I’m pretty jealous of my friends at Google because they get to hear some of the most interesting people in the World give talks just for them. Luckily, the big G is friendly enough to share videos of those talks with the rest of us. As part of the Innovators at Google program, Bre Pettis and Zack Hoeken, two of the founders of MakerBot gave a cool presentation earlier in the year. MakerBot is an open source desktop 3D printing company and community that lets users design, share, and create their ideas in plastic. They are very cool guys and we have their Google presentation with Q&A session for you below.
3D printing is interesting in its own right – you can make all sorts of cool objects. MakerBot’s Cupcake CNC printer is small enough to fit happily on your desk but still powerful enough to build models, cogs, and jewelry. The really cool possibilities, however, begin when you consider self replicating machines. Working alongside other teams, such as RepRap, MakerBot is helping edge their way closer to creating a machine that can build other machines. Once we have that capability our world may see every form of technology become available to everyone. That’s a distant goal, but people like Pettis and Hoeken are helping to take the first baby steps in its direction.
If you’re new to 3D printing, never heard of MakerBots, or just really like watching fun presentations, go ahead and enjoy all 50 minutes of the video. Of course, we’re not going to force you to do that. I mean, I think I have the only boss in the world that doesn’t mind me spending an hour just watching videos on Singularity Hub. Here are some highlights to help you browse:
- 3:12 MakerBot’s 3D printer, the Cupcake CNC, is portable, easily moved, and has made the rounds from city to city. Which leads to the coolest quote of the presentation, “Alcohol and Robots: a great combination.” The desktop device is actually small enough to fit in a Pelican case and travel on commercial planes (16:03).
- 4:23 Cool video of making a Darth Vader mask out of black ABS plastic. Is the Imperial March actually being played by the Cupcake’s motors? Awesome.
- Bre and Zack see 3D printing in the grander scheme of science fiction promises. Starting near 6:20 they put forth their argument that MakerBot is on the path to succeed as a replicator (as seen on Star Trek). A friend even printed out an object in Germany faster than it could be shipped – teleporter! (21:20)
- MakerBot is very committed to being open source (11:00). All the hardware parts, the designs, and the software are as accessible and hackable as they can make it. Tech details (13:45) are free online, and they use GPL licensing (35:15). Their next big project will likely be a 3D scanner (42:20) which will also be open source and will hopefully work seamlessly with the CupCake CNC.
- While MakerBot is unable to create objects in a conductive medium, like Shapeways 3D Stainless Steel printing, it does have a variety of available materials (23:08). Conductive materials are a possibility (47:17) but will undoubtedly take a while to produce.
- Just for laughs, check out the pyromania at 24:08, and learn why Lego lets them print out replacement blocks without a lawsuit (44:00).
Part of the fun of this entire presentation is watching the enthusiasm bubble out of Pettis and Hoeken. They obviously love what they do and it clearly is infectious among the likes of Google employees. Right now, self replicating machines are only a dream, and many may point to their power as a possible nightmare. Devices that could make infinite copies of themselves could easily be corrupted into a weapon of mass destruction. Looking at MakerBot, their open source dedication, and their love of their community, I am made hopeful that the future of replication is likely to be a rosy one.