Maker Pro Newsletter #12

“The internet unlocked the world of bits. 3D printing is unlocking the world of atoms.”

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 to this newsletter!


A New 3D Digital Design Library

That twig candlestick you were planning to print on your 3D printer? You can get a jump-start on the project by beginning with this digitized object from a new 3D design library that launched last week. It will cost you $6.


Forme It, based in the U.K., is hoping to build a business by giving 3D modelers affordable access to their collection of digitized objects. The idea is that these designs can be used as a starting point or building blocks — saving the time and effort of creating entire models from scratch.

The site launched with more than a hundred designs, including shells, leaves, bark, cups, mugs, seven varieties of antlers, shark teeth, a pheasant heart, and a dented soda can.

The owners of the library said they intend to add about 20 or 30 items a month.

Fabbaloo is skeptical.

A “Made in NYC” Website

Made in NYC, the website, was launched last week with an event in the city’s garment district. An initiative of the Pratt Center for Community Development, the site connects consumers and creators with over 1,000 manufacturers in New York City, and has extensive listings of resources for New York City makers.


In Brief

  • The Community Foundation of Louisville announced the Vogt Awards for hardware and manufacturing startups. Winners receive $20k in seed funding, access to world-class resources at the University of Louisville Speed School of Engineering, and the chance to win an additional $100k in the Demo Day competition. Application deadline: May 17.
  • Cody Wilson, of the nonprofit group Defense Distributed, fired his 3D-printed gun for the first time in a demonstration for a journalist, and posted blueprints for the design online. After more than 100,000 downloads, the blueprint site went dark on Thursday, “at the request of the Department of Defense Trade Controls,” according to the group.
  • New owners of a 57-acre site in northern San Jose, Calif., are planning to develop 1 million square feet of industrial space into a hub for cutting-edge manufacturing.
  • Office supply chain Staples will become the first major U.S. retailer to offer 3D printers on its shelves, starting with the Cube from 3D Systems. A limited number of stores will start stocking the Cube in June.

Hardware Innovation


Rachel Kalmar in a photo taken at the FutureMed conference earlier this year, when she was sporting just eight devices (Shine is on her right wrist). Photo: TJ Rak, Singularity University

Rachel Kalmar (@grapealope) will be easy to spot at the Hardware Innovation Workshop next week. She will be the one wearing 11 health monitoring devices: three on each wrist, four on her belt, and one on her upper arm.

That aluminum disc on her right wrist: that’s Shine, the “elegant activity tracker” created by Misfit Wearables. Kalmar is the company’s data scientist.

Kalmar will be at HIW to discuss the new data issues raised by Shine and the many other health monitoring devices that are crowding into the marketplace. She’ll be on Wednesday’s “Things and the Internet” panel with Eric Jennings and Sally Carson, co-founders, Pinoccio; and Brent Polishak, co-founder and president, Beyond 5.

When she spoke to MAKE in advance of the conference, it seemed that there is plenty to talk about about, including what should be done with the coming torrent of health data, what “open data” means in this context, if standards are possible (for example, what exactly is a “step?”), and how much data can a device give away before it turns into commodity hardware.


Shine, coming in June from Misfit Wearables.

Kalmar, data scientist, said she is looking forward to bouncing these questions off the HIW crowd.

“We want to make the information as open as possible,” she says. “But I’m still trying to figure out what ‘as possible’ means.”


And the Cheapest 3D Printer is…

Looks like it will be MakiBox, created by the Hong Kong-based start-up, Makible. The current list price: $200, establishing a new low end for the 3D printer market.

MakiBoxes are already in the hands of beta testers, and the company seems to be promising a rollout by the end of the year. One cost-saving feature: the unit is considerably smaller than most of the consumer 3D printers on the market.

The new entrant is coming in way below the entry-level price point for printers by MakerBot and 3D Systems, which hover in the $1,300 to $2,200 neighborhood.

Once the MakiBox ships, it will supplant the previous cheap champ: The Printrbot Simple kit, still in beta, which can be ordered for $299. The least expensive assembled Printerbot is the Printerbot Jr., which sells for $499.

