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San Diego Maker Faire

06/18/2016 @ 06/18/2016 - 06/19/2016 @ 06/19/2016 PDT

WTF 109 | San Diego Maker Faire

Trade shows are one of the best ways to showcase your products and talents. However, it is ideal to understand which show is ideal for your niche. In this episode, Tom and Tracy Hazzard discuss the importance of finding the right trade show for your needs as they explain their experience at the 2015 San Diego Maker Faire. They talk about the companies and start-ups they saw and their observations as to how the fair was organized. Don’t miss this episode so you can choose wisely and learn when and how to showcase your 3D print products.

Listen to the podcast here:

San Diego Maker Faire

Have you been working on a special project you’d love to show the world? Do you need a deadline to bring closure to a long-idle passion pursuit? Want to rally friends to co-create something wonderful to share? Now is the time to plan, apply, and get your project gears in motion!

Be a part of San Diego’s first Maker Faire in North County!

So much is happening with making in San Diego county and now there’s more!

Schools and libraries and universities and museums and maker spaces are all excitedly joining  the maker movement and reveling in it. Makers of all ages are expressing their ideas and sharing their creations at Maker Faire. First they did it at the Fairgrounds in 2013 then at Balboa Park in 2015 and in June they’ll have a new opportunity in north county.

The San Diego Makers Guild will be staging the North County Mini Maker Faire at theAmerican Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista on June 18 and 19. We feel very strongly that one Maker Faire downtown isn’t enough. North County is an area that’s rich with makers and full of making activity. Along with AGSEM, we want to hold a celebration of all the good things that are happening in North County.

San Diego Maker Faire recap.

I guess we can call it that. If you’re a regular follower to our show and read our blogs, you know that it’s trade show season. We’ve been getting out of the studio more to bring you more news and events right from the show floor. We did that at the 3D Print Show in Pasadena, California and we went to the San Diego Maker Faire.

I was supposed to give a talk there called Profit Making for Makers.

We’re excited about that. We had met and did an early episode in our podcast journey at San Diego Fab Lab. They were involved in organizing the San Diego Maker Faire. It was a big production.

It was ambitious. It was in Balboa Park, which is close to Downtown San Diego.

Also, the main public park. They have museums as a part of it.

All the museums are spread out into all these different buildings. This is giant grounds to have a fair on. They added all these different stations. They had fourteen different ones.

They had all different categories of making.

Robotics, drones and everything. I have to say bring your kids. It would have been totally fun. It was interesting. They have exciting things like a life-size foosball and a gigantic marshmallow launchers. They had a lot of things that kids can go participate in.

They had actual drone battles. They had to warn you about potential projectiles flying through the air that weren’t going to hurt you but just watch your eyes.

They had the 3D printing section. It had its own section. We were going to speak over in that area about profit-making for makers but that didn’t happen. It’s a cool event and it was ambitious. I applaud Fab Lab San Diego for taking it that big. As an attendee, it was great. As a speaker and maybe even as an exhibitor, I don’t know how much it cost to exhibit there but had we had to spend money, bring our people there and put together a booth, I’d be a little worried about the organization. That’s the part that bothered me a little bit because it was difficult to navigate. There were no maps anywhere. There was just, “This is an area.” There was no, “Your booth is here.” There was no list of what talks were going on. There were talks supposedly going on all over the grounds. Nobody even knew about it.

That was the most disappointing thing for us. At most trade shows that we go to, there are exhibitors and then there is usually a presentation space or a hall where speeches and talks are being given, even panel discussions and things like that. Those things are publicized and there’s a schedule. You as an attendee know when different talks are going to be going on that you might want to listen to. You know where and when to go and you can go watch exhibits the rest of the time that you’re going to be at the show.

You can pick and choose. We went to this special orientation a week ahead of time. There were a lot of red flags that went up. First off, they notified us ten days in advance that they wanted us to talk. We get a copy of what’s supposed to be a flyer for our talk poster and it says exhibitor at the top instead of speaker. They don’t have any way to change that because it’s some automated system that generates these things. That was a flag. When we get there, the orientation is all geared towards volunteers and exhibitors. Considering how big it is, they definitely needed an orientation for that. We wasted our time going there to have a five-minute conversation with some guy.

