Don’t Bring Your 3d Printer To MakerFaire

This could easily be called “the year of the 3d printer”. They are in the news, in every hackerspace, and at every event. This last one is the one I’m going to focus on here. All the coverage we’ve seen as well as our personal experience shows that MakerFaires are filled with 3d printers. At MakerFaire K. C., there were so many that I lost count. I didn’t even bother taking pictures or stopping to look after a while. Many were makerbots, though a few repraps were present too.

If you want to be noticed at MakerFaire, DON’T BRING A 3D PRINTER AS YOUR SOLE DISPLAY.

I understand, you’re excited. 3d printing is very exciting. Catch me some time and ask me how I feel about 3d printing and the future and I’ll happily discuss with you how important I think it is and how we’re seeing the infancy of something great. However, when showing off your hackerspace at a MakerFaire, you need to show projects you are working on. It doesn’t matter what you’re building at your hackerspace, show it off. I know some of you will mention that you are building a 3d printer. Cool, so are all the other hackerspaces, you’d better have some other stuff going on too. Your 3d printer most likely isn’t any different than the one on the table next to you. Especially if you bought a makerbot. Super Especially if the table next to you happens to be the makerbot table.

I’ll tell you what you need to bring. Listen close, because this is very important. Think about the people at your hackerspace. You’ve got a person or a few people who are very excited about something. It may not look particularly special to you. It may not be in the headlines of Make Magainze (yet), and you probably haven’t seen it for sale online with a fancy web page. This person/people may seem like the fringe to you. Some oddball that just happens to get really excited at the thought of some peculiar laser or a specific type of leather working . Bring that person. Have them go on and on about their peculiar project. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Your hackerspace will be remembered. Hackerspace’s power lies in the diversity of their people and what they do with the space. Don’t show up thinking about what your hackerspace supplies to your members, but show off what your members have supplied your hackerspace.

48 thoughts on “Don’t Bring Your 3d Printer To MakerFaire

  1. I couldn’t agree with this more. I even went to a mini0maker faire where there was one printer for every 4 booths.

    I’ll place a litte bit of the blame with the MF organizers since, in theory, they vet and curate the makers first, but yeah “I have a 3D Printer” is not an exhibit. At the bay area maker faire they put most of the 3D printers in their own getto. Walking through was honestly sad. A lot of nearly identical printers, often printing exactly identical objects. Building a kit and downloading a file off the ‘net is fine, but it’s not a show-off worthy achievement.

    Maker Faire is for showing off the awesomest things that you haven’t heard of. Three years ago no one had heard of 3D printers, they were rare and awesome and worked as great attractant. But not any more. Make something interactive, make something educational, but most of all make something we haven’t seen a hundred times, at the booth right next to you.

    If you’re Makerbot, then heck yeah, bring your printer! You know more about it than anyone else there and you can talk about your vast experience with it. But if you bought a Makerbot, leave it home.

    1. Agreed, especially since it is something that can be bought for a moderate sum. If your 3D printer is a custom build with particularly interesting capabilities, eg extreme size or speed, then by all means share.

      1. rbt on hackaday – Who the fuck I just read! Hi my friend!

        Yes, you may see one in the c-base also. But that was not the point I tried to highlight: There are almost no 3D printers here on the “makerfaire” meetings we have here in germany.

        They are really far more common in the US! I’d really like to get hands on such a thing by myself, but I can’t find the time to even get the Pingbot done (featured here on HaD some days ago!).

        Is it just me or do we really have no makerfaire events here in germany? The congress and the camp are not satisfying :)

    2. no, in general, no tinkershows here. i’ve been in berlin to one but most of it was cheapo hipster shit, no hackstuff.
      maybe it’s a cultural difference between the states and good’ol Germ.
      it’s somehow the same with writing ’bout it. i know a lot of people doin shit at home you could just call “awesome!1” but they don’t share it.

      so much knowledge lost … a pitty

  2. Agree… there were lots of them at Maker Faire NC. However, I love em! I want one… and I suppose the owners of these devices were proudly showing off what they made with their printer. Next year we’ll see more of them, but they’ll be more ubiquitous like soldering irons. :)

  3. I would have to agree. The Bay Area MF was wall to wall 3D printers. They are crazy cool, but at the end of the day, they pretty much all did about the same thing, made about the same size, and cost about the same price. Tech Shop had a nice display that had real members were doing with them which was cool. Most of the displays were full of skulls, chess pieces, and other silly items. Tech Shop has demos be real clients using the printers to make money for their business.

