Maker Pro Newsletter #10

Maker News
Maker Pro Newsletter #10

“Complexity is free.”

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, innovators, along with technology and market trends. Please send items to us at Click here to subscribe!


Shapeways Lands $30 million VC Investment

The new round of financing was led by California VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. This latest investment comes less than a year after the 3D printing service raised $6.2 million from Lux Capital, Union Square Ventures, and Index Ventures. All the existing investors participated in the latest round.

Wired is speculating that the firm will use the money to open a factory in California. Shapeways already has facilities on the U.S. East Coast (New York) and Europe (The Netherlands).

RocketHub partners with A&E TV Network

New York crowdfunding company RocketHub, smaller and newer than Kickstarter and Indiegogo, has teamed up with A&E to launch Project Startup, a partnership that will give projects with RocketHub campaigns the opportunity to be featured on A&E TV and A&E has also committed “significant funds” (no specifics on how much) to pour into select RocketHub projects.


Volumental aims to be “The YouTube of 3D”

A group of Swedish researchers who were using the Microsoft Kinect camera to scan and upload 3D imagery to the web have launched a new venture, Volumental, which aims to become “the YouTube of 3D.” Users can use any depth camera, not just the Kinect, to share or embed a 3D model in any webpage, just like a video clip. “All you need is your depth camera,” Volumental claims. “You just move the camera around the object or room while recording, and Volumental takes care of the rest.”

3D Printing Conference Notes

At the first Inside 3D Printing Conference and Expo, held earlier this week in New York City, 3D Systems CEO Avi Reichental told his keynote address audience that this new industrial revolution is different, because in the world of 3D printing, “complexity is free.” For the first time in the history of manufacturing, he explained, “The machine doesn’t care how complex of an object it makes.”

According to On 3D Printing, which covered the conference, Reichental made a number of other predictions, among them: “No single 3D printing technology will address every solution; therefore multiple technologies need to be advanced,” and “Patient-specific medical devices will become the norm thanks to 3D printing.”

3D Systems also used the conference as a hook to introduce a new line of full-color 3D printers. And they are not ignoring the low end of the market: their entry-level Cube 3D printer is now available in the SkyMall catalog for $1,299. (Of course, the Cube is also for sale in the Maker Shed.)

PiggyBackr, A “Kickstarter for Kids,” Launches

Kids are natural entrepreneurs, but until now they’ve been missing one of today’s most exciting startup tools: crowdfunding.

Sure there are a few hurdles, like the legal and ethical challenges of making financial arrangements with partners who may not be old enough to drive. But think about it: kids already engage in many fundraising projects to support causes that are important to them, from car washes to bake sales.

A company that launched last week, PiggyBackr, wants to bring kids up to date with the latest in fundraising.

PiggyBackr is designed to be safe and easy to use by young people, primarily at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. The company says it takes safety “very seriously.” For example, fundraising is done in teams, not individually; team leaders must be 13 years or older, or work with adult guidance; team members under 13 can only participate with consent from a parent or legal guardian. The PiggyBackr FAQ tackles all the nervous parent questions.


Chicago’s first 3D printer store, The 3D Printer Experience, opened earlier this week. Portland, Ore. celebrated the official launch of Portland Made last week. One featured Portland maker on their website: Tim Leatherman, creator of the the Leatherman all-in-one tools. Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Alpha One Labs hackerspace is throwing a grand opening party on May 18 in their new location.

Coming Soon…

Replicreate, based in Amsterdam, says it will be “the first online service which makes a 3D copy of about anything you want. Just send us your item and we’ll produce an exact 3D-printed replica.” Thinkklip will help you share your 3D printer. Brick & Maker, based in Virginia, has ambitious plans to combine physical stores with makerspaces.

In Brief

Eric Michaud (@ericmichaud) has resigned from the board of The Open Organisation of Lockpickers US. In an open letter, the co-founder of the organization cited a lack of transparency by TOOOL US’s leadership and board. Michaud also said he was disappointed that the organization had not made “more contributions to the wider conversation about locksport and physical security.”


First “Smart Digital Power Tool” Coming to Hardware Innovation Workshop

One of the unsung heroes of the “new industrial revolution” is the CNC (computer numerical control) router, which combines agile cutting power with computer-controlled, robotic smarts. ShopBot Tools, based in Durham, N.C., which lowered the price for an entry-level CNC router to around $5,000, is responsible for seeding workshops around the world with nearly 6,000 CNC routers.

