Some time ago I noticed that I’m spending more time building boards and less time developing and needed to increase my manufacturing capabilities. After thorough reading Dangerous Prototypes’ Chinese desktop pick and place machine forum thread I got in contact with a factory and bought TM240A – the big brother of TM220A. Earlier this week a DHL van carrying 70kg crate pulled in my driveway. After a day of hands-on learning I started building boards. This article was written after 2 days of using the machine and contains my first impressions as well as a couple of hints.
First, it is a real Chinese machine – well built, simple, and reasonably priced. At the same time, an owner must be prepared to fix mechanical issues and work around software bugs without relying on manufacturer’s support – the folks at Neoden are helpful but due to a time difference a reply to an e-mail would arrive the next day. Fortunately, the user base for these machines is expanding and the thread linked above as well as videos by Ian@DP and other people provide lots of useful info.
I was ready to face issues like air lines clogged by small pieces of styrofoam, non-functioning vacuum pumps and such; luckily, the only problem out-of-the box was racked gantry causing feeding fault. Thanks to this post in DP thread I was already aware about the symptoms as well as the fix – so I fixed it. While doing this I learned that to implement the fix no tools were necessary – a typical human finger jammed between the front support and the gantry works just as well as originally specified screwdriver.
Looking for failure is a bittersweet endeavor — it goes against human nature to look for something that we don’t want to find. Our in-house process improvements are bringing us closer and closer to the goal of zero failures. Some days everything we make is perfect, but when it’s not, our job is to find the fault before it gets to the customer. These new gimbaled test jigs run every APM through a rigorous test cycle to validate its performance. In addition, we are constantly working on things like paste handling, material inspection, plus the addition of other super-bad-ass expensive machines that do stuff.
For my third year, I spent yesterday at the Maker Faire, in Silicon Valley. Unlike any other year, the crowds were overflowing, suggesting this movement was growing faster than the cottage industry before. To put this into context, the maker movement is yet (another) disruption to brands… The maker movement empowers people to build their own products, and share with each other –rather than buying from brands.
Adding to that – Maker brands are causes and businesses that people want to support. Smart brands (like RedBull for example) work within the maker community in productive ways to empower makers to do and share cool projects.
The 2-days event organized by Maker Media to talk about hardware startups and maker-entrepreneurs was filled by very interesting talks and discussions regarding all aspects of going from “maker to market”, as Dale Dougherty called it. Before going more in-depth into the biggest lessons learned from this second edition of Make Hardware Innovation Workshop, I’d like to share with you a number of quotes from the speakers. They are both straight-forward and inspiring, and I think they give a good overview of the main ideas that are currently in the air.
ReadyMade was founded by chief editor Shoshana Berger and publisher Grace Hawthorne in Berkeley, California. The inaugural issue was published in Winter 2002, with quarterly issues produced until the magazine moved to bimonthly issues with the March/April 2004 publication. In 2006, the Meredith Corporation purchased the magazine. In January 2009, Meredith announced it was relocating the magazine’s creative staff to Des Moines, Iowa due to company-wide budgetary concerns (though the ReadyMade title itself was reportedly successful). None of the editorial staff chose to relocate, and Better Homes and Gardens executive editor Kitty Morgan assumed editorial duties for ReadyMade on an interim basis. On June 16, 2011, ReadyMade announced on its blog that Meredith had discontinued the magazine.
Chris Anderson goes from WIRED to running 3Drobotics, MAKE Magazine is now a start-up spun off from O’Reilly, this is totally “inside baseball” but very interesting to watch the Maker movement “move” in various directions. We’re looking forward to Shoshana’s new project(s) at IDEO!
This week at a fireside chat during Google I/O 2013, Mary Lou Jepsen – currently the head of the Display Division at Google X – let it be known that “there’s no more silicon in Silicon Valley – it’s all iPhone apps.” She quickly added – “or Android apps, I should say.” An overarching theme from her set of words in the extended chat made it clear: she’s not satisfied with the current atmosphere for hardware innovation, particularly when it comes to startup funding.
“Adding to the popular Make line of kits, like ‘Getting Started with Arduino’ the new cobranded product lineup from Maker Media and RadioShack combine Maker Media’s strength in cultivating and growing the maker movement with RadioShack’s strong retail footprint and DIY heritage,” said Dale Dougherty, founder and CEO of Maker Media. “Our new cobranded products are designed to give makers a path to making while they continue to develop their skills and push the limits of their creativity.” The new cobranded product lineup will be available in-store and online exclusively at RadioShack later this year. In addition, MAKE Magazine will join the MAKE book lineup and will be available in stores this fall.
RadioShack jumping completely in to the maker movement and Make as a stand-alone company co-branding with other brands – big moves in the maker business arena!
Airware, a startup that is creating a software platform for commercial drones, said it had raised $10.7 million in a Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Google Ventures also participated. As part of the deal, Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon will join Airware’s board.
Hardware accelerator HAXLR8R unveiled its newest class of startups at a demo day in San Francisco on Monday. This year’s crop of startups skewed heavily towards gadgets for learning, play, and the internet of things, with devices like a connected vibrator, bike handlebars with technicolor lights and GPS tracking, and the hardware hacker’s favorite product — a drone. The entrepreneurial teams hailed not only from the U.S. and China but also Singapore, Canada, and the U.K. After 111 days of perfecting their prototypes in Shenzhen, China, the ten teams returned to the Bay Area to pitch investors and enter the vanguard of the “hardware renaissance,” as HAXLR8R co-founders Cyril Ebersweiler and Sean O’Sullivan put it.
