Maker Faire – the future of tech innovation

Yesterday in Vancouver, BC, and Kansas City, MO, the annual Maker Faire began–two days of creating, building, thinking, and making began with robotics, alternative energy, and do-it-yourself projects.

You could speak with individuals who have built a hydrogen based car (using a 1920s Ford as their prototype), create paper projects and take them home, learn to solder, check out new styles of cloth dying and even buy the artistic clothing on display, learn about the printmaking process that dates back to Gutenburg and have a print made from wood cut to final print, or join the local costuming guild.

And you could watch the latest in robotic designs–not by high tech industry, but the guys at home in their garages and basements coming up with the next robotic design.  Of course the crowds can’t get enough of robot wars–nothing like a spider-like robot barraging rubber pellets at a bipedal, crouching, Erector set-looking opponent.  And it’s a good mix of both adults and kids making this stuff.  You could also check out the latest scratchbuilt designs of Estes-type model rocketry.

It’s all about getting hands on and just doing it–the act of creating or making–and sharing the results.

My favorite part of the faire was contrasting what 3D modelers from Hallmark Cards were doing in their international business with what the guys on the other side of the hall were doing in a more grassroots way.  Two designer/engineers from Hallmark demonstrated the process for making none other than Hallmark Holiday ornaments using software imaging programs and images of the giant 3D printer that transfers the idea to reality.  But on a smaller scale a few other exhibitors were showing how they could turn plastic cord into plastic 3D parts via their own scratchbuilt units, demonstrating the process in the exhibit hall on the tabletop.  And their use?   Today it was to make even more “3D printers” to sell to the public.  The exhibitor from TechZone Communications said that after the last fair in Southern California he was building and selling 3D printers for the public non-stop.  How do the printers work?  They take a signal of a drawn design from your laptop and pull a plastic cord through a print engine that, through hundreds of repetitive movements, results in a solid structure.  And the objects could range in size from an eighth of an inch high to 12 inches high and equal distance across.

So not only is the art of 3D printing what big companies are doing to make mass produced items, the technology is available to you in your own home.  Today.  What you make is up to you.  A less hands-on way to make resin movie props perhaps?  TechZone had kits for sale from $600 to $1100–the price a good laptop would cost you.  Check out their website here.

C.J. Bunce



  1. Great review of the Mini Maker Fairs this summer! I’m planning Seattle Mini Maker Faire 2012. We would love to see you there!

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