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Kids Make It Challenge Winners Announced

ThinkFun - Winners

This July, educational game maker ThinkFun partnered with MakerBot Thingiverse to sponsor a Kids Make It Challenge. The participants competed for the title of Master Maker as well as fun prizes.

The kids who made it have been announced: @bumbleflies, who built a toy fishing boat; @PlayEatGrow, who fashioned an alien friend with a propeller; @SkunksMonkey, who made a sweet penguin mobile; @AlissaApel, who souped up a Creativity Can; and @SalientTech, who created a working fishing pole.

Each Master Maker will receive a large spool of MakerBot PLA Filament or its equivalent in 3D printed products, plus a collection of ThinkFun games.

For the challenge, ThinkFun made its Maker Studio Construction Sets available for free on Thingiverse, so that anyone can download and 3D print the files from the Gear, Winches, and Propellers sets. Use the Maker Studio sets to build suggested projects, or to create something entirely from your imagination.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who participated.

Didn’t get to enter this challenge? Keep your eyes peeled for more from ThinkFun and Thingiverse.

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The Coolest Way to Prototype

Once upon a time, at the end of the 20th century, Ryan Grepper of Montana had a weed whacker but no yard. One day, he turned the weed whacker into a blender, and added it to a beverage cooler that he’d modified to play music.

These tinkerings became the very first version of the Coolest cooler, which raised $13.2 million in a Kickstarter campaign last summer — at the time a record sum — and started shipping to backers this month.

“The Coolest was basically my attempt to correct every shortcoming that I’ve ever experienced with any other cooler,” Grepper says. “Looking back, the last big innovation in coolers was wheels.”

It took a while for his vision to materialize.

Grepper and his wife moved to Portland and started a family. It took them a few years to make friends and get out of the house, and they discovered that their makeshift beach party — the cooler and the blender — had not aged well. As a product developer and early fan of MakerBot, Grepper knew that he could do better, and started to play around with a cooler that would make a family trip to the park nicer and easier. He prototyped battery connections and a blender lock, and, armed with the know-how and the tools, used his MakerBot Replicator to iterate as he went.

“That first one probably won’t work the way you imagined it, but that’s a chance to learn what else could be better and then go back and iterate,” he says.

In product development, Grepper uses 3D printing mostly to test for functionality. Does his hypothesis make sense in the real world? What can be refined? Prototyping helps him recognize pain points quickly.

“3D printers make it so easy. You can make a correction; you can print. You can test.”

Thirteen years after his first tinkerings, all the elements came together into what seemed like a solution for a lot of people. Grepper turned to Kickstarter, which “lets you get your idea directly in front of the people who are going to be using your idea,” he says. “They’re voting with their wallet, which is the most honest feedback you can get.”

Kickstarter’s rules say that “physical products must feature explicit demos of working prototypes.” Grepper did this for his first campaign, in late 2013. It didn’t quite make the goal of $125,000, but he did raise more than $100,000 in pledges. That plus encouragement from family, friends, and supporters inspired Grepper to refine and relaunch. And the second campaign was successful — raising a record $13.2 million.

Grepper then worked with an industrial design firm in Ohio to do a lot of rapid iteration on the final design, exchanging 3D printable .STL files over the Internet. “The portable party disguised as a cooler” incorporates music, food, drink, storage, and clean up.

On its journey from unused weed whacker and broken cooler to crowdfunded success, the Coolest is the story of a big need, an inspired idea, and the tools that made it happen.

“The promise of 3D printing,” says Grepper, “is that you can get your own Coolest idea out there.”

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A 3D Printer on the Desk of Every Engineer and Designer

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At the center of the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer — our best known product — is the word “desktop.” I now think a lot about the tops of desks, after a decade around industrial 3D printers. And I believe that the desk of every engineer and every designer needs a 3D printer on it. That’s true whether you work in a one-person studio or a Fortune 500 company.

Of course mass adoption would be great for MakerBot. But I firmly believe that a 3D printer on every engineer’s and designer’s desk is what every company needs, that being so close to a 3D printer makes a quantum difference in your ability to create and innovate, to make your best work.

