Briefs, Updates, Follow-Ups, and Further Thoughts


* The world’s first inflatable 3D print has blossomed.

* In his annual State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced plans to create six high-tech manufacturing hubs in the U.S. The administration has already created two centers in Youngstown, Ohio and Raleigh, N.C. Obama didn’t specify where the six new proposed centers will be located.

* A carbon fiber 3D printer is coming later this year that promises 3D-printed parts that are stronger than CNC-machined aluminum by weight.

* If the Google buying spree continues, here’s a guess at who might be next on the shopping list.

* To speed up your next prototype, consider using Lego.

* Laser cutters are getting smaller.

* Google’s robot army is already bigger than you think. Gizmodo conducts an illustrated roll call.

* America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, funded a second round of 15 projects.

* A key 3D printing patent, related to selective laser sintering (SLS) technology, expired a few days ago. A half dozen more will be entering the public domain later this year.

* The Verge is unimpressed with the state of the smart home.

Ben Einstein (@beneinsteinreminds us: “Hardware is NOT the new software.”

The Economist visits the hardware startup scene in Shenzhen; comments on how much it resembles the recent revolution in software services; quotes philosopher Karl Popper: “History repeats itself, but never in the same way.”


Will This Valentine’s Day Be a Coming Out Party for Customizable 3D Prints?


A customizable pair of pendants, from Dyo.

Matter Labs, a startup based in Cambridge, Mass., has developed software that allows everyday users, with no CAD experience, to customize 3D models in a web browser.

You can add a top hat to a model of a T-Rex, for example, or give a bull’s head a colorful nose ring.

Cool, but there’s not a lot of pent-up demand for either product, unfortunately.

But the Matter Labs folks, most of them out of Cornell and MIT, have clearly been thinking about use cases, and they’ve come up with a good one: Valentine’s Day, when personal customization = thoughtfulness, intensity of emotion, and “Ohhh, you shouldn’t have… (but I’m touched that you did).”

So the team has chosen the #1 romantic holiday to announce Dyo, a new platform for customizable products that can be designed in your browser and delivered to your door, in partnership with Shapeways. Visitors to the site can customize 3D printable jewelry by writing unique messages or entering personal information in real-time, using the company’s web-based 3D modeling software, and then see realistic previews of their items in a range of different materials.

Matter Labs isn’t the only 3D printing outfit to make the connection between romance and customization. A Valentine Gift Guide has also cropped up at another large 3D printing services firm, i.materialise, which already has partnerships with 3D customizers like Twikit and Morpheus.

A “Creation Corner” at i.materialise also has instructions about how to use entry-level programs for creating and customizing 3D prints: Tinkercad, Autodesk 123D, SketchUp, and four others.

And if you’re thinking that the run-up to Valentine’s Day could be an annual focus at makerspaces and 3D printing stores, well, MakerBot is already ahead of you. Although they only have 3 retail stores, a quick check at one of them — in Boston — showed that, yes, they do have an in-store Valentine’s Day workshop coming up.

Using Autodesk 123D, a MakerBot Instructor will guide attendees through the process of creating their very own 3D Valentine’s Day lockets, and then they will all be printed out on a Makerbot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D printer.

Consumer adoption of 3D printing will probably not be smooth. Like human evolution, it could follow a punctuated equilibrium model: periods of stasis, punctuated by spikes of growth and change. On an annual basis, that could mean predictable bursts of activity during pre-Christmas, around each of the twin Maker Faires on both U.S. coasts, CES, and, maybe, Valentine’s Day.

An Open Source Vehicle is Coming Together: Faster Than You Think


Assembling the TABBY

We know there’s been progress on an open source vehicle: an impressive prototype of a TABBY was driving around Maker Faire Rome last fall.

But last week when the TABBY team released a video of two guys assembling the vehicle from scratch, the elapsed time was surprising: just 41 minutes and 44 seconds.

This gives us hope that kits really will be available later this year, as promised.


Mini Maker Faires

Here’s what’s coming in the next few months:

What’s ahead further down the road? Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest one to you.


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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


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