Maker Pro Newsletter #16

Maker News
Maker Pro Newsletter #16

“Every day you’re on the market is ten times more informative than days you’re not.”

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 makerpro@makermedia.comClick here to subscribe to this newsletter!


3D Printing Gets Flexible

Your 3D printing options just got squishier, more bendable.

Two of the largest 3D printing services have recently launched materials that beg to be squeezed and scrunched.

Shapeways is now offering a new material called Elasto Plastic, a flexible off-white material that’s soft and squishy, but still returns to its original shape when deformed.

Elasto Plastic from Shapeways

Elasto Plastic from Shapeways

Shapeways is rolling out Elasto Plastic as an experimental option, which means that it can only be used to print 3D models you’ve uploaded yourself, not models in the company’s online store. If it’s found to be strong and durable enough, though, it could eventually be offered as an option for everything on Shapeways’ site.

Materialise also unveiled a flexible rubber-like material, called Rubber-like, which was developed for high-fashion clothing earlier this year. Now, after two further months of testing, Materialise is making this rubber-like material available to users of its 3D printing services — on a trial basis, until Sept. 1. The company says the rubber-like material can be used for a host of applications including accessories, haute couture, designs that need shock absorption, squeezable models, gadgets, and functional designs.

Rubber-Like from Materialise

Rubber-like from Materialise

One hitch in the Rubber-like rollout: it has yet to be cleared for import into the United States, but the company said it is “working to resolve this issue.”

At the other end of the softness scale, Laybrick, a rough filament that can be used to print large architecture models or landscapes, is now available from its Dutch inventor.

Disruptive Technologies

The research firm McKinsey Global Institute just released a new report, Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy. It identifies 12 disruptive technologies that the authors believe will significantly impact the global economy by 2025.

Among the disruptive 12, which were ranked according to their predicted economic impact: internet of things (#3), advanced robotics (#5), and 3D printing (#9).

The full report is available for free.

From the McKinsey Global Institute report

From the McKinsey Global Institute report


  • A new version of SketchUp was released, featuring a new Extension Warehouse that offers searchable access to all the plugins available to extend SketchUp capabilities, from 3D printing to scheduling.
  • A 3D printer is slated to arrive at the International Space Station next year, where it will attempt to crank out the first parts ever manufactured off planet Earth, a jump-start for space manufacturing that could lead to 3D-printed lunar habitats using moon dust.
  • Leah Buechley, director of the High-Low Tech Group at the MIT Media Lab, is leaving MIT to focus full time on developing an independent design practice.


Printing Curves Not Layers

robotic version of 3Doodler

Mataerial is a 3D printer that breaks out of the box, literally.

The prototype unit is additive, like other 3D printers, but that’s where the comparison ends. Instead of piling up layers on a circumscribed bed, Mataerial uses a robotic arm and fast-solidifying material to create graceful, flowing curves on a variety of surfaces — horizontal and vertical.

It’s kind of like a large, robotic version of 3Doodler, the pen that enables users to sketch 3D objects with plastic filament.

Petr Novikov (@petr_novikov) and Saša Jokić from the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, in Spain, and the Joris Laarman Studio, in Amsterdam, created Mataerial. They’ve come up with a lofty name for their fabrication method: “anti-gravity object modeling.”

Another promising feature: the color of the extruded material can be changed throughout the printing process by injecting color dye into the device.

The website for this new technology is dramatic: the video of the unit in operation is hypnotizing. But details are scarce: no target delivery dates; no price points. Instead the goal seems to be to simply stake out this paradigm-shifting approach with a “watch this space” alert. Consider us alerted!

If Your Crowdfunding Campaign Fails…

Break your product down, figure out what actually works, and try the whole thing again.

That’s the message behind David Lang‘s (@davidtlangrecent post on MAKE, describing how Zach Supalla (@zsupalla) and theSpark team regrouped after a their first product didn’t make its funding goal on Kickstarter.

The reconception worked. Spark’s second product, Spark Core, just raised more than $500K in a Kickstarter rebound.

And Now For Some Contrary Opinions

From Beautiful Failures

From Beautiful Failures via Gizmodo

Flame-test your most optimistic views about 3D printing against this collection of articulate doubters.

Nick Allen is perfectly positioned to challenge the hype around 3D printing: he’s the founder of London 3D printing company, 3D Print UK. His article, Why 3D Printing Is Overhyped (I Should Know, I Do It For a Living), zooms in for a close look at 3D printing metrics like strength, cost, and surface finish. His analysis is buoyed by the feeling that he really wants 3D printing to succeed — when and where it makes the most sense.

Why 3D Printing Won’t Turn Your Home Into a Factoryargues that the most promising application of 3D printing is rapid prototyping, not printing parts for your broken refrigerator, or creating objects for sale.

MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld tells BBC columnist Peter Day that 3D printing is not going to change the world on its own. More useful, he says, is a suite of tools: a computer-controlled laser cutter, a numerically controlled milling machine for making big parts, a sign cutter, a precision milling machine, and programming tools for low-cost high-speed embedded processors. These are the tools that comprise Gershenfeld’s FabLab concept.

Day disagrees with Gershenfeld’s dismissal of 3D printing: “Whatever Neil Gershenfeld says, I’ve still got a hunch that 3D printing is going to have quite a part in the revolution,” Day writes.

Reports from the Factory Front

Manufacturing adventure stories are one of the literary byproducts of the new maker movement. The best are packed with cautionary wisdom. Two tales have crossed our desk recently:

Flexible iPod Dock

Life After Kickstarter: 5 Costly Lessons From A Kickstarter-Backed Designer tells the story of Jon Fawcett‘s flexible iPod dock, which raised $212,265 on Kickstarter. As you might expect, the fundraising success was only the beginning of the journey. Fawcett surveys his entire supply chain — from raw materials to customer delivery — and counts 15 people who have to get paid along the way.

Programmable Lamp

Amanda Williams is the co-founder of a young company, Fabule, that is planning hopefully for a post-Kickstarter future for its programmable lamp, Clyde (it’s nearly 90 percent funded with less than a week to go). In a series of illustrated blog posts, she describes her experiences in Shenzhen, China, as part of the HAXLR8R program. Williams devotes the most attention to describing the best and worst factories she visited, as a way to show neophyte hardware entrepreneurs what good and bad working conditions really look like in China. The difference was subtler than she expected.

The Manufacturing Network Grows

Almost as exciting as the launch of new manufacturing technologies: the networks that are springing up to connect them.

The latest layer of connectivity is MakerPair, a new service seeking to “intelligently pair ideas with design skills, design skills with manufacturing, and manufacturing with a marketplace.”

The MakerPair platform is aiming at a “one-stop solution”: users will be able to request a physical thing or an idea be designed, modeled, manufactured, and delivered.

Depending on the designer’s intention, designs may be used for free or for a fee. Makers could then 3D print or laser cut designs and ship to the buyer. The site would take a small fee for the transaction, but would not retain any ownership over the designs.

The site, still in beta, was launched out of a master’s degree group project at the George Washington University, with assistance from Nova Labs, a nonprofit makerspace located in Reston, Va.

In other networking news, 3D Hubs has just expanded from Amsterdam to Antwerp. The company has more than 90 cities on its current road map.

Got Skillz?

Consider sharing them via Maker Training Camps, collaborative online courses that teach new skills or how to build specific projects. Unlike the typical online course, these camps, produced by MAKE, use Google+ Hangouts and online communities to foster a group experience and make it easy to work with other students and teachers. Questions are posted on the online community for all to see. Instructors are asked to hold weekly office hours on a G+ Hangout. Camps generally run from one to five weeks with a lecture, office hours, and a project each week. Click here for more information and some possible courses we think would be interesting.


A Slimmed-Down Startup Checklist

A few months ago, we posted a link to a Startup Checklist bySpencer Fry (@spencerfry), an entrepreneur on the verge of launching his own software startup. It included a few dozen tasks that Fry thought should be completed before opening the front door. Well, now Fry’s company is live, and he has returned to the topic with a radical reconsideration. The title hints at his epiphany: Just Launch. His long list of pre-startup tasks has now been reduced to just three.

The reason: “Now that we’ve gone public, in hindsight we feel that we could have launched even earlier. There’s simply little to no benefit in waiting on minor pretexts, and every day you’re on the market is ten times more informative than days you’re not.”

Creating a Makerspace Business Model

Gui Calvalcanti (@RoboGui) has added a new post to his series,Making Makerspaces. The latest installment, Creating a Business Model, covers the common types of makerspace expenses and incomes.


World Maker Faire New York

Let’s start the countdown now, with less than four months to go.

The exact dates: Sept. 21-22. The Call for Makers launched Wednesday with a Town Hall event in New York.

Featured Maker Faires

Maker Faire Kansas City is taking place June 29 and 30 in Union Station. The Call for Makers has just been extended to June 10.

The fourth annual Maker Faire Detroit happens on July 27 and 28 at The Henry Ford. The Call for Makers is open through June 14.

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 has been extended until June 30. If you’re a maker, performer, or presenter, Maker Faire Rome wants to hear from you.

Mini Maker Faires

More than 40 of them are currently scheduled for this year, around the world. Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest one to you.

MAKE’s 2013 Hardware Innovation Workshop

If you missed Bunnie Huang‘s “Manufacturing Workshop,”check out this video of one of the most popular sessions from the recent Hardware Innovation Workshop: Partnering to Get it Made, in which Bunnie joins other presenters to offer advice and guidance to manufacturing in the new world order.

A link to the entire collection of videos from the Hardware Innovation Workshop will be available shortly on

2 thoughts on “Maker Pro Newsletter #16

  1. Jack says:

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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.

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