Categories
Uncategorized

MakerBot Marketing

MakerBot Industries

I meant to write this post about a month ago, but writing it now just validates the points I was going to make anyway, so read on!

Back when I wrote 3D Printing is the Future, I mentioned a number of companies, including MakerGear, Ultimaker, and of course MakerBot Industries. Four months later, I’m going to update my thoughts on them, and specifically focus on what the MakerBot folks do in the area of marketing.

Wait… Marketing? If you read the piece in Fast Company you’d know that MakerBot Industries doesn’t do marketing:

… When I speak with MakerBot’s Keith Ozar, he seems offended when I refer to such undertakings as “marketing.” His background is in underground music promotion, and he joined MakerBot when the company advertised a “marketing experimenter” position in early 2011. MakerBot doesn’t really market at all, he counters; it actively participates in the community the company seeks to both cultivate and create, involving “people who are creative, people with imaginations.” That means a presence at Maker Faire-style events, where hardware hackers congregate, and more recently at comics conventions and the like.

Here’s where I haul out the disclaimer: I work at a marketing company. I also market myself, and the things I do. Almost everyone does, even if they don’t call it marketing. If MakerBot doesn’t want to call it “marketing” I’m fine with that, but let’s be honest, that’s what it is.

With that out of the way, let’s look at the marketing that MakerBot does…

MakerBot Web Site

MakerBot has a web site. Hmmm, that’s nothing special. Let me rephrase that: MakerBot has a good web site. Their web site clean, well designed, and organized. There’s a store, there’s info on the community, including links to User Groups, Twitter, Flickr, Google Groups, etc. as well as a link to Thingiverse. Their support page has a lot of links to their wiki, and then there’s the blog.

The MakerBot blog isn’t just some “look at me!” thing where they talk about themselves (though it has been a lot of that lately, due to the recently launched MakerBot Replicator.) The blog also highlights things that members of the community are doing/making. And the blog is updated very often. Very often. That’s key.

Ultimaker

When the Ultimaker came out I heard a lot of talk about how much better it was than the Thing-O-Matic, and it may be better, but take a look at the Ultimaker web site. It just looks like a blog, and as of my writing this, it’s been over a month since it’s been updated. And before that it was a month and a half. I know blogging takes time, but for a small company it can get you the most bang for your buck when trying to tell people about your product.

MakerGear

In the world of RepRap, reprap.org is packed full of information, but if you want to buy a RepRap kit, MakerGear is a pretty well known and respected seller of the Prusa Mendel kit. They also recently came out with the MakerGear Mosaic, which is their own design, and is a capable machine from all I’ve read.

Visit the MakerGear web site and let me know what gets your attention… if anything does. There is a “What’s New?” link on the home page, that links to a page with a post that was written nearly two months ago. (With a typo in the title.) I’m a MakerGear customer, and I think they’re a good company, but I wish things looked a bit more professional. For a first timer visiting their web site (or the Ultimaker site) I don’t think they’re going to be impressed.

But then, maybe these companies don’t want to impress people. Maybe they’re only targeting the alpha nerds, who know the inside scoop, and think that MakerBot is for people who don’t know better, and the real desire is for servicing a niche market. If that’s the case, then that’s fine… I honestly don’t know.

So besides the web site, what is the “MakerBot Marketing” you ask? I’ll just throw a few things out there.

MakerBot: has good photography, has good videos (including MakerBot TV), they have a curriculum for schools, are behind Thingiverse, they’ve implemented an Artist in Residence program, did the Project Shellter thing, scanned people’s heads, and on and on.

Some of those things take a bit of money, which smaller companies may not have, but there’s no shortage of clever ideas, some of which are relatively cheap, and if it gets people talking about you, isn’t that what you want?

So yeah, MakerBot Industries does marketing, and it may be marketing on their own terms, and in their own way, but in the end, if people find out about you, and keep hearing about you, that’s building your brand, and that’s worth a hell of a lot.

