Is your significant other a knitter?

While at Botacon I had the opportunity to chat with other ‘bot operators – and a surprising number of them had significant others who knit.  I think there may be an entire genre of knitting accessories that could be designed and 3D printed.  So, how about helping out with this quick poll to the right?

Poll dancing

96% of people polled want MakerBot to hire me to blog for them.  4% hate me and would rather have a sharp poke in the eye than read another word I’ve written.  Oh well, you can’t live your life without controversy.

I’m leaving this poll open until MakerBot hires me, so we should all just get used to it.  :)

Dinosaurs with lasers

There’s a new poll to the right. Basically, “Should Makerbot hire MakerBlock to blog for them?” So, take 5 seconds and cast your vote. Then, on to pictures of dinosaurs with lasers!!!

Origami dinosaurs plus a laser

Origami dinosaurs plus a laser

MakerBot poll take away

Here’s what I take away from this small poll:

  • People initially get interested in MakerBots because of a general interest in technology, the thought of making their ideas real on their own desktop, and because they just find MakerBots cool.
  • While far and away the most common anticipated use of Thingiverse is for toys, games, and puzzles – this doesn’t really reflect the uses people intend for their MakerBots.  If we were to put MakerBots into these people’s hands we’d see1 tools, replacement parts, and inventions as often as we saw designs for new toys.
  • Lots of people design things in 3D, but not many of these designs are ever uploaded to Thingiverse.
  • The three biggest obstacles to people getting a MakerBot are, in descending order, money, waiting for further improvements, and then doubting their own MakerBot building skills.

If you truly don’t have the money or a way to save up, there’s not much that can be done.  However, if you are one of those who doesn’t have the money yet, but does have surplus time there may be hope.  If you can lay your hands on the money for a MakerBot, you can crunch out parts for Mendels and Mini-Mendels.  While the prices have fallen significantly, the selling point of these parts is still a lot higher than the cost of plastic plus electricity and wear-and-tear on your robot.  Your robot can pay for itself.  In fact, if you have a good enough idea you might even be able to open an Etsy store, your own storefront, eBay store or something similar selling prints of your ideas.

To those of you who are waiting for improvements – don’t.  Yes, the MakerBot will be getting continually more awesome as people contribute to it in the future.  But, no one is going to stop working on this open source project any time soon.  They are going to be incredible improvements for years to come.  Your MakerBot is essentially obsolescence-proof.  Yeah, you might want to purchase an upgrade here or there in the future – but you don’t have to.  You can be the person who figures out a simple solution to an existing problem you find with the MakerBot and you can fix it.  I have zero expertise when it comes to electronics – but I’ve uploaded a few small improvements2  You just aren’t going to know how you can help yourself and others with this project unless you jump right in.  Your MakerBot will never be obsolete. 3  Irrespective of improvements, I can tell you right now that building, designing for, operating, and even repairing a MakerBot is just plain fun.  Don’t rob yourself of a fun weekend, just go purchase one right now4

Finally, to those of you who think you don’t have what it takes – I wasn’t sure I did either.  Assembling it really is on par with putting together Ikea furniture.  Go to the wiki, look at the build pictures, and read the instructions and troubleshooting guides.  Once assembled it will take a little bit of work to get running – but there are lots and lots of people out there who will help you.  Why not find someone nearby on the MakerBot map and e-mail them?  Lots of us have websites and blogs – we’re happy to talk about our MakerBots. 5  There are also regional groups and hackerspaces.  I don’t know for sure, but I strongly suspect if you get one and no one at your local hackerspace has one yet, they’ll be falling over themselves to help you get it operational.

Look, if I can do this, so can you.6

  1. Assuming they do as they intended… []
  2. My X and Y axis tensioners. []
  3. Look, if it happens somehow – well, just build a RepRap with it.  The RepRap is specifically designed so that each generation can build the following generation – you’re guaranteed an upgrade path. []
  4. Oh, and get the Deluxe kit.  You won’t be sorry. []
  5. Hell, I can’t stop talking about it. []
  6. Oh, and, to those of who whose parents were killed by awesome robots…  well…  not to worry.  As soon as I print up a few more upgrades, my MakerBot will be ready to finish the job. []

What I learned from my MakerBot poll

Here’s what I learned from the various questions:

  1. Why are you interested in MakerBot?
    • About 2/3 of people answered with some variation of “General interest in technology, robots, and stuff”, “Making ideas real, inventing, and prototyping”, or “MakerBots are awesome”.
  2. Have you heard or read about RepRap or RepRap.org?
    • Just about everyone polled (93%) who has heard about MakerBot has heard about RepRap.  I found this result a little surprising since MakerBot tends to get all the press.  My guess is that people see or hear about a MakerBot, do a little research, and then find out about RepRap.
  3. Have you tried to design anything in 3D?
    • 90% of people said they had tried to design things in 3D.  Given the ubiquity of computing power and 3D modeling software, especially Sketchup this isn’t shocking.
  4. Have you tried to upload anything to Thingiverse?
    • Only about 48% of people polled said they’ve tried to upload things to Thingiverse.  I suspect this result is as high as it is because of the recent MakerBot contest – but I have nothing to back up this guess.  I had designed several things before buying my MakerBot – but didn’t start uploading anything until after it was finished.
  5. If you had a MakerBot, what would you want to download from Thingiverse and print?
    • Nearly 1/3 of people polled named toys, puzzles, games, or game pieces as something they wanted to print off of Thingiverse.  This was more than “RepRaps/RepStraps”, “tools”, and “art/decorations” combined.
  6. If you had a MakerBot, what would you want to design and print?
    • It was about a four way tie for “Toys”, “Tools”, “Replacement or spare parts/stuff for fixing things”, and “Prototyping, designs, inventions, and making custom things.”
  7. If you had a MakerBot, what would you use it for? (Help starving children, make toys, make tools, etc)
    • More than a quarter of people of polled said “Toys.”  This time, “Tools”, “Replacement or spare parts/stuff for fixing things”, and “Prototyping, designs, inventions, and making custom things” were all about equal.
  8. Why haven’t you purchased a MakerBot yet?
    • 28% of people already had a MakerBot and 26% said they didn’t have $1,000.00 to purchase an awesome robot.  Another 8% said they were planning to purchase a MakerBot.  The most surprising results to me were 8% saying they wanted to wait for further improvements and another 4% saying they didn’t think they have what it takes to build one. 1
  1. A truly tragic 2% chose “My parents were killed by awesome robots.”  Even though my own MakerBot has already violated each of the three laws of robotics, I had never thought robot-human violence would ever have gotten this bad. []