Maker Faire Detroit: Limitless Plotter interview

Maker Faire Detroit: Limitless Plotter interview

Only two weeks left until the first-ever Maker Faire Detroit takes place at The Henry Ford, on July 31 and August 1! It’s exciting learning about all the creative projects and people coming to the Faire. Today we chat with Nicholas Reed of the Limitless Plotter project.

1. Tell us about the project(s) you’re bringing to Maker Faire.
For the past seven months, fellow KU alum Tim Williams and I have put our minds to building a platform for blending digital and physical art. Our project is all about having the mobile ability to put almost any type of media on almost any surface and utilizing computer control for precision and complexity. We’ve started by testing with dry erase markers on white boards, and have now successfully implemented an airbrush, which allows nearly all surfaces to be marked on. In the infant stages we spent a great deal of time researching CNC kits and how they operated, so that we could rebuild one to fit our needs. Our design uses “over the counter” supplies (besides the CNC kit) to create an expandable system that is customizable for different canvas sizes. 2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate?
I had stumbled upon a video from one of the previous years’ Faire, and it sparked our interest greatly as a chance to exhibit our work for the first time and to learn from all the others who are making amazing things out there, besides getting to experience Detroit for the first time as well.

3. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
Tim and myself are both recent graduates of the University of Kansas’ Architecture program, having spent a great deal of time with each other over the past two years. In our program we’ve been encouraged to explore problems outside our provided path that catch our eyes. In the past we’ve created installations based on human motion, folding-transforming furniture, as well as endless amounts of study models. Outside of school we’ve raced karts, designed and built furniture, and soldered together line-following robots. Our biggest inspiration is by far the internet. Not to say there are not amazing makers in our lives, but for this project we have thoroughly investigated every step of the process somewhere online.


4. Is your project strictly a hobby or a budding business? Does it relate to your day job?
As we are currently unemployed, this project has become our day-to-day job, minus income. We spent time on it during school when classes would let up, pirating empty classrooms during the nights to do testing. For us this project is a comprehensive exercise that incorporates our love for building with conceptual development. Often we find ourselves scheming up ways to bring larger scale versions of the machine into the architectural world.

5. What new idea (in or outside of your field) has excited you most recently?
I’ve been most excited by far recently with Tesla Motors (not that electric cars are at all a new thing) because of the dual problem of transportation and energy. I am convinced that electricity is our only viable renewable energy source to provide us with transportation. I cannot wait until the streets are silent, but not empty.

6. What is your motto?
KISS (but not with ideas): Since the start of our collaboration, we’ve fantasized about what our final construct would look like, sketching up elaborate methods for painting impossible distances. It’s all about working from step to step, not losing track of the end goal. Often our solutions would come after an hour of thinking (or ten iterations of a built section) and finding the best answer to be a minor adjustment. It’s amazing looking backwards to see how much we’ve learned simply by ordering that CNC kit that kick-started our production. Each and every momentary step was a huge excitement, such as simply making the linear bearings work properly.

7. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
For new makers out there we think it’s incredibly important to get started making as soon as possible. Not every project has to be complex or unique. We’ve found multiple projects that do similar things to ours, but we still are constantly thinking of the next step. There are always two things that you get when you make something: that something, and the experience of making that something, which we believe is more valuable.

8. What do you love most about Detroit?
Well, neither of us has ever been to Detroit before, so right now all I can say is that we love it because Maker Faire is there! As architects we are always excited by the future potential of a city, and we are looking forward to experiencing it for the first time soon!

Thanks, Nicholas! Can’t wait to check out the Plotter in its latest incarnation. Check out the Maker Faire Detroit website for all the information you need, including how to buy tickets in advance. See you there!

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I'm a word nerd who loves to geek out on how emerging technology affects the lexicon. I was an editor on the first 40 volumes of MAKE, and I love shining light on the incredible makers in our community. In particular, covering art is my passion — after all, art is the first thing most of us ever made. When not fawning over perfect word choices, I can be found on the nearest mountain, looking for untouched powder fields and ideal alpine lakes.

Contact me at or via @snowgoli.

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