Maker Pro Newsletter #18

Maker News
Maker Pro Newsletter #18

“The maker movement has been built around a prototyping revolution more than a manufacturing revolution.”

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!


Stratasys Buys MakerBot

The mood was festive at MakerBot headquarters in Brooklyn Thursday morning as the high-profile consumer 3D printer company hosted a press conference to discuss the $400+ million deal that will make MakerBot a subsidiary of Stratasys, an industrial additive manufacturing firm.

For Stratasys, which was founded in 1989, the purchase provides a foothold in the consumer 3D printer market with a well-known consumer 3D printer brand and a popular online digital marketplace, Thingiverse. One of Stratasys’s major industrial competitors, 3D Systems, already has a consumer printer in the under-$2,000 range, Cube, which is now being sold in outlets like Staples and Now Stratasys has an entrant in those consumer marketplaces.

For MakerBot, the partnership with Stratasys will provide access to increased sources of funding, technology, and markets.

MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis, left, and Stratasys CEO David Reis at Thursday’s press conference.

At the press conference, both Bre Pettis (@bre), CEO of MakerBot, and Stratasys CEO David Reis, emphasized that MakerBot will be run as an independent company within Stratasys. Pettis said he would stay with the company, and it would stay in Brooklyn.

Four-year-old MakerBot started as a company based on open source hardware, specifically the RepRap 3D printing platform. Within the last few years, however, MakerBot has diverged from that stance by developing proprietary technologies. While those moves were initially greeted with protests from open source advocates, reaction to Wednesday’s merger agreement with Stratasys was mostly focused on how the deal will impact the burgeoning 3D printer sector.

MAKE publisher Dale Dougherty (@dalepd) praised the deal as “a validation of the original vision of MakerBot and its origins as a maker startup.” However Dougherty also raised concerns about whether Stratasys will understand the emerging consumer 3D printer marketplace, and the impact of the purchase on the many smaller 3D printer companies that are just entering the marketplace.

Analyst Michael Wolf was originally surprised by the size of the purchase price, given that MakerBot has only sold 22,000 3D printers in the last 12 months, but ultimately he concluded that Stratasys, which didn’t have a consumer 3D printer in its portfolio, “couldn’t take the chance of letting the company with little technology but a lot of brand in the 3D printing space get away.”

Limor “Ladyada” Fried, founder of Adafruit Industries, which sells kits and parts for hardware electronics projects, was enthusiastic about the news.

“The opportunities for makers to start a company, get funding, merge or get acquired are only limited by our desire and imaginations — it’s never been a better time to be a maker,” she said.

Hod Lipson, associate professor of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Computing & Information Science at Cornell University, and the co-author of Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing, said he had “mixed feelings” about the deal.

“On the one hand it’s very exciting because it’s a sign of maturity in the field,” he said, comparing it to the 1980s, when many small personal computer companies began consolidating into standardized platforms.

“On the other hand, there’s a loss of diversity. We’ve had many, many small companies trying different ideas, and that’s been exciting. That era could be ending, and that’s bittersweet.”

Lipson said that despite MakerBot’s move away from an open source model, “Open source is still alive and well. There are still many options for people who want to modify and experiment with 3D printers.”

Mixee Me Relaunches with New Name, New Platform

They started out with customizable 3D printed figurines, but Aaron Barnet and Nancy Liang (@nliang) have just expanded the scope of their enterprise with a new platform that makes it much easier for designers and customers to customize a greater range of 3D designs, starting with jewelry.

With the broader platform comes a new name, Mixee Labs, better to reflect the wider scope.

The new platform, which launched with a trio of jewelry designers, or “creators,” has a simple interface that allows designers to set customizable parameters and customers to easily adjust the design, size, color, and texture of objects by using simple sliders and buttons. The finished product is manufactured by partner Shapeways.

For those who think that 3D printing is too geeky for mainstream adoption, the new interface shows how easy it will be for future designers and customers to create customizable products.

As the new Mixee Labs platform proudly announces, “Anybody can customize products without knowing how to model, and anybody can own 3D printed products without buying a 3D printer.”

Restart Turns One

The Restart Project, based in London, celebrated its first anniversary. The volunteer group organizes events where electronic devices on the fritz are carefully examined with an eye towards repair and reuse. The BBC recently visited a Restart party and talked with co-founder Ugo Vallauri (@ugomatic), who happens to be wearing, we noted, a Maker Faire UK T-shirt.

