Tim: Anthony, what’s happened in the last year with MakerBot?
Anthony: So it’s been a really really exciting year for MakerBot. So if you guys remember last year at CES we announced the new fifth generation line of MakerBot Desktop 3D printers. Got the MakerBot Replicator Z18, MakerBot Replicator Mini and the MakerBot Replicator Fifth Generation, so these were all announced at CES last year and we shipped them in Q1 and Q2 of 2014. So, it’s been a good year in getting these products out to people’s hands, getting people using them, getting people excited about this kind of new approach, a new paradigm for 3D printing. For Slashdot readers, they’ll be excited to know these are all Linux based products, they all run on operating system and because of that they got a bunch of pretty high level advanced features that a lot 3D printers in the space don’t have. They all have Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity, they have cameras onboard, they have onboard storage and they support a really rich application infrastructure. So in the early days of 3D printing and I thought of this a lot because I print all the time there is definitely a chain of pain in going from your object, to your models, to your output it’s just – this – it’s tedious. You go to this, you have to export it, you re-import it. It gets
Tim: What’s the value points?
Anthony: There is a ton of value points. And so, what we’ve done with this line of printers is offer connectivity so that this idea of seamless workflow that starts in the cloud and ends with your physical object. And that’s enabling people to build all kinds of new and exciting applications on top of our kind of backend software solution that makes the whole workflow really, really seamless.
Tim: What are some examples of how you might interact with that?
Anthony: So, one great partner is the company called Modio, that’s developed a tablet-based modeling system for generating kind of fun, action figure like toys, right? So they’ve got this cool tablet app, it runs on your iPad and it lets you customize and model these figures. No CAD skill required. And when you’re done you just hit print, it exports it, it goes up into the cloud, all seamlessly, all without you touching a thing and you’re ready to print, one button push at your replicator. So we’ve created kind of this ecosystem that supports storage of 3D models in the cloud, management of your 3D models in the cloud, a really easy application for pulling your models and moving them into your printers and printing those models and creating an open API that lets new other developers create cool apps for it on the content creation side and other ways is for them to plug in to our ecosystem for any types of parametric modeling or 3D content creation on tablet or mobile apps, scanning apps, anyone who is building these types of tools that is generating 3D content can plug into our ecosystem and easily print them on these machines.
Tim: So, even if somebody was unhappy with the total open source nature, they can still interact in a lot of ways?
Anthony: Absolutely. I mean, there is a lot of challenges to building this in open source. We want these printers are hot, they are dangerous, there are moving parts, there is safety concern, there is a lot of reasons that you can’t open everything up. But we want to make the system as open as possible so people can build and plan or sandbox and really get the most out of their printers. And we’re really committed to helping everyone who is developing 3D printing applications or 3D content creation applications, be a part of what we’re doing. And so, that’s kind of the right level of openness that we want to offer our customers and our partners. And we have a whole list of partners who are building stuff based on the tools that we have created.
Tim: I want to talk to you about sensors and about materials.
Tim: So I notice one of the pieces of hardware you’ve got out here is the MakerBot Digitizer.
Tim: And I saw this last year as well. But you mentioned that the new line also includes cameras.
Tim: Talk about what you’re using the cameras for, is it possible to integrate some scanning functions or is it for placement of ICs of what are they for?
Anthony: So, 3D scanning is a very difficult problem. It’s a very new technology. It’s much newer than 3D printing. And it’s a really, it’s a nascent emerging industry and it’s a hard math problem. So 3D scanning – 3D scanners in our market today are I think it really just very earliest incarnation of where it is going. The digitizer is the first step. And the digitizer uses a technology called structured light, where it projects a laser line, onto your object, your object spins and there is a camera in this that captures the laser line and reconstructs it out of a series of scans. So you can get a reasonable reconstruction of your object. So talking about the 3D ecosystem, this scanner and other scanners from other companies are all input points. They are always getting content into that ecosystem so it can be easily printed. That said, the camera and sensors on board the Fifth Generation Replicators are not sophisticated enough to do any kind of meaningful 3D scanning or image processing. It’s just a hard math problem. But we do use these cameras for sharing of finished prints, but more importantly for mobile and remote monitoring. So with the latest version of MakerBot Desktop and MakerBot firmware we can use the cameras onboard and you can monitor your print from your mobile phone anywhere in the world.
