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Monday
Jun302014

Scancation - Scanning the Standing Stones of the Outer Hebrides

I just came back from a vacation where Kio and I went and visited most of the megalithic monuments on the islands of the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. Stone circles are all over the place on these islands and the biggest one is the Callanish Stone Circle. One of the cool things about these places is that there is very little history known about them and so all you can know about them is from your experience of being around them. Most of them all taller than me and you get the sense that these places were the sacred spaces of 5000 years ago.

One of the things I say a lot at MakerBot is that they really make the most sense when you connect your MakerBot to your passion. Since I'm into rocks. I scanned a few of my favorite stones and ran them through 123D Catch which makes a 3D model from up to 70 photos of the object. It’s pretty cool to think that yesterday I was walking among these stones and today I’m printing them out on the MakerBots in my office. 

It’s interesting to note that this feels a lot like the old days of vacation film photography. The process of processing the photos into a 3D model feels a lot like when I used to develop celluloid film after a vacation.

Someday, printing 3D models will be normal for everyone, for now, it’s just normal for all the MakerBot operators in the world.

If you decide to go on your own scanning vacation, aka scancation, here’s my process and tips for acquiring models. I use a Canon S110 camera and then upload my photos later to the 123D Catch site and then upload all the models and a zip file of all the photos to Thingiverse because the photogrammetry software will get better someday and I want to have an archive of the photos so I can make better models later.

 

  • Lighting conditions matter. A cloudy sky is much better than a sunny one so that you can get all the details of your subject. 
  • Fill the frame, but make sure to leave some area around the object in the picture. 123D Catch uses reference points in the object to make everything fit together. 
  • Use all 70 pictures allowed by the software. The more pictures, the better the scan. 
  • Scan weird things. Sometimes the most iconic stuff of a location isn’t the most obvious. Some friends of mine scanned all of Canal St. in NYC and said the interesting parts were the giant piles of trash bags which are one of the local overlooked pieces of landscape art.
  • Don’t forget the top view. If you are capturing a subject that is tall, do your best to get above it and take a picture. A quadcopter could be handy for that
  • Fix it up with Netfabb. After I upload the photos into the 123D Catch online portal, then I use Netfabb basic to slice off all the weird parts and cut a flat bottom onto the object.
  • Make sure to upload your scans to Thingiverse. We can all make models of your SCANCATION. 

 

Do you have any other scanning tips for those that would like to experiment with vacation scanning? Leave them in the comments!

Tuesday
Jan282014

Pete Seeger

Hearing of Pete Seeger's passing hit me hard today. His work to revive folk music and use music as a powerful weapon for positivity in the world inspired me.

In 1992 I went to Kobe Japan and studied at a college there and then stayed with a lovely Japanese family in Yao, Osaka. I fell in love with American style, old timey, banjo music in Japan.

While I was in Kobe, my friend Joe Pepi Benge, an avid banjo player, took me to Shaggy's which was a western bluegrass bar that played the best authentic old timey and bluegrass music. Everyone but us was Japanese. In Japan, people take their hobbies SERIOUSLY and the Japanese guys had studied Scruggs and then kept going. They were fantastic. Pepi was pretty good too!

It was the first time I'd heard American folk music and I fell hard for it. I returned to the states, Claudia bought me a banjo, and I got Pete Seeger's book and checked his records out of the library and made cassette copies.

A week later I wrecked my bike and gave myself a good gash and spent the rest of the summer learning to play banjo when I wasn't limping around. A few years later, in London, I met Tom Paley of the Lost City Ramblers at the Cecil Sharpe House and bought a fiddle off of him. 

For a few years, I thought that I might have a future as a professional banjo player. It turns out I'm not gifted with a great singing voice and while I can read music easily, I don't have an ear for picking up tunes easily.

Playing banjo is one of the things that makes me happy. It's really hard to be miserable while playing the banjo. Pete Seeger gave me hope that doing art and following your passion can lead to wonderful things and have an impact on the world. I admire his work and I love that his banjo said, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."

Thursday
Nov142013

MakerBot Academy

I was a teacher in Seattle Public Schools in the early 2000s. I had a generalist certification and I had a background in puppetry so, even though I was qualified to teach anything K-8, I mostly taught middle school art with a two year stint thrown in there teaching K-5.