The guy showed us the speaker schedule and we were scheduled to speak at 11:00 AM on Saturday, the first day of the show. “Okay, that works for us. Where’s it going to be?” We came back on the day of the event only to find out that we were not on the schedule to speak on Saturday. It somehow changed. We were on the schedule to speak Sunday afternoon, which was a day that we were unavailable to speak.

We had traveled there twice. We get there and I’m not speaking, then we go to see the stage after we get our press passes to walk around the show. The stage is blocked off by booths. You can’t even get up there. It’s completely blocked off and the person who’s supposed to be speaking isn’t there.

There was not only nobody speaking there or there was somebody supposed to be speaking at that time, but also there was no audience to speak to.

They couldn’t have heard you if you were speaking.

There were only about maybe 20 or 25 chairs set up in a strange way. Unfortunately, it was not a proper or professional venue to be speaking at. It was not set up properly and it was not promoted. We don’t want this to sound like a terrible rant about this. It’s not meant to be that. It’s just a bit of a cautionary tale. We applaud makerspaces and Maker Fairs. They’re important to help reach out to the community and for everybody to get involved more in these steam activities and efforts for sure.

Credit where credit is due. Fab Lab San Diego and the people who organized this spent a lot of time organizing a hard event to pull off on a big scale. They’ve been planning this for over a year in terms of getting the permits. Everything that had to happen because you were mobilizing an army of volunteers to make it happen, but unfortunately, there were a lot of details that were not well organized and planned or even thought through.

WTF 109 | San Diego Maker Faire

San Diego Maker Faire: Makerspaces are actual incubators that help creators turn an invention idea into a business.


It’s not that the event wasn’t great fun to attend. The problem is if you’re there for business reasons. We’re professionals and there are exhibitors there who are professionals. This is their businesses to demonstrate their 3D printers and services. You’re spending money to go to an event, which isn’t geared for a professional community. It’s geared for a youth orientation and have fun. It wasn’t described that way. Because we had not been to a Maker Faire, we weren’t well aware of that. That’s something to think carefully about. When you have trade show dollars that you’re spending because you’re in 3D print businesses here, you need to think about where you’re going to get the most for your money there. I have to say that for that purpose, the 3D Print Show in California was much better, SoCal MakerCon was better.

From an exhibitor standpoint, from a professional speaker standpoint, that’s just not the right environment for that. If you’re a makerspace, go there. It’s completely fun for that. We did see a few interesting things. We talked to the San Diego State University makerspace. They have their own lab on campus and it’s cross-divisional. You can go any degree that you’re pursuing and you can still belong to this. It is for San Diego State University students only. I’m not sure that alumni can go to it, but it’s definitely for students.

There are a lot of colleges promoting this. What I thought was interesting was I met someone who was studying business and was there in the 3D print studio all the time. This is the most interesting part. They have a lot of printers there. We get a lot of harassment from you guys out there who are in the tech community that you think there is something wrong because we like our MakerBot. That’s a bit snobbish, to be honest with you.

It depends on people’s experience with printers.

We test a lot of printers here and yet at the end of the day, we still come back and use our MakerBot for a lot of things because for what we print, it prints well. She confirmed that same thing with me. Here she is saying they have all these printers in the lab and yet even the other lab that has higher-tech printers sends files over to use the MakerBot for certain things. It is right for a specific type of print, for what you want to print. I feel a little validated in that. We defend that all the time, but we do get a lot of Facebook and Twitter harassment on our choice of us still using a MakerBot.

I was surprised with somebody on Facebook who was binge-listening to our podcasts. He had to stop and communicate to us with a direct message through Facebook saying, “I can’t believe you get good stuff out of your MakerBot.” I was like, “We do. I know people have had problems with this.”

MakerBot doesn’t pay us anything. They’re not a sponsor of this show. We are not paid to say that. We have no relationship with them.

We have experience with the MakerBot fifth generation printer and it works. I know other people have had problems with theirs. This person who had communicated this time had significant problems. He’s like, “How the heck do you get good quality?” I was like, “I don’t know, but you can go on our YouTube channel and you can see time-lapse photos of things that we are printing so you can see we’re being honest about it.”

We’ve been running it 24 hours a day for almost 30 days straight. We have jams and we have these things but it’s minor. Maybe their quality control is not so good there and that one printer’s good and the next one’s not. That may be part of their problem. We got lucky that we get great prints.

The reality is we don’t know why, but we do get quality out of it.

Did you see anything else that was fun?