Tim: And if you are using that app, the MakerSpace?
Anthony: If you’re using a MakerSpace.
Tim: You’re miles away and want to see them.
Anthony: Exactly. I mean, one way of doing, I mean, what I’d like to do, if I’ve got my printers running at home which I always do, I can check the status on my phone. I can show this to my friends. There is a little bit of an element of pride around it.
Tim: Oh let me
Anthony: I thought that was out, oh there you go. We can say it is announced, right?
Tim: Well, let me and start with a question about, let's just start that one again.
Anthony: Okay, alright.
Tim: So Anthony one of the pieces of hardware you’ve got here on the floor is the MakerBot Digitizer. And you have got a model on here and you can use that as an obviously input device.
Tim: But you mentioned also that there are cameras that are in the newer generation MakerBot are they also good enough for scanning?
Anthony: So 3D scanning is a very new industry. The technology is really just starting to emerge right now. It’s much newer than 3D printing and it’s a really hard problem. It’s a thing that universities – and it’s new research. It’s an imaging processing problem. It’s complicated. And so, the way the digitizer works is that it uses the technology called structured light where a laser line is projected on your object. Your object spins and the camera picks up the laser line as a profile and reconstructs your image. A sophisticated software application reconstructs your image from a series of those lines and you can get an output. So this is one of those other entry points in that 3D ecosystem that I mentioned that lets people who aren’t 3D modelers who don’t necessarily know CAD get objects into a world where they can print them. And that ecosystem is compatible with not just this 3D scanner, but any 3D scanner, any of the competitor 3D scanner, so that’s a really positive step forward.
Tim: It goes straight to SDL?
Anthony: It’s goes straight to SDL and it’s ready to print, but that said, this is – it’s still – it’s hard and it’s still – there is a lot of work to making this a better technology and more accessible technology and we’re working on it, we’ve got stuff coming down the pipeline that’s going to be an exciting way for people to scan and getting more input into that ecosystem. The cameras that are on board the new – the fifth generation replicators are not even close to sophisticated enough for any kind of meaningful scanning or reconstruction, but they are great for those remote monitoring. So from your desktop application you can see your print, you can see the status and you can get an actual image of what’s happening on your build platform from your application on the network.
Tim: So if you are making a model down the street at the maker space, you can still check it at two in the morning and see if it is working?
Anthony: So coming later this quarter in the first quarter, we’re going to have a software update that lets you monitor your print from anywhere in the world on your mobile phone or your tablet, so you can use it check your print, you can actually see if the printer in the maker space is in use. All these kind of simple ways of checking what’s going on in your system, remotely showing it off to your friends, it’s a very cool feature and there is a lot of other applications that are coming from it. One of the things that we’re talking about a lot this year at CES is the idea of an innovation center which is a network of dozens of MakerBots, so we have one installed at University in Florida for Florida Poly that has 50 something MakerBots on there that work together with a single application that’s controlling them. And because of the camera on board the administrator of that network can see what’s happening in all those bots from one command center, so this is the product offering we’re offering to universities and schools, and letting people kind of take advantage of that connectivity piece that ecosystem piece for running multiple printers, you know maybe running a distribution center or fulfillment centers, so these are the types of applications we’re hoping to enable next year.
Tim: Can you talk a little bit about software and hardware and infrastructure really.
Tim: One thing you haven’t mentioned yet is the consumables. Talk about the materials, what have been the advances this year?
So I think the next great frontier in 3D printing is going to be
in the materials right, everybody asked me I don’t want this
machine just makes more plastic trinkets. I don’t need more
plastic junk in my house, and I hear that all the time, and I think
one of the most exciting things that we’re announcing here at
CES this year is that we’re supporting a new line of specialty
polymers, new advanced materials in all kinds of exotic things that
have never been seen in the 3D printing world before, we’re
offering a magnetizable material which is ferrous it’s got a
metallic feel, and if you could feel, you could feel it’s dense
and heavy, we’ve got a new wood based material, we’ve got
a bronze material and a whole line of new polymers that are coming
down the pipe, this is a brand new material technology, this is
created for joint venture of MakerBot Stratasys and another
company... that is not public yet either.
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