Geeks on a Train – MakerBot in the NYTimes
I met Lawrence Downes because he recognized me and zach and I asked him what he likes to make. He proceeded to tell me about cooking lead on his family stove to pour into the ballasts of sailboats. This dude is a badass and living life to the fullest with heart and he also happens to be an awesome writer and I’m not just saying that because of what he wrote about MakerBot. I’ve set up a google alert to read everything he writes. You should too. – Bre
By LAWRENCE DOWNES
Published: April 10, 2010
It would be very cool, Bre Pettis decided, to take his desktop manufacturing robot, his MakerBot, out of its big black case and plug it in right there in the Amtrak dining car. It would be, like, ’bots on a train.
I was at Boston’s South Station, when I realized I was standing next to an Internet famous person. I’d seen Mr. Pettis’s Web videos for Make, a magazine for digital do-it-yourselfers. He has a face you remember. Thick black glasses, unruly hair and sideburns. He and his business partner Zach Hoeken, in a porkpie hat, were going home to Brooklyn after showing their MakerBot — a 3-D printer — at M.I.T.
In the dining car, Mr. Pettis started connecting cables as he explained. A computer slices a digital image into thin layers, which a MakerBot reads and replicates. It squirts hot plastic, the kind Legos are made of, onto a platform that moves up, down and sideways, building a replica one squiggly layer at a time. It can model anything you want: gears, or a goblet. Big factories use similar machines to make prototypes. MakerBot is a little factory for your home. Bre and Zach have a company that sells them, $750 for the basic kit.
A guy walked by and ogled the box glowing with L.E.D.’s. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” Mr. Pettis said. That struck him as funny. He decided to recreate the “Star Wars” scene for an iPhone photo. He had me gesture like Obi-Wan. “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” I said, realizing I was in the presence of a highly appealing geekiness.
I asked Mr. Pettis about copyright, and his face darkened. MakerBot is a purely open-source project. It’s their design, but we were all taught to share as kids, Mr. Pettis said. Sharing is what we like to do.
He looked on his laptop for something to make for me. We chose a bottle opener. The ’bot started doing its thing while we talked about how awesomely cool it was, and how cool it could become. What if it had multiple printer heads? What if you could print on toast, with Nutella? (Actually, you can.)
I thought: What if we could all grow up like these guys, who kept their childish delight after gaining intellectual voracity and fine motor skills. Mr. Pettis handed me a blue bottle opener. “Hot off the ’bot,” he said. We opened three beers with it.
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