Printable ‘Bionic’ Ear Melds Electronics and Biology


Scientists at Princeton University used 3D printing tools to create a functional ear that can “hear” radio frequencies far beyond the range of normal human capability, according to a release from the university.

The researchers used an ordinary 3D printer to combine a matrix of hydrogel and calf cells with silver nanoparticles that form an antenna. The calf cells later develop into cartilage.

There have been a number of recent advances in creating organs using 3D printers, but this is the first time that researchers have used 3D printing to combine tissue and electronics.

Multitouch Anywhere


The gap between digital and physical objects shrunk a little last week as word got out about an MIT Media Lab project that can superimpose software functionality onto everyday objects.

The Smarter Objects project requires only an iPad, a simple processor, and a wi-fi receiver in the the object to be controlled. Then the software uses augmented reality to allow the iPad user to operate the physical object.

A video from the team demonstrates how the software could be used to control an MP3 player, transferring the controls to the virtual interface on the iPad.

Pop-Up Retail

It’s getting easier for creators and purveyors of real world objects to find retail space.

A number of companies are now offering ways for startup businesses to connect with available retail space. You can think of it as Airbnb for retail.

An excellent overview of these new facilitators appeared in Fast Company. Among the options: PopUpInsider, a matchmaking website that’s focused on allowing short-term tenants and landlords to find each other and exchange contact information; the London nonprofit 3Space is locating vacant space that can be donated to social good; finally Storefront seems to have the grandest ambitions, offering a marketplace for short-term retail space that most closely resembles the Airbnb model.

Another option: take a page from Swedish clothing retailer Brothers, which built itself a mobile pop-up shop, The Suitcase Store, that resembles a large trunk.


A stylish video explains how they did it.

Maker Profiles

Chris Dixon


Ever since he led a $30 million investment in Shapeways, the 3D printing services company, Chris Dixon (@cdixon) of the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, has been celebrating the promise of hardware innovation. In a recent interview with TechCrunch, he said the 3D printing movement has the potential to revolutionize manufacturing and added that he’s not through investing in the area. Dixon contrasted the hot hardware sector with social networking, where he said startups were facing “general fatigue.”

On his blog, Dixon has laid out some of the thinking behind his investment in Shapeways, and further elaborated why he thinks that hardware is an exciting place to be. “The internet unlocked the world of bits,” he writes. “3D printing is unlocking the world of atoms.”

Also worth reading: Dixon’s four things to keep in mind if you are thinking of launching a hardware startup.

Adam Kamens

You’ve probably never heard of Amuneal, but it is the fabricator of choice for many of the world’s most prominent retail chains. Fast Company profiles the Philadelphia company and the CEO who has reinvented it as a creative manufacturer, Adam Kamens.

David Burns

The 3D printing corporation ExOne isn’t as well-known as 3D Systems and Stratasys, but this new player is in their league. And it recently launched an IPO that brought in $92 million. The trade publication 3D Printing Industry has an interview with David Burns, the company’s president and chief operating officer.


Countdown to Maker Faire

Maker Faire Bay Area (May 18-19) is next week. You can browse the makers coming to this year’s Faire by category here.

Consider arriving a few days early: the Hardware Innovation Workshop runs May 14-15. There are still tickets available, but the agenda is already packed with an all-star cast of speakers who know how to navigate the new industrial ecosystem. Like Bunnie Huang, co-founder of Chumby, who will be hosting a panel on advanced manufacturing with John Park, COO, AQS; James “Laen” Neal, founder, OSH Park PCB; and Zach Kaplan, founder and CEO, Inventables. If you don’t know these names — and acronyms — that’s why you have to be there.

Here’s the latest agenda.

Check out the Maker Pro section of MAKE to keep up with “Pitches with Prototypes” contestants and other HIW-related content.

Further Down the Road

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

The former technology editor of The Boston Globe, DC is also interested in ebook experimentation and content management systems.

One of the places where can be found online is Google+ (which I'm adding here only because I want to see if by adding "rel=author" and "rel=me" to those two links I can get Google to display my picture in its search results.)

Hey, it works!

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