Now ShopBot is preparing to launch the first of what it hopes will be a whole new class of tool: a “smart digital power tool” called the Handibot. This compact machine can do precision cutting, drilling, machining, and carving, just like a standard CNC router, but it’s compact and mobile, and it can work with an evolving library of task-oriented apps.

A Handibot prototype awaits its debut at the Hardware Innovation Workshop
A Handibot prototype awaits its debut at the Hardware Innovation Workshop

ShopBot founder, CEO, and president Ted Hall told MAKE that he’s unveiling the Handibot at the Hardware Innovation Workshop, on May 15 — and bringing a half-dozen of the new units with him to HIW and Maker Faire — because “it’s more than a product, it’s an innovation platform.”

“We think it’s beyond our ability, or the ability of any individual company, to envision the range of uses, apps, and accessories that will truly enable the potential of such digital power tools,” he said. “That’s why we’re recruiting help in imagining the use of the tool and range of applications, and in creating the software apps that will stimulate enthusiastic adoption of Handibots and smart digital power tools in general.”

To encourage innovative contributions, ShopBot’s software system for running applications on the tools will be open source; so will the hardware.

Given ShopBot’s extensive CNC experience, the Handibot will likely have a lot of impressive features on day one. But Hall is hoping that by launching into a sea of makers, this new tool — possibly the first of an entirely new class of tools — will develop in ways that its inventors never imagined.

ShopBot is currently working on pricing the Handibot, but Hall believes it will start around $3k, and float down over the next few years. A crowdfunding campaign for the first batch of Handibots is targeted for June, with the first deliveries a few months after that.

Hackerspaces for Kids

At Einstein's Workshop, Sofia Houh peers through the center of the expanded 120-cell created using Zome in a workshop with participants from as far away as Stamford, Conn., 180 miles away.
At Einstein’s Workshop, Sofia Houh peers through the center of the expanded 120-cell created using Zome in a workshop with participants from as far away as Stamford, Conn., 180 miles away.

It’s been around since 2009, operating under a few different names, but next week (on May 4) the popular kids makerspace north of Boston re-launches as Einstein’s Workshop.

The center, which started out as a FIRST Lego league team, is powered by maker dynamo Henry Houh, who in a conversation with MAKE, described how the workshop gets very young children on the maker track.

“The high level idea is to get kids into creating when they are very young,” Houh said. “We do it with Lego classes, starting with the Lego WeDo projects which introduce fun, mechanical, computerized Lego models to kids starting in kindergarten.”

It’s important, Houh said, that kids start creating with toys that are familiar. The workshop also has classes on simple machines, stop-motion Lego animation, and the Scratch programming environment that was developed at the MIT Media Lab.

For the older kids, there’s laser cutting, 3D printing, and Robotics Challenge classes, using Lego Mindstorms.

The goal, Houh said, is “a unified makerspace for kids” where the younger kids start creating, and are inspired “when they see all the cool things that the older kids are doing.”

Houh is a himself is an inspirational character. He has seven U.S. and European patents, and four degrees from MIT, but what impresses us most: he was a member of the famed MIT Blackjack team, and appears in the movie about the club, 21, as a blackjack dealer with the line, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”

Talking with Houh, it’s clear that kids makerspaces are a special breed. Others that we’ve heard of include Parts and Crafts in Somerville, Mass., the Brooklyn Robot Foundry, RoboFun, and the floating Makery in New York; LA Makerspace in Los Angeles; and MakerKids in Toronto. (Did we leave any out? Let us know.)

Kids in the Boston and New York areas are blessed, each with multiple spaces within reach, but for those out of of range, MAKE’s Andrew Terranova has some creative suggestions for parents on the prowl for kid-friendly makerspace experiences, including workshops at home improvement centers and craft stores.

3D Printing in Libraries

When Riel Gallant (@VirtualRielity), was a library and information studies graduate student at Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he and a partner convinced the university libraries to invest in 3D technology and set up three services: a 3D printing service (available for $1 an hour), a 3D scanning service, and a 3D digital depository.

