Maker Faires provide a unique space for makers to show their craft to engage in collaboration with the rest of the maker community in fun events. You might want to think about it if you’re looking to spend dollars to exhibit in one, though, as Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard learned the hard way at the San Diego Maker Faire. Listen as they talk about their not-so-great experience in San Diego and explain the value that you can get from trade shows and makerspaces. This segment is a great inside peek at how makerspaces impact the 3D printing industry and the rest of the maker community.
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San Diego Maker Faire
This is the San Diego Maker Faire recap.
If you’re a regular follower to our podcast 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 from the show floor. We did that at the 3D Print Show in Pasadena, California, and 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 show in our 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 close to Downtown San Diego.
The main public park and they have museums as a part of it.
All the museums are spread out into all these different buildings. This is a giant ground 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 had exciting things like a life-size foosball and 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 watch your eyes or whatever.
They had the 3D printing section. It had its section. We were going to speak over in that area about Profit-Making Makers and so that didn’t happen. This is the thing, 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, but as a speaker and maybe even as an exhibitor, I don’t know how much it cost to exhibit there. We had to spend money, bring our people there, and put together a booth. I am 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 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. 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 so you know where and when to go. 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 got a copy of what’s supposed to be a flyer for our talk. It was a poster. It said Exhibitor at the top instead of Speaker. They didn’t have any way to change that because it’s an automated system that generates these things. That was a flag. When we got there, the orientation is all geared towards volunteers and exhibitors. Considering how big it is, they needed orientation for that. We wasted our time going there to have a five-minute conversation with some guy.
Who showed us the speaker schedule and there we are scheduled to speak at 11:00 AM on Saturday, the first day of the show. I was like, “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 scheduled to speak Sunday afternoon, which was a day that we were unavailable to speak.
We had traveled there twice. We got there and I’m not speaking. We went to see the stage after we got 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.
Not only was there nobody speaking, 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 a bit of a cautionary tale. We applaud makerspaces and Maker Faires, 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 and everything that had to happen. You were mobilizing an army of volunteers to make it happen. Unfortunately, there were a lot of details that were not well organized and planned or even thought through.
It’s not that the event wasn’t great and fun to attend. The problem is, if you’re there for business reasons, we’re professionals. There were exhibitors there who are professionals. This is their business to demonstrate their 3D printers and services. You’re spending money to go to an event, which wasn’t geared for a professional community. It’s geared for a youth orientation and to have fun. It wasn’t described that way. We had not been into 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.
Even that one. I agree it was.
From an exhibitor standpoint, from a professional speaker standpoint, that’s 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 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 if alumni can go to it, but it’s definitely for students.
There’s 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 thinks that 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. She was 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. 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.
One evening, with somebody on Facebook who was binge-reading our blog. He had to stop and communicate with us with a direct message through Facebook saying, “I can’t believe you get the good stuff out of your MakerBot.” I was like, “We do. I know people have had problems with this.”
I want to go on record here. 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 had significant problems, and he’s like, “How do you get good quality?” I was like, “I don’t know, but you can go on our 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.Makerspaces are incubators that help turn inventions and ideas into business. Click To Tweet
Once a week.
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 and we got lucky, but we get great prints.
Reality is we don’t know why, but we do get quality out of it.
Some of the other things. Did you see anything else that was fun?
I did. There was a cool incubator group that we found geared around products 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 was great. There they were, right there in the Maker Faire trying to help product-based companies grow, which is a real mess. 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 and 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 on what they’re doing in the 3D print community.
This is a significant, important service that people need to consider because we’ve been talking to a lot of entrepreneur and inventors’ groups. One of the things is that 3D printing is 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. Yes, it’s going to piece part cost-wise more 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. Yes, the piece part cost can be lower but at the expense of volume and tooling.
We’re going to have that on a show because that topic is worth exploring further.
Circle back to the incubator’s group.
The incubator’s 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 the website.
It is 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.
We’ll go check them out some more.
The other two significant companies that we saw at the Maker Faire. First is 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.
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 a new version of the AXIOM that has some new features. We’re looking forward to doing another follow-up review of their printer with them. The other people we saw who we haven’t seen at some of the other shows is XYZprinting. They have a wider growing range of 3D printers. They offer FFF 3D printers but also some resin printers. They’re located in San Diego. They’re not far from us. It’s easy for us to go and have an on-site interview there and learn a lot more about that company and their printers. We’re excited about that.
Go out to Maker Faires. It’s worth it. It is fun for the family and 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 is worth visiting on the exhibiting and presenting side. I will carefully consider whether or not it’s your audience. If you’re more on the makerspace side and you want to meet makers, then yes, that’s the place to meet a bunch of makers and a bunch of maker wannabes. That’s where a lot of those people are coming that they wish they could make or they’re thinking about making.
They’re learning how to make. What I want to do is 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 years ago. I want to go to a bigger one. Maybe in New York and experience that. Hopefully, we’ll have some different results.
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 future episodes.
- Maker Faire
- San Diego Fab Lab
- Startup Weekend
- New York Maker Faire
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