Desktop isn’t just about size. As I headed last week to Chicago and up into Wisconsin to meet with GE Healthcare, S.C. Johnson & Son, and other customers on my Listening Tour, I got new insight into how engineers feel when they are making things and solving problems. One engineering manager told me he has noticed that engineers will try out riskier stuff — more daring concept models, multiple options — when they have a 3D printer on their own desk, ideas that they’d be too embarrassed or intimidated to send to the internal print service bureau, lest somebody see and judge them before the ideas have been worked through. “I have seen product development ideas that were not possible before, simply by having the printers sitting beside the engineers,” he said.

Back in New York, Mark Palmer, MakerBot’s director of industrial design, affirmed the engineer insight. Before MakerBot, Palmer worked for Motorola Solutions in New York. His “rapid prototyping” involved ordering 3D prints from Motorola’s internal prototyping labs, on site and in Florida. It wasn’t just the queue time and distances that added friction to the process, but the inevitable second-guessing by other designers, engineers, and business leaders who would see your prototypes in the lab, waiting to be picked up. Without proper context, an early prototype could be viewed as a failure, or it might be politically volatile.

Some prototypes need to be kept close to the chest until the time is right. Think of what you’d write in a notebook but not on a whiteboard, or on a whiteboard but not post on the company Intranet.

Prices can also affect how you prototype. Filament for a desktop 3D printer costs a lot less than materials for an industrial one — so much less that, for some companies that own a bigger 3D printer, the savings on materials alone will pay for a new MakerBot Replicator. Likewise, if you’ve ever ordered SLAs from a vendor, a desktop 3D printer can cost less than a couple of those. The relatively small cost of desktop 3D printing materials leads to more and bolder experimentation.

Then there are feedback loops, which are much quicker with a 3D printer on your desk. One engineer told a story about how he can look at a print that’s only half done and already see what needs more work. He hits cancel, reworks his 3D design file, and starts printing on his MakerBot Replicator again. More iterations, more refinement, means better solutions.

There will be skeptics, just as there were when the office computer was a mainframe that took up most of a room and the PC showed up. A 3D printer on every desktop isn’t some far-off dream. It can happen now.

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Opening Our New, Bigger Brooklyn Factory

L-R: Dan Freedman, SUNY New Paltz; Randy Asher, Brooklyn Tech H.S.; Jonathan Jaglom, MakerBot; Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President; Mathew Mandery, Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation; Ryan Grepper, Coolest

L-R: Dan Freedman, SUNY New Paltz; Randy Asher, Brooklyn Tech H.S.; Jonathan Jaglom, MakerBot; Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President; Mathew Mandery, Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation; Ryan Grepper, Coolest

MakerBot opened its new, 170,000-square-foot factory this morning in Industry City, in Brooklyn, NY, ensuring that the phrase “Made in Brooklyn” will continue to be inscribed on the back of MakerBot Replicator 3D Printers for years to come.

“We are very proud that we are here in Brooklyn, not only in our services and design and marketing, but in our operations,” said Jonathan Jaglom, CEO of MakerBot, who told a crowd of more than 100 employees, educators, students, and government officials at Industry City, a manufacturing, shipping, and distribution center which at its peak employed 25,000 people. Jaglom could not contain his excitement that MakerBot was reinvigorating a manufacturing space in Brooklyn.

Neither could Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who held up a 3D printed nut and bolt and quipped, “For many years folks in this community, instead of making screws, felt that they were being screwed.” Adams told the audience that half of employees in Brooklyn have at most an associate’s degree, and 47% of Brooklyn residents speak a language other than English at home. “When we train that workforce, we give them an opportunity to be a part of a technology that will move the entire globe. We want to be a part of that,” he said.

“We’re only as good as the people who come to work for us,” said Jaglom. He pointed to Diana Pincus, MakerBot’s vice president of operations. She joined MakerBot three years ago, when the factory was in a Gowanus garage and her desk was a plank on two sawhorses. Pincus oversaw the creation of the new factory, which streamlines production, doubles production capacity compared to MakerBot’s old Industry City facility, and follows principles of lean manufacturing, which emphasizes waste reduction and efficiency.

“Lean is a culture, not an activity, so we’re on a journey to making the MakerBot Factory a world-class manufacturing facility,” said Pincus, whose team uses its 3D printers to create the jigs and fixtures they depend on improve the productivity and quality of their work.

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Other speakers at the opening included Randy Asher, principal of Brooklyn Technical High School; Dan Freedman, dean of the school of science and engineering at the State University of New York at New Paltz; and Ryan Grepper, the inventor of the Coolest, a souped-up cooler which raised $13.2 million last summer on Kickstarter — at the time the largest amount ever raised in a crowdfunding campaign.