There was a cool incubator group that we found geared around product and makers in San Diego. It’s a local thing there.

It was more geared towards invention. It was like an inventor’s incubator, which is great. They were right there in the Maker Faire. They’re trying to help product-based companies grow, which is a real miss. The money is all going towards tech, software, apps and all kinds of companies like that. The ones that are going for product-based companies, they’re few and far between. It’s nice to see a lot of these makerspaces. In this case, it’s an actual incubator that helps them turn an invention idea to business.

Besides the incubator, we found an interesting company in San Diego called SD3D. They are a service bureau company that has a range of different 3D printers. They are out there to help small and emerging manufacturing companies who are developing a product do short-run 3D printing. They’ll do 1, 10, 100 or 1,000 of an object. It’s whatever you need. They claim to do it faster and less expensively than your average service bureaus and give you a much higher level of service. We met the Founder and CEO David Feeney there. We’ve arranged to do a follow up entire episode on what they’re doing in 3D print community.

This is a significant and important service that people need to consider because we’ve been talking to a lot of entrepreneur group and inventor’s groups. 3D printing being used as an avoidance of tooling, as a way to low cost start your product, do some testing, and get it out there. You got to be able to make 500 to 1,000 pieces of something. That takes a lot of time to print that yourself. Being able to use a service bureau where they have many printers that can print all at once, you can do it in a reasonable timeframe at a reasonable cost. It’s going to cost more for piece part cost-wise than injection molding or doing these things, but you didn’t shell out tooling.

Less than if you printed injection molded and made tens of thousands. That’s where you get an economy of scale. The piece part cost can be lower but at the expense of volume and tooling.

We’re definitely going to have that on our show because that topic is worth exploring further.

Circle back to the incubator group.

The incubator group is having an event. That’s what I wanted to point out. It’s called Startup Weekend. It is sponsored by Google for entrepreneurs. It’s called Mega. It’s San-Diego.up.co. Check it out on their website.

It’s definitely worth looking into. We want to keep an eye on that group. They’re doing something different that we want to follow. We may have some more news to report on that in the future. The other two significant companies that we saw at the Maker Faire was Airwolf. They had a rather modest presentation booth at that show. We covered them in detail at the 3D Print Show in Pasadena.

They were showing their Axiom printer.

There were not much new to cover there, but I want to mention that certainly they were there.

We’re looking forward to covering their dual extrusion. It’s interesting.

It’s a new version of the Axiom that has some new features. We’re looking forward to doing another follow-up episode and review of their printer with them. The other people we saw who we haven’t seen at some of the other recent shows is XYZPrinting. They have a wider growing range of 3D printers they offer from FFF 3D printers but also some resin printers. We’re going to be having a specific interview with them as well. They’re located in San Diego so they’re not far from us. It’s easy for us to go have an on-site interview there and learn a lot more about that company and their printers. We’re excited about that.

Definitely go out to Maker Faires. It’s worth it. It’s fun for the family, fun for you to see some things, see some execution of what’s coming out of 3D printing, CNC, and all of the different technologies that makers are using. It’s definitely worth visiting. On the exhibiting and presenting side, I’d carefully consider whether or not it’s your audience. If you’re more on the makerspace side and you want to meet makers, then that’s the place to meet a bunch of makers and a bunch of maker wannabes because that’s where a lot of those people are coming. They wish they could make or they’re thinking about making.

They’re learning how to make. What I want to do next is I want to go to the New York Maker Faire. That one is more well-established. It’s been going on for several years. The San Diego one was new. They did a smaller version of it. I want to go to a bigger one maybe in New York and experience that. Hopefully, we’ll have some different results to share about that.

You have to consider your dollars. Think about that carefully as you’re spending. There’s a lot of the same audience going to these various shows up and down the coast here in California. You do want to carefully consider because you probably will overlap with the diehard audience who’s interested in learning 3D printing. They’re going to as many events as possible.

We promised you all we would report on the San Diego Maker Faire. There it is. It’s not quite the experience we had hoped for.

I was hoping to have lots of videos. It’s sad that we don’t but we’ll have more coming up from SoCal MakerCon and maybe another time.

We’re looking forward to that event. Thanks for reading, everyone. We look forward to talking to you again on a future episode.

Important Links:


Maker Faire


Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum
2040 N Santa Fe Avenue
Vista, CA 92083 United States
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