It's SXSW time again already, so it should come as no surprise that companies involved in the interactive space are rolling out press releases and product announcements designed to leverage the excitement of the moment.
The most exciting, and interesting announcement that we've seen so far came from Makerbot on Friday. The company's CEO, and one of the founders, Bre Pettis stepped into the limelight to let the world know that they are developing a new 3-D scanner. Actual details are kind of sparse at the moment, because the company is still in the prototyping phase. No doubt will be extensive testing, learning, and redesign over the next few months as the product develops. There is currently no indication of the price or release timing, though the company did state that they will start accepting orders this fall.
The scanner consists of a turntable on which you mount objects you wish to scan. Lasers and cameras translate that object into a digital files. Bre said the scanner will be ideal for archiving, prototyping, replicating, and digitizing prototypes, models, parts, artifacts, artwork, jewelry, and other objects.
Assuming that the pricing is reasonable, and by that I mean in line with the pricing for the company's 3-D printers, then the new scanner will be a huge success. There are free solutions out there that usually involve taking a series of photos, then having the photos analysed to re-create the dimensions for the 3-D object. However the free software available online is either difficult to use, or requires significant attention to detail.
The new scanner, on the other hand seems to be much more straightforward and has some nice features that we help make it into the final product design. For example, the turntable, which we assume will be able to rotate the subject smoothly and repeatably. it appears that the company would like to expand its offerings to include products targeted at all the key steps in the design and manufacturing/printing process.
Related links: Makerbot Announces New Scanner
Just received another email from Amazon Japan updating the status of my order for Bre Pettis's new book, "Getting Started with MakerBot". It's been delayed once again. The new projected delivery is January 6, 2013 though I'm sure it'll be delayed again.
Same thing happened several times already with Joseph Prusa's book on RepRep. The Amazon note simply reads the following,
"Dear customer: We have learned that there is been a delay with some of the items in your order indicated above. When your order is shipped you will receive an email message confirming the date, contents, and method of shipment."
That's all, nothing more to be done, just keep waiting...
I'm sure that a big part of the problem is the fact that the whole RepRap and 3-D printer spaces are growing dynamically. Things are changing rapidly. It's not just our knowledge the growing, it's also all the available configurations. New competitors are entering the market. And even existing competitors are making dynamic changes.
Bre may have started his book back in the Cupcake or more likely in the Thing-o-matic days. But, by the time the book is written, edited, layed out, and is ready for distribution, the company is gone through one or two generations of products. The old products that were new when the book started are already obsolete, and the newer products don't have their legs under them yet. So it's hard to write anything of significant size, like a commercial book that should sell for somewhere in the order of 20 or $30, and have it not be full of obsolete or questionable information.
I suppose that Prusa is also in the same position. His personal and professional status is changed dramatically month by month. For example, he recently decided to turned his hobby or avocation into a full-time occupation. This puts a totally different twist on what he would write and how he would position things. Another good example is the Thingiverse, especially the controversy over Makerbot going commercial. Prusa was one of the major agitators demonstrating actively on the Internet against Makerbot taking what everyone assumed to be an open source sharing platform and change the rules of the game, modifying its terms of service. So, how do you position that in a book?
Of course, the heart of the problem is the fact that they're trying to do this using the traditional publishing methodology and market. Had they gone completely digital and published their books in a PDF or e-book format, using the Internet, they could have had several generations of the book out, critiqued, gotten feedback, and improved them several times already. Instead we have customers that have placed orders months ago, perhaps as much as nine months ago, frustrated and still waiting for the book that they thought that they would get as a introduction or entry-level home helping them get into 3-D printing.
I'm not sure what Andrew Mazzotta does for a living, but I do know that he has a boatload of 3D printers and is racking up numerous hours testing and evaluating them, which is all to the good.
This week he compares the Makerbot Replicator to the Lulzbot AO-100, and throws in a few comments about the Uprint SE Plus for good measure. It's not a rigorous, detailed evaluation, but is quite valuable since it's based on his actual experience as a user of all three printers.
Michael Curry and his 3D printed robot Minions at Makerbot Headquarters in Brooklyn, NYC last week.
I had a wonderful afternoon visiting Makerbot Industries in Brooklyn.
This was my fifth visit over the past two and a half years. Every time the energy, enthusiasm, and creativity seems to have been cranked up by at least another order of magnitude.
Sublime (Brad) at Tantillus.org printed a fully functional hobby lathe using PLA plastic capable of cutting metal parts. Each of the parts necessary to build the lathe was small enough that they could be produced on an affordable 3D printer within the budget of most robot hobbyists.
The lathe design was the result of contributions from many people, though Sublime added his own touches/improvements. The surprising thing for me was that it is definitely possible to bootstrap from a low-cost 3D printer to create other tools that most robot hobbyists want for their home workshops.
I'll be posting more about Sublime's work and the creation of the Tantillus 3D printer in subsequent videos.