Grepper, who announced that Coolest would start shipping this week, spoke about how he prototyped his cooler using his MakerBot Replicator, and that 3D printing made it possible for him to test his ideas quickly and make improvements. “We live in an exciting time when anyone with the drive to learn how to use it can get access to a tool with this much power,” he said.

Freedman, who established the first MakerBot Innovation Center at New Paltz, concurred, calling 3D printers “the Swiss army knife of fabrication technologies.”

Guests then got a tour of the new factory, led by members of Pincus’ operations team.

Pincus — and MakerBot — are in a unique position. As she put it, “I consider myself very lucky to have built a factory not only in the United States, but in Brooklyn, my home.”

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The Vastness of It All

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When I became CEO of MakerBot just a hundred days ago, it was not just a new chapter for the company but a new chapter in my own life. I’ve been lucky enough to live in some great cities in Europe and Asia and travel the world for business, but I always wanted to come and live in the United States.

Already this is a dream fulfilled. As I look out the window of my office at MakerBot headquarters, I can see the Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor. At the end of the workday, I take the subway home to my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The trains are filled with energy and carry an abundance of stories: An elderly woman dancing to her music, some guy sleeping in the most uncomfortable way imaginable, another couple making out obscenely. The smell of iron and the noise of chaos are somehow orchestrated into one enormous, unique experience.

These first 100 days at MakerBot have also been my first 100 days of calling America home, and the Listening Tour has been a trip of discovery. For trips to see customers and partners along the Northeast Corridor — Stanley Black & Decker, Staples, the University of Maryland —I start at Penn Station at dawn. I look up at the big board, waiting to find out where my train awaits me. The board is amazingly primitive but oddly charming. Less so when the conductor says, “We regret to inform you that we have stopped due to a train delay at the station ahead.” How come the birthplace of 3D printing — the most important technology of the 21st century —can’t figure out rail management? Japan prides itself on its shinkansen trains, which averaged a 36-second delay in 2012 between Tokyo and Osaka. Thirty-six seconds! But that thought fades as I take in the sheer beauty of nature along the ride and the variety of people traveling with me.

Boston…arrival. It all started around here not too long ago. The Rome of the Roman Empire, the Jerusalem of Judea, and the Babylon of Mesopotamia… Boston is for here (only its age has one digit fewer than the other cities). The “New” in New England resonates all around: the buildings, the narrow streets… As if in London (“but then again no” – “Your Song” with that English accent missing).

I can go on and on; alas, I need to put away Henry James and return to my business mind. But to all you folks out there reading, I want you to know that despite its challenges (and there are many), the United States remains the greatest nation ever built. A nation that has defined the free world as we know it, a nation that has helped liberate many from the horrors of evil, a nation that my ancestors and I personally owe a lot.

I look forward to exploring further — Illinois, Texas, California — and returning again to Brooklyn. I admire the vastness of it all.

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Inspiring the Startup Mindset

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It’s long been the standard wisdom that to learn or achieve something new – a math problem, a recipe – you need to follow a series of pre-defined steps. Traditional education methods have sufficiently adhered to this for centuries.

At MakerBot we believe something different, and from the curiosity and courage I’ve been seeing on my 11-week, 22-state Listening Tour across the United States, so do our customers.

A new paradigm has become the dominant marker of success and innovation: the startup mindset. Think about Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and MakerBot’s own founder Bre Pettis. Successful entrepreneurs focus on possibilities instead of current realities, disrupting standard processes to achieve their goals with rapid iteration instead. The hands-on learning that our customers employ with Desktop 3D printing in their schools and their maker spaces encourages an enthusiasm to real-time prototype, test, fail, and repeat, until a successful approach is found.

These last few weeks, I’ve covered 9 states and met over 20 customers, and I’ve been inspired to see a growing population for the maker spaces and centers in Boston University, Learning Labs in Georgia, and Florida Polytechnic’s RAD Maker Space. SUNY New Paltz’s MakerBot Innovation Center empowers students and community entrepreneurs alike. This approach to learning and developing ideas gives people an interdisciplinary space to be proactive, where they may have been stalled before.

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With the MakerBot tools at Whitby School and Brooklyn Technical High School, I see unparallelled imagination and engagement in middle and high school students. I’ve been so impressed with their involvement, their feelings of ownership, responsibility, and creativity. In short, their startup mindset.