Their motivation: “We believe 3D printing, scanning, and modeling will become an important part of everyday life at some point in the future,” Gallant told MAKE.

After nearly a year in operation, the most frequent users have been engineering students, followed by architecture and computer science students, primarily because those groups have the most experience with 3D design. However, the libraries have had some success attracting faculty interest from other fields, including biology (printing 3D molecular structures), theater (printing 3D sets or props), and history (3D scanning artifacts).

Now graduated, Gallant was curious how many other libraries have taken the 3D plunge, so he spent two months hunting down libraries that had low-cost (under $5,000) 3D printers in their facilities. He just published his survey this week.

The count: he found 51 libraries worldwide that had 3D printers; 38 of them are in the U.S. About half of all the printers are MakerBots. Six of the libraries offer a 3D printing service, meaning they will take in patron STL files (3D model files) and print the object. At least 11 of them offer a patron work environment, calling them either makerspaces, hackerspaces, fab labs, studios, or innovation labs.

North American libraries with 3D printers, from Riel Gallant's survey
North American libraries with 3D printers, from Riel Gallant’s survey

Gallant’s insightful survey is accompanied by a world map of libraries with 3D printers, as well as a helpful infographic.

His conclusion: “Libraries should continue to ask how, if, and when their own communities could benefit from having access to a 3D printer at the library.”

Maker Profiles

Lem Fugitt

Lem Fugitt (@robots_dreams), the editor of Robots Dreams talks to MAKE about his involvement with humanoid robot competitions, how the competitions have evolved in the U.S. and Japan, and why 3D printing is starting to make an impact.

SparkFun’s Nathan Seidle


“Five years ago it was the nerds driving the bus,” the founder and chief executive of SparkFun tells the iTech Post. But now Nathan Seidle is seeing “a huge explosion of non-tech people” making a difference in the education/technology space.

Lee Zlotoff

The creator of the iconic television series MacGyver has been working on a new venture, The Yurika Method, that he describes as a simple process for solving virtually any problem by engaging the capabilities of the subconscious mind. MAKE’s Goli Mohammadi gets Zlotoff’s conscious thoughts on this, and other topics.

Robotic Drinks and 3D Food

Photo: Makr Shakr
Photo: Makr Shakr

One of the hits of last week’s Milan Design Week was a preview of a robotic bar, the Makr Shakr, designed by researchers and engineers at MIT Senseable City Lab, Cambridge. The project will be unveiled in its final form next month at the Google I/O developers conference.

MAKE readers are already familiar with drink-bots. The latest, Sir Mix-a-Bot, was featured in March. But the Makr Shakr is on a different scale. Designed in collaboration with The Coca-Cola Company and Barcardi, the Makr Shakr is capable of preparing millions of crowdsourced drink combinations.

Like drink-bots, 3D food has been mostly a fun, flashy novelty. But MAKE’s Stett Holbrook explored its serious side in a fascinating Google+ hangout, Food Makers: 3D Printed Food, with Jeffrey Lipton from Cornell University’s Fab@Home, and Andras Forgacs of Modern Meadow, a biotech firm developing the technology to print raw meat and leather grown from animal cells.

Did we say serious? Then maybe we shouldn’t mention the 3D-printed pasta that’s now served in the Google cafeteria, and the workshops conducted at Tokyo’s FabCafe on how to use 3D technology to fashion a replica of yourself as a chocolate or colorful gummy.




Maker Faire Bay Area (May 18-19) is just three weeks away.

Consider arriving a few days early: the Hardware Innovation Workshop runs May 14-15. Here’s the agenda.


The fourth annual Maker Faire Detroit is taking place this summer, on July 27-28, at The Henry Ford. The Call for Makers is open now through June 7.

World Maker Faire New York is Sept. 21-22, and the Call for Makers launches in June.

Also, start making plans to participate in the first Maker Faire Rome, Oct. 3-6, 2013. Event curators Massimo Banzi (@mbanzi) and Riccardo Luna (@riccardowired) are producing the event with World Wide Rome, a Rome Chamber of Commerce initiative, but the fair is really for Europe at large and will attract an international crowd from all over Europe and beyond. The Call for Makers is open from now until June 2. If you’re a maker, performer, or presenter, Maker Faire Rome wants to hear from 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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