  4. Some of my co-workers and friends discovered 3D printers at the NC makerfaire this year. They may be old news to a lot of us, but the public is just starting to catch on.

    1. Provoking question: Why should we WANT them to pay attention? The “common” human thinks “oh nice, 3D printing *dreams*”, sees the price “whadda expensive .. Carry on with more important stuff”.

      Seen too often to believe that 3D printing is “for the masses” :(

      1. I agree that 3D printing isn’t for the masses, but these were engineers and other people who could afford one and have the skills to make one work. Somehow, they had not noticed the printers until this year.

      2. I have to strongly disagree with that. I’ve been following the development of 3D printers here on hackaday and elsewhere, and they’re still just out of my reach as a recently post-college geek.

        But my fellow hacker and old-school maker, my dad, hadn’t known that extrusion printers had dropped below the $1k mark yet, and had not known that they printed with plastics instead of some obscure epoxy. His first thought aloud was “Could we use one to build something that would mix the pellets into line, to get even cheaper print medium.” Now he’s seeing projects everywhere around the house that he could solve with printed plastic.

        All that said, if the makerfaire is aimed at geeks, showing off that you own a printer isn’t going to get me to join your makerspace. Have that as a bullet point in your flyer, nothing more. If you’ve done interesting things with one, show those off. Mathematical sculptures will get my attention, but so will the stories that your enthusiastic members can tell. Like Caleb said, bring enthusiasm and just enough props to sell that.

  5. There were a couple of more unique designs outside of the Makerbots and the Repraps. There was definitely still a large amount of people that had no idea what 3d printing is all about.

    1. Cheapest I’ve seen was just under $500, the solidoodle. Cheaper than the $1000+ they have been, but still just far enough out of reach when factoring in the cost of printing material and a computer that can run a modeling program.

      *curses self for not having bought 3d modeler when my student discount still applied*

  6. If you bring it fine. But I agree don’t make it your primary display. How have you used it in a cool project. MF NC was cool but my boys started to get bored with seeing so many of the same types of setups.

    1. I realize you were just trying to tag on the end of the other “arduino lol” jokes, but I hope you didn’t miss the point of the article.

      We *want* to see what people have made. The arduino may be a popular platform, but every project is different. It’s not like every other post here is a video of someone who just got the pin 13 LED to blink.

  7. Nonsense. My table was jam packed both days with people curious about 3d printing. I even had several kids literally watch hour long prints from start to finish.

    The reason to not bring a 3d printer to Makerfaire are the damn Tesla coils screwing laptops and electronics up. If you really want the 3d printers gone then start advocating for more Tesla coils.

    1. So true!!!
      Lubbock had a mini-maker faire, and because of fire concerns (I had my black smithing stuff set up, as well as my reprap) I got placed near my buddies’ flippin’ huge tesla coil. I thought I had things shielded… but whenever he played the zelda theme on his coil, my printer would stutter on the x-axis.

    2. I think the message here is lost to the TL;DR crowd.

      There are a ton of new and unique printer designs that have been announced or released in the last couple of months. There also seem to be a lot of people interested in them, spurred on I think by the (IMHO) outrageous cost of the Replicator and the media blitz that preceded it, or the runaway Printrbot Kickstarter.

      The message here should be more like: if you’re representing a hackerspace or similar organization, showing off a completed kit for anything doesn’t say anything about the creativity or diversity of your members.

      I saw this effect at the tiny Make pavilion at SXSW this year: half the demos were 3D printers, and one of them was a Makerbot playing music with midi2cnc. Not interesting at all.

      1. I was expecting a 3d printer village setup instead having them scattered about. Maybe having them scattered about made it seem like there were more. Maybe the Replicators at the Makerbot booth and Makershed booth made the overall number seem high too.

        I didn’t get away from my table much so maybe my count is way off, but off the top of my head my count is only about 10 printers. The KC event is the 4th largest Makerfaire venue with 300 tables so 10 printers does not seem out of line.

    3. Then again YMMV is always at play. Respectfully I hope the kids at your booth, mesmerized by the machine. learned how to do things with every tools that may be within their budget or the budget of their parent’s.

  8. I don’t get it.

    When everyone else has said this in the past, it’s been considered trolling.

    The internet is a non-stop “show and tell”, and if you’re showing off something already REALLY played out, you should think twice about making a blog post or YouTube video of it. If one makes a “troll” comment about it, there’s always some well-intentioned idiot who wants to defend the OP, not realizing they’re just stroking his/her ego.