Here’s the thing: You can have the greatest product in the world, but if no one knows about it, you won’t have any customers, and no customers equals no business, so marketing is important… even for nerdy 3D printer companies.

(Oh, there’s one more thing that’s key to MakerBot’s marketing effort, which I’ll probably talk about in another post.)

Categories
Uncategorized

Printrbot

Printrbot

You’ve heard me say that 3D Printing is the Future, and I’ve talked about the MakerBot, RepRap, and other 3D printers, but fairly recently, a new project called “Printrbot” launched, and more specifically, they launched on Kickstarter, where their goal was to raise $25,000 and when the campaign ended they raised $830,827. (3,323% funded!)

You could say there’s a lot of interest in 3D printing…

And 3D printing moves fast! I received a MakerGear RepRap Prusa Mendel about a month and a half ago, and I’m still building it.

When I say “I’m still building it” I should clarify that I only get at most a few hours each week. I’ve been told you can assemble the entire thing in a weekend if you skip meals and sleep. :)

But supposedly the Printrbot can be assembled in an afternoon. And it’s smaller, and lighter, and cheaper. All good things. I’ve heard a few questions as to the speed, print quality, etc. of the Printrbot, but I’m fairly confident it’s well designed and will be comparable to the other 3D printers in it’s price class (even though it’s probably the cheapest right now.)

At Milwaukee Makerspace we’ve got a member with a MakerBot Cupcake, I’m building a Prusa Mendel, and I’ve heard that one member backed the Printrbot project and should have one of those when they’re available.

Oh, I should also mention that a goal of the Printrbot is “a printer in every home (and school)” so right there, I’m a fan… and a backer.

If you’ve ever thought 3D printing was too expensive, keep an eye on the Printrbot project, and see what they can do to change your mind.

Categories
Uncategorized

Key Kitty Klone

Key Kitty

Recently I came across a link that someone shared for this story about the “Key Kitty” which is a cute little kitty shaped keychain that is also a weapon. With all the debate about weapons on Thingiverse, I thought I’d try an experiment.

So here’s what I did… using nothing more than the two photos above, I decided to try to clone the design, and create my own with a 3D printer.

Key Kitty Template

I took the photo of the pink Key Kitty above and created a greyscale version of it, and then imported it into Inkscape. I then traced around it to create a SVG file that approximated the outline. Now, the Key Kitty is a pretty simple object, it’s basically a two dimensional object with some height to it, so the process was fairly easy.

Key Kitty Test

At this point I printed out the SVG file at actual size to see how it would fit on my fingers. It didn’t have to exactly match the original, but it did have to fit right.

OpenSCAD Kitty

Once I tested the paper prototype and decided it was the correct size, I exported the design to a DXF file and imported it into OpenSCAD and extruded it.

Key Kitty STL

Finally, here’s the STL file of our Key Kitty Klone, ready to be printed. It will just fit on the platform of the MakerBot Cupcake. (And because someone asked, no… I had no plan to make it into an LED flashlight as well. I was just interested in copying the basic shape.)

So wait, where is the actual print? Well, the night I tried printing it was the night of many woes, and I had two failed attempts at printing it, and with a two hour print time estimate, I ended up not leaving the makerspace with a real printed object. I’m also not 100% sure I should share the files. I mean, there’s the whole issue of the legality of cloning products, and I’m not really sure I want to be a test case on this one.

But I figured I couldn’t end this post without a bit more research. I found references to keykittytv.com, but there’s no web site, and it looks like the domain expired back in August 2011. I did find this great Key Kitty video from 2010 though. There’s also a Facebook page and Twitter account, both of which have had no updates for 10 months. For all I know, the company behind this product went bankrupt and closed up shop. Of course this just brings up more questions about cloning it. In the end though, I could just make some changes and call it the Key Bat or Key Bunny, or whatever… all it needs are some eye-holes for your fingers, and some pointed ears.