CustomMade Gets Additional Funding

CustomMade, an online marketplace for one-of-a-kind goods, announced that it has raised $18 million in additional funding.  The site, which connects customers to more than 12,000 craftspeople, has raised a total of $24 million since it was founded in 1996.

Inventables Raises $3 Million

Inventables, the source for small-scale digital manufacturing, announced a $3 million round of financing, bringing total investment in the company to $5 million. In a blog post, founder and CEO Zach Kaplan (@zkaplan) said the funding will be used to expand Inventables’ offerings in digital manufacturing, which includes 3D printing, CNC milling, and the related software tools, materials, and components needed to design and build prototypes and small-production-run products.

3D Systems Acquires Phenix Systems

Phenix Systems, based in France, specializes in making direct metal selective laser sintering 3D printers that can print “chemically pure fully dense metal and ceramic parts from very fine powders,” including “stainless steel, tool steel, super alloys, non-ferrous alloys, precious metals, and alumina for a variety of aerospace, automotive, and patient specific medical device applications.”

In a release3D Systems said the purchase of Phenix Systems will strengthen the company’s selective laser sintering technology platform, and increase 3D Systems’ offerings in the aerospace, automotive, defense, and “patient-specific healthcare manufacturing” industries.


Planning Your Prototype

It’s fitting that last weekend’s Hardware Summer Camp in San Francisco started with a two-part session on prototyping.

As MAKE publisher Dale Dougherty pointed out in his keynote, “The maker movement has been built around a prototyping revolution more than a manufacturing revolution.”

In a pair of Saturday morning sessions, Inventor Labsfounder Glenn Reid and Bolt founder Ben Einstein(@beneinstein) offered ideas on how to think about prototypes, captured in Dale’s notes, Reasons to Build a Prototype,  published in MAKE.

The takeaway: although creating a prototype is a very appealing project for a maker, it’s important to consider what you really want to learn from a prototype before you invest the considerable time and money it takes to make one. Both Reid and Einstein suggested ways to think about prototypes before you go down that path.

If you need a concrete example of the kinds of issues that can profitably be worked out in the prototype stage, check out Michal Zalewski‘s two-part series in MAKE, Prototypes That Last: Simple Tips for Making Durable Parts. That’s Part One. Part Two is here.

The First Successful Commercial Drone Application Will Be…

Crop surveying.

That’s according to Chris Anderson (@chr1sa), CEO of 3D Robotics and founder of DIY Drones.

“It has the biggest economic potential with the lowest regulatory barriers,” he says in this video of a presentation, Farm Drones Take Flight, that he gave at Maker Faire Bay Area last month.

Anderson also has some bad news for hungry gadget freaks: drone-delivered tacos, and pizzas, and beer are way down on the list of applications that are likely to be implemented. The first successes for drones will be far away from cities and people: wildlife management, border patrols, search and rescue, and … giant industrial farms.


Terry Wohlers

Consultant Terry Wohlers (@terrywohlers) has been tracking 3D printing for decades, back to when it was referred to as rapid prototyping or addititive manufacturing. In this TEDx talk he gives an overview of the industry that captures the sweep of the past thirty years and his take on what’s likely to happen next.

Massimo Banzi

Don’t miss his first column in MAKE, People Over Megahertz.

Banzi (@mbanzi), co-founder of the massively popular Arduino project, recalls his own personal history with electronics, and the creation of Arduino, as a way of demonstrating the importance of focusing on how people use technology rather than the technology itself.

How important is the human element? Well, Banzi describes his own Arduino boards as simply “a mashup of open technologies wrapped up in a unified user experience.”

His advice to makers: “It’s more important to take care of the experience people have when they learn than to give them power they don’t know what to do with.”


Another 3D Price Comparison Engine Launches

Last week it was SupplyBetter. This week it’s 3D Printing Price Check, a project by Jonas Neubert (@jonemo), a graduate student at Cornell University. Neubert claims that the service can compare 3D printing prices across 135 materials from six vendors. You can give it a whirl using a pre-loaded espresso cup, an inch unit cube, an iPhone 5 case, and a ring.


World Maker Faire New York

There’s only about three months until the show, which is Sept. 21-22. The Call for Makers is open now until July 28.

Featured Maker Faires

Maker Faire Kansas City is taking place June 29 and 30 in Union Station. The fourth annual Maker Faire Detroit happens on July 27 and 28 at The Henry Ford. Also, start making plans to participate in the first Maker Faire Rome, Oct. 3-6. 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 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 70 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 Hardware Innovation Workshop

Did you miss the MAKE Hardware Innovation Workshop? Watch the videos from the event!

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

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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