In the course of daily life at MakerBot, we see this spirit up close. At our recent Hack-a-Thon, GE FirstBuild and MakerBot Thingiverse paired up to host interdisciplinary teams to develop ideas in two days. Each team brainstormed, created, iterated, and tried again, and each presented a finished concept. The winning team, headed by Bryan Berger of NY Hackathons, was Food Share, a way to display and share food from your refrigerator with neighbors. This is a solution that could potentially lead to less food waste and more community interaction.

We believe it is important to constantly iterate in order to achieve success. I’ve been humbled to see this curious and undaunted attitude at all levels and all disciplines in my Listening Tour.

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3D Maker Spaces Bridge Generation Gaps

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What do a fifth grade student and a seasoned executive have in common? Not a lot, you’d think. At least that’s what I thought before I started my 11-week, 22-state listening tour to meet MakerBot customers throughout the United States.

In every school and business I’ve visited in the past 3 weeks, I’ve seen a multi-generational community join together around a central creative purpose. Everyone wants to take their big idea napkin sketches to the next level, and a communal 3D space devoted to Real-Time design and prototyping allows that.

These 3D maker spaces, and our customers, continue to blow me away.

In CT, at the Whitby School, sixth graders and their teachers move through a professional product-development process: research, design, make, iterate, repeat. Students and teachers imagine and create something out of nothing in the classroom.

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In NY, at the State University of New Paltz, college students run the SUNY Innovation Center and help local entrepreneurs test and iterate on their ideas with 3D technology. Each brings their unique skills to the conversation: entrepreneurs bring their business acumen, and college students, who now accept Desktop 3D printing as the “new normal,” bring their Real-Time prototyping experience. Together, they quickly leap from 2D conceptual ideas to physical products and solutions.

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In GA, at Georgia Institute of Technology, students run an Invention Studio that includes a wood shop, metal shop, electronics shop, and now a 3D print shop complete with “3DP Masters.” These 3DP Masters help student and faculty inventors create, quickly iterate, and print on demand.

In FL, a big part of the MakerBot family is Florida Polytechnic University, where their RAD MakerSpace Innovation Center brings together faculty, students (current and prospective), entrepreneurs, and young people from the community around one idea – creating and turning hypothetical ideas like a floating light into reality.

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Whether people have decades of professional experience or are young students, the divide between the generations is not great when it comes to dreaming big ideas and turning them into reality.

I’m lucky. I’m seeing a new start-up culture emerging that bridges generations, and these communal 3D Maker Spaces are becoming magnets for quickly turning sketches into reality.

3D Maker Spaces give every generation a common language for going from Creating to Making.

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Sam’s Club Carries MakerBot Nationwide

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Since the beginning of MakerBot, we have grown our 3D Ecosystem with new features for our products, materials, software, accessories, services, and content. Now, we’re expanding one of our most exciting partnerships to make 3D printing even more accessible to everyone.

Sam’s Club is a leading membership warehouse club with over 600 stores nationwide, and now the MakerBot Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer is available in all 600+ Sam’s Club locations.

“There’s a growing appetite for 3D printing as people see how many professional and practical uses there are for the technology,” said Dawn von Bechmann, Sam’s Club’s senior vice president of technology. “We’re excited to extend MakerBot nationwide and bring our members the latest innovation.”

The Replicator Mini is an educational, portable, and user friendly compact 3D printer that brings easier access to 3D printing in office, classroom, or home.

Select Clubs now also feature a new in-store display that prominently showcases the 3D printer, so customers can learn about the technology firsthand. MakerBot and Sam’s Club first partnered in select Sam’s Club retail locations in the fall of 2014. Sam’s Club also sells MakerBot PLA Filament in four colors: black, blue, red, and white.

“Our revamped in-store display at Sam’s Club makes it easier for customers to understand the technology and the benefits it offers today,” said Mark Schulze, CRO of MakerBot.

Find the MakerBot Replicator Mini in your local Sam’s Club today.

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MakerBot Wins Red Dot for Industrial Design

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The Red Dot recognizes outstanding product design, from the iPhone and Apple Wireless Keyboard, to the BMW i8 and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Now the MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D Printer (Fifth Generation Model) joins this pantheon of product design, with a 2015 Red Dot award for product design. An international jury recognized the MakerBot Replicator for its sleek yet functional form that maximizes accessibility in the workspace, and that sets it apart from other 3D printers.

