We’re huge fans of crowdsourcing and have backed numerous projects on both Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the past. That being said, our results have been mixed at best. In general, our results have been better with Kickstarter projects, though both platforms have served up duds from time to time. As we pointed out in a previous post, the buyer should definitely beware. Choose the projects you back carefully, and make sure that you can afford to lose the money should the product fail to materialize.
Would be great for prototyping and for hacking if you could just print out your electronic circuits with your inkjet printer at home? That’s not possible yet, but Microsoft Research Labs is already doing it and they expect the technology to be commonly available in the not-too-distant future.
At World Maker Faire in New York City last month, they were showing off they have already been able to accomplish, and some of the applications that they feel it will be suited for. Put very simply, what they’re doing is using an inkjet head very similar to the one in your printer at home to print conductive ink on flexible substrates.
Usually when we talk about hacking electronic circuits and wires we’re referencing the people that bend circuits, but the folks at DIWire have a totally different approach. They’re are actually in the business of bending wires. Their new 3-D wire printer bends wires into curves that can be assembled to construct almost anything.
Practical uses for the printer include artistic design, small assemblies, organizers, and anything else you might want to put together with bended wire. It’s hard to tell exactly what uses it will be put to until it’s available to users and they get some time with it. It’s one of those interesting products that you know once people start to use that they will come up with things that are really surprising.
At this point the product is still a prototype. You can go to their website and give them your email address and other contact information so they can let you know soon as the product’s available. And, they expect to have a Kickstarter project active within the next month or so.
Low cost R/C hackable plane
Makers are constantly coming up with new ideas and ways to bring their dreams to reality without having to spend a lot of money. The good example is the folks at Brooklyn Aerodrome. Their basic concept was to put together a very low-cost RC airplane.
Of course they had a lot of failures and ran into a lot of brick walls in the process, but in a surprisingly short period of time they managed to put together a plane that would actually fly. Once they finish the initial testing and put some videos up on YouTube, the response was beyond their wildest dreams. Lots of people, all across the globe, wanted to follow in their footsteps.
Their design, which uses very cheap material for the airplane body, is open source. You can easily get the parts list, instructions, and advice from active builders via their website. And, if you don’t want to go to the trouble of finding all parts individually yourself, a kit is available online in the MakerShed. Of course the kit is with more expensive than hacking it together yourself, But some people will definitely want to go that route.
Prop & motor close up.
I put a lot of effort into not opening my wallet to pull out my credit card at Maker Faire, but I have to honestly admit that somehow I failed a few times.
The first time was on Saturday morning when I came across the Brown Dog Solar and their line of solar chargers. Having struggled without gas and water for almost a week after the March 2011 earthquake here in Japan, I developed a totally new, and much more conservative, perspective on emergency preparedness.
So, it only took a few minutes discussion with the principles at the Brown Dog Solar booth to realize how much I really needed one of their folding solar charger panel units. Of course it helped that their prices are a little lower than what I would pay for a similar unit here.
Their solar chargers look quite impressive and have been professionally executed.
It's still a bit hard to grapple with the fact that 49 years ago I spent several weeks at the same location as the World Maker Faire. Of course it was the 1964 World's Fair then, and I was totally fascinated by all the exhibits showing what life in the not too distant future would be like....
The "maker movement" is much more than just hacking, experimenting, or playing around with hobbies. A big part of it, at least for me and many of my friends, is the ability to pass on skills and know-how to others, including passing them down from generation to generation.
One of Michael Overstreet's humanoid robots playing soccer at World Maker Faire 2013 in New York City. Michael puts in a tremendous amount of time and effort each year attending Maker Faires in NYC, Detroit, San Mateo, and Kansas City, along with RoboGames, because he gets real inspiration from introducing kids and adults to robotics.
"If Superglue and PlayDough had a baby" is the tag line for Sugru, a surprisingly useful self curing rubber concoction that turns out to be extremely useful.
Want to quickly fabricate a simple stand? Need to patch some rough edges or a break? Don't like the sharp corners on your smartphone or tablet? Sugru is the answer, and it's a whole lot of fun to boot.