Maker Pro Newsletter #23

Maker Pro Newsletter #23

“Don’t believe all the doom and gloom you hear about Detroit.”

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

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A Cluster of Advances at SIGGRAPH

The ACM SIGGRAPH 2013 conference is a wrap, and this year the graphics and interactive technology confab featured a number of maker-oriented presentations.

An Improved 3D Pipeline for 3D Printing from MIT

An MIT research group presented OpenFab, a programmable “pipeline” architecture that provides a framework for specifying material compositions.

The software “makes it easier to design and print new materials and to continuously vary the properties of the object you are designing,”Kiril Vidimče, a member of the team, said in a release. “With OpenFab, the user can change the material consistency of an object by, for example, designing the object to transition from stiff at one end to flexible and compressible at the other end.”

Soon makers will be able to set hardness, transparency, texture, and flexibility within a single print, like the teddy bear, above, which contains both hard and squishy parts.

A New Way to ID Objects

The perpetually just-over-the-horizon Internet of Things could expand with a new way to embed unique tags in objects, announced at SIGGRAPH. Called InfaStructs, the technology is able to embed a passive, material-based tag inside an object using 3D printing. Because the tags are built into the objects, there’s no need for standard ID devices like RFID tags, or QR codes, or (old school!) stickers.

Make It Stand

Virtual 3D designs often fail when they get printed out and encounter that annoyingly persistant invisible force, gravity.

Researchers from the Interactive Geometry Lab in Zurich and INRIA in France presented a paper at SIGGRAPH that outlined a way to modify virtual 3D designs so that they can actually stand up in real life. Called appropriately Make It Stand, this could become a standard pre-3D printing step.

Two Small Drones Get FAA Approval

It’s been predicted that the first commercially approved drones probably won’t be delivering pizzas and beer in crowded urban areas. Too many whirling blades.

It’s much more likely that the first test terrains will be huge farms and remote wildernesses — where the possibility of unexpected human/drone interactions are dramatically reduced.

Sure enough, the Federal Aviation Administration has just issued the first restricted category type certificates to a pair of unmanned aircraft systems, which will allow them to be used commercially, and the areas they will be hovering over couldn’t be more remote: the waterways of the Arctic Circle.

The Puma AE at work, at sea

One drone, Insitu’s ScanEagle X200, will be surveying ocean ice floes and migrating whales in Arctic oil exploration areas; the other, AeroVironment’s Puma AE, will be monitoring oil spills and wildlife over the Beaufort Sea.

The newly certified drones are small and lightweight (the ScanEagle weighs 29 pounds; the Puma AE 13 pounds). Each is about 4 ½ feet long, with wingspans that range from nine to ten feet.

In a press release, the FAA said the approvals are “a milestone” that will lead to the first approved commercial unmanned aircraft systems operations later this summer.

Bolt Chooses Its First Class

Boston-based hardware accelerator Bolt has chosen the first classfor its six-month intensive program.

The new program received more than 850 applications. Out of that cohort, Bolt chose seven companies, representing sectors ranging from consumer electronics, to robotics, to medical devices. Five are B2B. Three companies have already raised capital; two are on track to hit $1M of revenue in 2013. Click that link in the first paragrah to learn a little bit about the individual companies.

UPS Will Test 3D Printing in Stores

Starting with San Diego and Washington, DC. With industrial $20k printers, and available design services. Read about it in MAKE.


Pitch Your Prototype, Just Like LightUp Did

For Josh Chan, a co-founder of LightUp, entering last spring’s Pitch Your Prototype contest was “one of the best decisions we’ve made as a young company.”

The competition was conceived as a way to give entrepreneurs a chance to demonstrate their projects to the audience at the Hardware Innovation Workshop. Finalists would get a presentation slot at the Maker Faire the following weekend.

The idea appealed to LightUp’s two founders (Chan and Tarun Pondicherry @tarunpondicherr), who had been working on a way to teach the basics of electronic circuits using magnetized pieces and augmented reality.

“Preparing our pitch was a timely motivation for us to refocus our energies from hardware prototyping to publicity and networking,” Chan recalls.

The demo at HIW went well (Chan said it was the first time he had ever been interrupted by applause). And LightUp went on to to win the contest, which brought attention and validation to the young company just before they launched a Kickstarter campaign. They were fully funded in about a week, and met two out of three of their “stretch goals.”

But even if they didn’t win, the experience would have been valuable, Chan said.

“Just being at HIW gave us the opportunity to attend talks and panels by successful entrepreneurs,” he said, “and even more importantly mingle with like-minded individuals making the jump from maker to professional maker.”