“Not many companies have applied proper design process to 3D printers before,” says Mark Palmer, MakerBot’s director of industrial design. With most 3D printers, he says, “after the mechanical and electrical design is done, they just put a box around it.”

Palmer joined MakerBot in May 2014, after work on the Fifth Generation was completed. He is delighted that the industrial designers on his team, Jackson Seidenberg and Vishnu Anantha, have been praised by the same organization that has honored Dieter Rams, Bill Moggridge, and Jony Ive.

“Many people don’t realize that most of the objects and products they interact with in the world are shaped by industrial designers,” says Palmer. The goal of industrial design, he says, is “to close the gap between technology and people.”

The MakerBot Replicator improves on previous 3D printers with a level of refinement, openness, and accessibility not seen before in the industry. It has an intuititve interface, a 3.5″ display and a software platform, a mobile app, and integration with MakerBot Thingiverse. And the revolutionary MakerBot Replicator Smart Extruder minimizes print downtime by enabling users to swap out a worn extruder in minutes.
“There are strong cues in the printer itself that tell you how to interact with it,” says Palmer. “The knob becomes the focal point.”

As Palmer and his team start to think beyond the Fifth Generation, they focus on easy use and immediate printing access, which will allow both professional teams and education users to evolve their ideas faster than ever.

“If our team is successful, it will be hard to discern the industrial design qualities of the product from the mechanical and electrical design,” he says. “The physical and experiential qualities of our products will be taken to a whole new level.”

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To Understand the Future of 3D Printing, Talk to a Student

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When you first see a 3D printer, it’s mesmerizing. You make something (a physical object) out of nothing (a digital file).

After a while, you learn 3D printing isn’t a magic trick. I’ve worked in the industry for more than a decade, so I’m used to seeing engineers and designers make prototypes and develop products for the market, and I get the disruptive potential of additive manufacturing.

But the other day, my mind was blown like it hasn’t been in years. I visited The Whitby School, where Leslie Perry uses MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printers in her middle-school design technology classes. When I took over as CEO of MakerBot two months ago, I learned that more than 5,000 schools have MakerBot Replicators. Still, it was a shock to see sixth graders moving through a professional product-development process: research, design, make, iterate, repeat.

I expressed surprise, and a 12-year-old named Eric seemed confused. “I don’t see using Tinkercad and then MakerBot to design something as exceptional. I find it sort of normal.”

Over the past ten days, as I embarked on a 10-week, 22-state tour to meet more than 60 MakerBot customers around the United States, I keep encountering this new normal. I’ve listened to tales of success as well as grumbles at companies from Stanley Black & Decker to Adafruit. At every school I’ve visited, I see a new educational paradigm: students teaching their elders about technology.

The world hasn’t turned entirely upside down; it’s more of an intergenerational knowledge exchange. At the State University of New York at New Paltz, for example, 18-year-old interns at the MakerBot Innovation Center help seasoned local entrepreneurs use 3D modeling software and 3D printers to test and refine their ideas. New Paltz students learn about engineering and design by working on real-world problems as they teach these fortysomethings, who bring their experience and ideas.

UMD-MakerBot-Innovation-Center

The University of Maryland Clark School of Engineering, which integrated MakerBot Replicators into its hands-on design course for all first-year engineers, included two undergraduates on their evaluation team. The students put several brands of desktop 3D printers through their paces and made recommendations about which model the school should buy. “You can’t expect someone like me to know about this technology,” quips Dean Darryll Pines, who remembers colleagues who pooh-poohed desktop computers and didn’t expect the Internet would amount to much. These two UMD students just delivered a paper at the annual American Society for Engineering Education conference, which talked about integrating 3D printing in the first-year engineering course.

And at Brooklyn Tech, the largest American high school focused on STEAM subjects, I saw a civil engineering class build a 3D printed turbine, and the many pieces made by the robotics club to help their creation throw a frisbee or load a crate.

brooklyn-tech-civil-engineering-turbine

There may not be a 3D printer in every home yet, but more and more households have young people in them who see a 3D printer as just another tool, like a hammer or a Web browser. These children know how to have an idea, give it a physical form, and keep making it better. One generation’s magic trick is the next generation’s normal.

As I was leaving Brooklyn Tech, a student chased me out of the building because he wanted an internship at MakerBot.

The truth is, I should have been running after him.

And if you want to understand how things will be made in the future, you should be running after students like that, too.

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