Maker Pro Newsletter #14

Maker News

“I thought Maker Faire would be a more formal event, but it’s much more like a party.”

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!

Special Maker Faire Edition

Maker Faire covers a lot of territory: from education, to art, to technological whimsy, to … actually, it’s difficult to define where it ends.

But although an art car covered with dancing robotic fish is an irresistable camera magnet, there’s always a lot of business going on for the “pros” at the show.

That’s what we tried to focus on last weekend (and it was difficult to avoid side-glances at attractions like the giant, metal-crushing Hand of Man).


A significant amount of news broke at and during Maker Faire.

  • Autodesk announced a partnership program between MakerBot‘s Replicator 2 and Autodesk’s 123D suite.
  • Autodesk also said that it was buying Tinkercad, the popular web-based 3D program with beginner appeal.
  • We saw a small, cute 3D printer — the Printrbot Simple — with a list price of $299. It was sold out in the Maker Shed by Saturday afternoon.

The Printrbot Simple

  • Speaking of RadioShack, MAKE and The Shack jointly announced an expanded partnership that will launch a new fleet of MAKE-branded kits, tools, materials, and guidebooks that will start landing in RadioShack stores nationwide this fall.
  • Technical Illusions demonstrated a new product, CastAR, that delivers an augmented reality experience via high-tech glasses.

Startups at Maker Faire

That refreshing, just-launched feeling at Maker Faire was amplified by the large number of startups in attendance.

Like the guys at Helios. Significantly, they didn’t have anything to sell. Their “smart bike” handlebars won’t be available until the fall.

The Helios team demonstrating “smart bike” handlebars.

But they spent the entire weekend in a small booth with two prototype handlebars mounted on bikes. They engaged with a torrent of curious Maker Faire attendees: answering questions, demonstrating features; giving away stickers, business cards, bottles of water, and granola bars.

Helios was one of seven companies at Maker Faire that recently graduated from the 4-month HAXLR8R accelerator program in Shenzhen, China. The program director of HAXLR8R, Zach Smith (@hoeken), was also at Maker Faire. HAXLR8R was sponsoring the young companies’ presence.

You can read more about the Helios experience at Maker Faire in the MAKE blog. Also in that post: how another HAXLR8R company, Hex Air Robot, fared displaying prototypes of its drones.

It was Hex Air Robot co-founder Shihong Luo‘s first Maker Faire; it was also his first visit to the United States. Luo, who’s from Guizhou, China, told MAKE, “I thought Maker Faire would be a more formal event, but it’s much more like a party.”

Luo said that it was valuable for him to see other companies at Maker Faire that are working on drones.

“They can be competitors, but I like that we are working in the same direction,” he said. “It gives me hope that we can make this a business.”

As if on cue, Chris Anderson (@chr1sa), the former editor of Wired magazine, now CEO of 3D Robotics, stopped by the booth. He examined a large Hex Air Robot prototype drone very carefully: fingering the propeller housings, asking Luo detailed questions about the sensors.

Shihong Luo talking with Chris Anderson

“Very interested in this machine,” Anderson said, lost in thought. A few minutes later, after Anderson moved on, Luo said, “Chris Anderson is kind of a competitor, but definitely the type of person I want to talk to.”

More Startups on Display at Maker Faire

A sampling of small, innovative startups that timed the release of significant news with Maker Faire:

Barobo, an innovator of educational robots, announced last week that the company’s Kickstarter campaign would coincide with the Maker Faire debut of their new Linkbot. The Linkbot is more hackable, more configurable, and comes with more features than the original Mobot.

Arduino’s Massimo Banzi chats with Barobo president and co-founder Graham Ryland about the Linkbot robot at Maker Faire.

Deezmaker announced its new lightweight, portable 3D printer at Maker Faire. The Bukito is designed to be portable and rugged so you can take your printer on the go. It even comes with an easy-to-grip handle and only weighs around 6 pounds.

F-3 Labs launched a new site,, that provides application workflows to intelligently pair ideas with design skills, design skills with manufacturing, and manufacturing with a marketplace.

Formlabs announced that their highly anticipated Form 1 Stereolithography 3D printer had begun shipping orders to their Kickstarter backers and pre-order customers. The Form 1 makes a previously expensive technology available to the designer and maker in an end-to-end package.

gTar is a fully digital guitar with a multi-touch LED fretboard and smart sensor strings to pickups in the bridge. It has a real guitar feel and is fully hackable. They just launched their new website and web store.

The Ouya game console team presented at the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop. Their platform allows anyone to try their games for free, and anyone can develop games for the system. It will be available in June.

The panStamp is an open source project for measuring and controlling things wirelessly. PanStamps are small wireless boards designed to fit in low-power applications. For Maker Faire they created a new product bundle called panStamp minikit, consisting of three panStamps and a panStick.

Of course many companies — not just brand new startups — were at Maker Faire to form or develop relationships not only with customers, but other companies at the show. Sugru and PanaVise, for example, discovered that they have a business-to-business relationship.

How to Make a Makerspace

The How to Make a Makerspace Workshop in session.

Serious maker business started even before Saturday’s opening bell. On the Friday before, a group of 35 prospective makerspace organizers spent the entire day in a workshop led by two leaders of the thriving Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, Mass.: Gui Calvalcanti, the founder, and Molly Rubenstein, the acting director.

The setting was appropriate: many of the most interesting and exciting exhibits at this year’s Maker Faire were created at makerspaces — public facilities that grant members access to valuable tools, teach people how to use those tools, and sometimes offer project and studio space for rent.

Calvalcanti estimated that “at least half” of Artisan’s Asylum’s 300 members are making money from their activities at the space.

The MAKE blog has some details from the session, including comments from Calvalcanti and Rubenstein.

Also at Maker Faire: MakeSF, which is pursuing a leaner makerspace model that could work for some communities. More details in MAKE.

Beyond 3D Printing: The Three Horsemen of Small Manufacturing

Watching laser cutting tricks at the Epilog station in the Makerspace building at Maker Faire.

The Makerspace building at Maker Faire was probably one of the most inviting to makers: everywhere solid, burnished hand tools were neatly pinned to crisp brown pegboards. Ah, just what the home workshop … should look like.

Three serious industrial machines were also on display: from ShopBot, Epilog, and Tormach. These are the stalwart, entry-level tools that are helping to power the new manufacturing revolution: CNC routers and laser cutters. All three companies have models under $10,000, which puts them within reach of educational institutions, small shops, and serious hobbyists.

These powerful machines did a good job of being entertaining throughout Maker Faire. They were constantly surrounded by kids watching them do all sorts of etching and inscribing tricks. Those designs on the Tormach control panel — hey, aren’t they The Road Runner?

Is that The Road Runner on the Tormach control screen?

Although media attention has been dominated by 3D printing, a huge percentage of the products that are manufactured and sold by small manufacturers are actually created using CNC milling machines and laser cutters. These are the unsung heroes in makerspaces around the world.

So while the kids were eagerly watching the creation of personalized woodcuts with robot images, many adults were apparently impressed by the sheer industrial power.

“The kids are interested in the personalized woodcuts,” said Randy Johnson, who was manning the ShopBot Tools booth. “But often the moms and dads are saying, ‘I think there’s a business opportunity here.'”

MAKE visited these workhorses during the Faire, and got their side of the story.


World Maker Faire New York

Let’s start the countdown now, with just under four months to go.

The exact date: Sept. 21-22. The Call for Makers launches in June.

Other Maker Faires Worth Noting

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.

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 Faire 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