“The mistake most hardware startups make is they don’t charge enough because they don’t think of the problems they will encounter at scale. They don’t calculate the real cost to deliver their product to a customer’s door, they leave no margin to sell through retail down the road when opportunities arise, and they can’t easily raise the price after it has been set.”
He’s been welcomed into the White House for recognition of his achievements as an innovator and agent of change. He co-founded a couple of cutting-edge businesses. And he was key to the creation of a madcap, hands-on festival that’s being emulated around the world.
It would appear that Dale Dougherty has it made. The truth is, he prefers to make it himself.
This is an especially busy week for the kinetic Sebastopol resident, who has just turned 58, as he prepares for the weekend’s Maker Faire in San Mateo. Dougherty and the fair and his Make magazine and Maker Media, a spin-off of O’Reilly Media, all pursue the same end:
To rekindle in post-industrial homo sapiens the primordial urge to tinker, create and advance the state of things we make with our hands and imaginations, and the technological extensions thereof.
Across the partition from the roboticist who was making coffee tables with magnetized cubes, an artist was boxing up woodcuts that, when held to the ear, sounded like a forest. Beyond him, just past the software designer on the treadmill, a muscular man in a T-shirt tinkered with his design for a motorcycle.
In a smaller space that is to be unveiled on Thursday, Jessica Banks worked on a chandelier that expands and contracts in response to ambient sound.
This eclectic mix of entrepreneurs, among the first tenants of a communal space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, did not in any way resemble workers in a traditional factory, but their landlords and city officials hope they represent the seedlings of a rebirth of manufacturing in New York City.
For small businesses that make things and for entrepreneurs who dream of doing the same, the greatest challenge is almost always the cost of technology for turning an idea into a tangible product.
Often, the chore of even creating a prototype is so daunting, great ideas are simply left on the table.
That common obstacle is exactly why 3D printing technology is a potential game changer for small business. While manufacturing was once a big money, big business proposition, these new gadgets can put the power of prototyping and one-off manufacturing into the hands of the little guy. With one machine and a digital design, 3D printers can build a three-dimensional object of virtually anything right on the spot.
The Advent of Affordability
One of the most surprising things about 3D printing — besides what they can do — is that the technology isn’t actually new; it’s just newly affordable.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the large, industrial versions of 3D printers are now as relatively inexpensive as $5,000, though some cost as much as $1 million depending on their capability, and can print in a variety of materials.
The market for 3D printers is currently at about $1.7 billion. Contributing to the affordability of the more basic models has been a consolidation of the industry, with mergers between rival 3D printing companies, as well as hardware, software, and design businesses.
“As so often happens with industrial-grade technologies,” writes Ashlee Vance for Businessweek, ”3D printing has flowed downstream to consumers.”
One example is a product by 3D Systems called the Cube, an inexpensive and pre-assembled 3D printer for beginners.
“For $1,299,” says Vance, “anyone can now buy a 3D printer, hook it up to a wi-fi network, and begin downloading files that will turn into real objects.”
What that means for small businesses is only limited by the imagination of each entrepreneur.
CNBC.com presents the example of London-based toy company Makielab, which has allowed customers to design and create their own real-life dolls with 3D printing technology.
“It is a big deal, especially for designers,” says Andrew Sissons of the Work Foundation to CNBC, highlighting the power of bypassing all of the middlemen normally standing between a designer and his or her end product. “These days you can just start websites, get a 3D printer, start making it, and start selling it to people.” …
Every Thursday is #3dthursday here at Adafruit! The DIY 3D printing community has passion and dedication for making solid objects from digital models. Recently, we have noticed electronics projects integrated with 3D printed enclosures, brackets, and sculptures, so each Thursday we celebrate and highlight these bold pioneers!
Have you considered building a 3D project around an Arduino or other microcontroller? How about printing a bracket to mount your Raspberry Pi to the back of your HD monitor? And don’t forget the countless LED projects that are possible when you are modeling your projects in 3D!
The Adafruit Learning System has dozens of great tools to get you well on your way to creating incredible works of engineering, interactive art, and design with your 3D printer! If you’ve made a cool project that combines 3D printing and electronics, be sure to let us know, and we’ll feature it here!
I gathered this list of investors who are hardware specialists or have expressed their interest for hardware startups. Most of them are consumer oriented. Be warned that their position regarding open source hardware might still be unclear. Gather your best convincing skills, and rock on!
At Adafruit we received the most offers for funding as word got out we are a profitable self-funded company making hardware in NYC, so that’s another way to roll too.
Major shifts in hardware design and production have allowed the “maker movement” to mature rapidly. The next generation of fantastic hardware could very well come from the startup up the block.
Just a few years ago, it would have taken a corporate empire to design, build, and market a hardware game-changer like Apple’s iPhone. Today, there’s far more hope — and excitement — surrounding the little guy, and for good reason.
Many people have noted a shift in the hardware landscape and the emergence of new, smaller companies. In his book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, Chris Anderson writes extensively about the rise of the “Maker Movement.” Paul Graham’s recent essay “The Hardware Renaissance” mentions the recent uptick (7 out of the latest class of 84) in hardware startups at Y Combinator. In his blog, Erick Schonfeld wrote that “Hardware is the New Software,” and that VCs are pursuing hardware startups more aggressively as well.