I'm really happy to be announcing MakerBot Academy. It's our initiative to put a MakerBot in every school in the USA. I'm personally jumpstarting the movement by putting in a chunk of change and Ralph Crump and Autodesk are joining me to empower the next generation with advanced technology.

We also put together a Thingiverse Challenge to make math manipulatives so that the community can do their part to get materials ready so that when teachers get their MakerBots, they can have things ready to make that will make their classroom better.

I can't wait to see what teachers and students do with MakerBots! 

Friday
Aug162013

Level Complete - Full Speed Ahead!

Yesterday we announced that we closed our merger with Stratasys. We have a lot of work to do so this isn't a finish line, it's a milepost. It's like we've finished a video game level and it feels really good to have completed the level, but now we're on the next level and the terrain is a little different and the challenges are fresh. 

In the early days of MakerBot in 2009 after we started the company and before we started shipping, I really thought that MakerBot would be a side project. I met Zach and Adam in the early days of NYCResistor. It promptly became clear that MakerBot wasn't a side project as we started logging 100 hour weeks. We spent the early days lasercutting, banging on keyboards, acquiring parts, and packing boxes. We lived on ramen which turns out to not be very healthy. I sold my musical instrument collection and started a secret cafe in my apartment to get through that first year before we paid ourselves.

Fast forward to 2013 and, as of yesterday, MakerBot is now a public company as a part of Stratasys. Since 2009 we've shipped an epic amount of machines and now have the capacity to keep cranking them out at our Factory here in Brooklyn. We're getting ready to launch the MakerBot Digitizer which allows people to make 3D models out of physical objects using LASERS.

We didn't get here alone. All of the people who have ever bought a MakerBot, everyone who has ever worked at MakerBot, and everyone who works at MakerBot now helped us get this far. I am proud of the work we've done together and thankful to get to have worked and be working with such smart people. There is a lot of potential energy in the universe and exploring how we use it to empower creative people is our frontier. We've got a lot of work to do and the future looks bright.

(Factory image: Core 77)

Tuesday
Apr232013

MakerBot: One Foot in Front of the Other

We just hit a few inflection points at MakerBot. It's an exciting time for the company and the industry.



The biggest shift was last September when we launched the MakerBot Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer and the new MakerWare. By being made with a chassis of powder coated steel and with a number of refreshing updates, it's a machine that professionals can feel proud to have on their desk. The wooden machines we made were awesome and each of the 3 previous generations were leaders in the category at that time, but the Replicator 2 is black. The users that have shown up to get this new MakerBot are a mix of professionals getting a jump on the innovation process.  



MakerWare was a shift away from ReplicatorG. It's a lot easier to use and streamlines the whole process of moving a digital design from your computer to your MakerBot. Our software team worked hard to make it simpler and more powerful.

In December we moved offices. At the old botcave, I had rented anything on the block that we could put desks into and it had become a rabbit warren. With our new office, I focused on keeping things simple with simple desks and we spent our buildout money on nice ergonomic chairs. People work hard at MakerBot and it's a lot easier to work hard when you've got good posture in a nice chair.



Thingiverse Customizer is an application that runs on Thingiverse that allows people to make things that can be customized. This new class of customizable things is huge. It means that a lot of people who haven't thought of themselves as designers get to jump into the world of digital design. Want to try it? Check out the lithopanes project, as seen above and make an awesome 3D model!



At MakerBot, we're making great partnerships with companies that innovate. We worked with Nokia to create backs that go right on the Lumia series phones. We've teamed up with Autodesk to do some wonderful things too.

MakerBot is hiring! We've got a lot of work to do and we're looking for people to help us. Go to the MakerBot jobs page to check it out.

This is all just some of the stuff that we're working on. The game is on and we're focused on making wonderful things happen in the world.

As a CEO, I've grown a lot. I used to be the guy who wanted to do everything myself and now we're 200 people and I've got a team that reports to me and each one is a ninja in their field. I love coming to work. I enjoy the people I get to work with. Life is busy, full of hard work, and good!