  9. Well now you have me thinking twice about driving 5 hours to a maker faire. Not that I never would, but I’ll wait until I can make a extended trip to see others things around the big city & visit friends in the area. I appreciate that Caleb’s thoughts here aren’t anti 3D printer. But that the printer should be an item working in the background background, as one shows the projects the printer helps create, or something close to that anyway.

    “Don’t show up thinking about what your hackerspace supplies to your members, but show off what your members have supplied your hackerspace” Intentional or not,similar to something JFK said. While I was too young to fully understand it at the time I’m old enough to have heard him say it & the adults discussing it.

  10. Your 3d printer most likely isn’t any different than the one on the table next to you. Especially if you bought a makerbot. Super Especially if the table next to you happens to be the makerbot table.

    I can’t help but feel that that was aimed at me, at least in part. I had my clear-acrylic Cupcake (with all of the upgrades I designed, including the PSMD and 3G 5D Shield) and my Replicator. On the second day I was actually on the same row of tables next to MakerBot. (I moved because the spark generators and tesla coils next to the 3D Printer Village was glitching my bot.)

    I do not work for MakerBot, but I have been very active in the development of the 3D printing movement from early on. For me, this is my project.

    I had, at times, a crowd three rows deep wanting to see this new wonder. Many people squealed when I made the cube turn into a bunch of gears, and after the faire was over I even sold it to an excited fellow maker who had never seen cube gears. Many were happy to take and wear the little woven-looking rings I was printing and handing them right off of the platform. They watched it be made, and could wear it home. I watched children’s eyes light up as they realized, on some level, that this was now a part of their lives.

    I talked to those who knew what 3D printers were, and happily talked tech. I expected to do that a lot more, but the truth is, outside of our little Hacker/Maker bubble, these really aren’t that well known yet.

    I agree with what I believe was the main intent of this article: Having bought a fully assembled 3D Printer isn’t a project. But this year, at this Maker Faire, many people had never seen one, and I was glad to help introduce them to the future.

    I was even told by two families that the 3D printers were their favorite part of the show.

    1. it was definitely NOT aimed directly at you. It is just a coincidence that you had a 3d printer and were located next to makerbot. Not that I’m surprised, I saw a lot of 3d printers there. I loved all of them. I don’t recall who many of them were though as they tended to blend together. I do very clearly recall the quadcopter table, the mustache molding table, the self typing printer, the fairy wings, etc. Hey, I even remember that one resin printer project too. Maybe next year I’ll be saying DON’T BRING A RESIN PRINTER IF YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED… we’ll see.

      I’m sure your 3d printer is cool. I’m sure people were excited about it. Hey, I’m excited about it. But if you want to stand out, don’t bring a 3d printer as your main display. There are just too many. You can bring it, but you’d better have something else as well if you want to stand out.

      1. I have one of the very few Ultimaker 3D printer with Dual extrusion. But even with that I wouldn’t show up to just show off that.

        Maybe I would show up to show that the 3D printer is just a tool. And that Ultimakers are pretty much designed to stand up to abuse. You don’t have to be afraid to touch the machine while printing, or move it. I’ve even seen someone hold it upside down during printing without problems.

  11. Well, it depends on what you’re selling or showing off. If you’re selling a new 3D printer, of course you should have several of them on display and operating. You should of course find some way to differentiate yourself, however.

    I am part of the Bay Area Reprap User’s Group (aka the local 3D printer club) and we had a booth with our printers just to tell people about our weekly meetings and talk to them about printers. It seemed like we sparked a lot of interest amongst locals who have wondered about 3D printers but didn’t know who to talk to. I haven’t been to the weekly meetings lately, but I hear membership picked up.

    And you can say that there’s too many printers to get noticed, but we had a non-stop stream of people talking to us at our booth, so I’m not really sure that’s true. At least at a large Maker Faire where there’s an enormous number of people.

  12. I have to agree with Caleb here. I love 3D printers too, but I admit I got really tired of seeing one at nearly every table at the last World Maker Faire. There were so many Thingomatics, and the only difference between them was the color of the LEDs inside.

    If this trend continues with the newly released Replicator, it won’t even be a matter of ‘look what I built’, but rather ‘look what I could afford to buy’. That would be depressing.

    I’d encourage people to showoff foremost the things they’ve made using the 3D printer. Maybe have the printer in the background, or perhaps don’t bring it at all.

    Think about it this way: if you wanted to show off some intricate wood carving project, you wouldn’t focus on the chisel. So it is with all things we make. What you create should be the showpiece — while tools can be beautiful by themselves, they’re ancillary and only a means to an and.

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