So here’s my question to you… What do you think about the cloning of existing products?

Categories
Uncategorized

Woes in Plastic

Lens Gear

Bleargh!!! Sorry, had to get that out…

I seemed to be able to do nothing right last night at Milwaukee Makerspace. I joked that the only thing I was able to make was a mess. Besides hot-gluing my own thumb (though not my ass) and having many MakerBot failures, I was able to print two things, though even those two didn’t turn out that great. I’m getting a bit frustrated with the MakerBot Cupcake, and the mysteries of Skeinforge aren’t helping.

I’m waiting for MakerGear to ship my RepRap Prusa Mendel, which of course will require assembly, and configuration, and ten other weird things, but hopefully at the end I’ll have better prints than the Cupcake. Don’t get me wrong, the Cupcake is fun, but it’s also frustrating.

So I printed the 70mm lens gear, even though I really need one that’s about 85mm, just because I’ll be using a follow focus next week, and I want to see if this works. The gear teeth look good, even if the print itself did not turn out great.

Bottle Opener

I also tried this bottle opener, and again, while it is OK, it’s definitely not great. It looks pretty sloppy. The weird bits in the centr are the Milwaukee Makerspace logo, which was way too small to even attempt to print. It also filled in some of the hole areas a bit, which I had to remove the plastic from. That may be due to me editing the STL in Sketchup and creating a new STL with my own edits. I don’t know…

I think I need to take a break from printing things for a bit, and work on some other things. Printing takes a long time, and if it’s the only thing I do at the space, I feel like I’m neglecting other projects. (I did work on my Nutellastruder a bit, of course that led to the hot-gluing of my thumb!)

KinectToStl

Oh, we did play around with KinectToStl a bit. Again, the results were not super-impressive, but it was fun to experiment with it. I didn’t bother to read the instructions, so there may be some good times on making it work better, but that will be something to try another day.

Update: The bottle opener broke while trying to open a bottle. #fail

Categories
Uncategorized

3D Modeling Update

3D Model

In the last month I’ve made some progress in my 3D modeling education, so I thought I’d provide an update. (Besides my last post, I got some good feedback on Google+) Oh, and just a reminder, my interest in 3D modeling all has to do with creating objects I can produce with a 3D printer like the MakerBot or the RepRap.

So what am I using (or not using) now? Here’s the list:

Google Sketchup
I’ve made some good progress with Sketchup. A few tutorials (and a lot of playing around) has me creating actual 3D models. You’ll want the STL Importer and STL Exporter to deal with STL files. Sketchup is nice, and I’m sure I’ll end up using it more as time goes on, but it’s not the end of my 3D quest.

Blender
Urgh… I’ve made no progress with Blender. Haven’t even tried. I may just wait until we do a Blender class at Milwaukee Makerspace.

123D
Still no Mac OS X version.

3DTin and Tinkercad
I talked about 3DTin last time. I haven’t used it since, but it still seems like a great way for kids to get into 3D modeling. As for Tinkercad, it seems like a more advanced version of 3DTin. Make: Live covered Tinkercad in Episode 17 if you want to check it out.

Inkscape
Say what!? Inkscape is a 2D drawing application. I’m still using it. I’ll often open vector files (SVG) and export them to DXF files and then extrude those to 3D files. Here’s a great Inkscape to OpenSCAD dxf tutorial that explains it all.

OpenSCAD
I’m still just barely using OpenSCAD, mainly in conjunction with Inkscape as mentioned above. I need to dig in a bit deeper, as time allows.

So what else is there? Well, I found Pleasant3D, which isn’t exactly modeling software, but it’s what ReplicatorG might look like if it were a full-on Mac OS X application. I’ve found it useful on a few occasions.

The other one worth mentioning is MeshLab, which may have some uses when it comes to converting or transforming files. I haven’t created anything with it yet, but it sure looks impressive.

So that’s my 3D modeling software update… Anything new to report from your desktop?