“During lunch and between panels, we spoke with potential customers, manufacturing partners, and perhaps most importantly journalists and bloggers,” he added. “The articles and posts they wrote gave us invaluable publicity when we launched, leading to a huge boost in social media mentions and many pledges on our Kickstarter campaign.”

Now, MAKE is extending the Pitch Your Prototype invitation to a new crop of companies, this time on the East Coast. And this time the deal is sweeter: in addition to presentations at the HIW and World Maker Faire, the winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize.

So if you have a project, submit it here. You have until August 16.

BTW, the first LightUp units will be shipped to Kickstarter backers in December. If you pre-order now, you can get a kit in March, 2014.

Open Source Hardware Conference to Consider Forking, Attribution

The Open Source Hardware Association has released the list of speakers at the annual Open Hardware Summit, on Sept. 6 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and it’s an impressive group.

What grabbed our attention right away was the panel on theintersection of open source hardware and business: with a particular focus on the issues of forking and attribution.

This topic has already surfaced a number of times — between Arduino and Wiring, Flora and LilyPad, MakerBot and RepRap — and the questions are only going to get bigger: What are the limits and motivations for forking? What should be considered fair play? What happens when someone re-implements the same idea with different tools? How do we protect ideas and concepts? Should we, at all? What does it mean to be open, really?

Addressing the issue will be Catarina Mota (@catlx), Open Materials; David Mellis (@mellis) MIT Media Lab and Arduino;Hernando Barragán, Wiring; Ayah Bdeir (@ayahbdeir) littleBits; Nathan Seidle (@chipaddict), SparkFun; and Josef Průša, (@josefprusa), RepRap. Michael Weinberg, (@mweinbergpk) Vice President at Public Knowledge, will moderate.

OHS co-chair Addie Wagenknecht (@wheresaddie) says the panel has the “potential to be a historical event in defining the critical junction of open source hardware and business.”

Buy your ticket while this year’s hackable e-badges are still available.

Signs of Hope at Maker Faire Detroit

Sign of hope #7: the PunkinBot, mid adjustment

MAKE publisher Dale Dougherty (@dalepd) attended Maker Faire Detroit, which was held at a time when the rest of the world assumed the city’s spirit was struggling under the cloud of bankruptcy.

But it wasn’t.

What Dale discovered, instead, was a growing cluster of makers already heading in new, fresh directions. Dale’s post in MAKE — Maker Faire Detroit: The Midwest at its Best – What We Hope for Detroit — promises ten signs of hope, but there are actually many more woven throughout his account.

It adds up. Dale’s advice: “Don’t believe all the doom and gloom you hear about Detroit.”

Makerspace News

Kansas City now has an Open Hardware Group. Their first eventis Saturday, Sept. 7: a day of “brainstorming, idea-building, friend-making and possibly career-enhancement.” This September event will be held at and sponsored by the entrepreneurially orientedKauffman Foundation, which is based in Kansas City.

More Makerspace Happenings here.


World Maker Faire New York

Six weeks until the show! Sept. 21–22.

Join the Street Team and earn two free tickets. The last day to sign up is August 12.

The Hardware Innovation Workshop

Bunnie Huang, Ayah Bdeir and Massimo Banzi (pictured above) are among the list of confirmed speakers for the Hardware Innovation Workshop scheduled for World Maker Faire week on Wednesday, September 18 at the New York Hall of Science in Queens (the venue for World Maker Faire, September 21-22.) The one-day event will again focus on the business of making and navigating the ecosystem. The jam-packed agenda features speakers with expertise in digital fabrication and manufacturing, 3D printing, industrial design, and robotics. Sessions will also feature leading firms from the investment world who focus on hardware innovation, as well as individuals from incubators and accelerators who specialize in startups with early stage hardware products and devices. Early bird tickets are still available for $199 and include two adult day passes to World Maker Faire and a one-year subscription to MAKE magazine.

Confirmed Hardware Innovation Workshop Speakers:

  • Bunnie Huang, Maker Advisor
  • Massimo Banzi, Arduino
  • Scott Miller, Dragon Innovation
  • Brian David Johnson, Intel Futurist
  • Ben Einstein, Bolt
  • David Lang, OpenROV
  • Jason Kridner, BeagleBone
  • Dorian Ferlauto, Elihuu
  • Nick Pinkston, Plethora
  • Ayah Bdeir, littleBits

Featured Maker Faires

Start making plans to participate in the first Maker Faire Rome, Oct. 3–6. It is for Europe at large, and will attract an international crowd from all over Europe and beyond. (You can watch a sneak preview here.)

Mini Maker Faires

More than 70 are currently scheduled for this year, around the world. Check the Maker Faire Map to find the closest one to you.

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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