Friday, June 20, 2014

Denver Mini Maker Faire 2014

I had never been to a Maker Faire before. This year, when Denver planned to have one on May 3-4, I knew I wanted to come. This year was Denver's first Maker Faire ever, so it was an excitingly new event for everyone. Along with booths and demonstrations, there were also presentations on a small stage every hour.


I thought that it would be all 3D printers and circuit boards, but I was happily proved wrong! There were all sorts of artists, scientists, and other booths that explored the other sides of the maker movement. I was a little right about the 3D printers, though- there were some handmade 3D printers, and there were also some store-bought ones, especially from MakerBot.

Here is a tour through what I enjoyed at the Maker Faire, roughly in the order that I walked through the complex. I'm sorry if I can't remember your booth name- please feel free to correct me by leaving a comment or sending me an email. I put the names that I am unsure of in quotes.



 Decibullz



This neat idea was centered around the use of moldable plastic- these earbuds would fit in your ears perfectly, allowing you to use them in extreme situations. I was impressed that you could use them while doing backflips on a trampoline, as the representative said he liked to do when wearing his Decibullz.

Epilog Laser



 

 

Although I've viewed Epilog's products before, I was amazed that they could do so many things, including bottle engraving and leather engraving. It was also neat to see their laser cutter whir back and forth, printing out a bunch of samples (see above video clip).

SparkFun




SparkFun's generosity at DMMF was unexpected and very cool. They gave away kits for people to solder at their station, with maybe 15 children and adults trying out soldering at a time. I got this BigTime watch (Arduino-powered) together in about 10 minutes. While I was working on it, a little girl dressed in a princess costume was learning how to solder with her grandfather, both sitting next to me. The watch, while impractically large, stayed on my wrist throughout the Maker Faire because it worked perfectly. The SparkFun staff at the Faire were also talkative and kind, and even though I didn't recognize any of them from the blog, it was nice to see some friendly faces.

pcDuino


    


The pcDuino is a single-board computer with Arduino headers. While the product may not be especially remarkable, the extraordinary representative from pcDuino made the whole experience of trying out the product enjoyable. He was so pumped about the product, it was hard not to be excited about the computer. After I tried it, the use of the pcDuino turned out to be pretty neat- it pushes code to itself, so you can try out all sorts of experiments without any other hardware.

Upcycled




This booth was selling goods made from used products, including old jeans, test tubes, and bike tubes. I thought that the small vase made from wood and a test tube on the lower left was especially interesting in the way that the recycled materials were used to make a totally new item. This nonprofit organization helps impoverished women learn life skills and make products to sell.


"Steampunk Store"




This booth caught my attention because of the attention to detail paid in each piece. Each one was a little slice of well-made steampunk craftsmanship- from jewelry boxes to hats to notebooks.

Inventivity Square



Inventivity Square is a proposal to build a complex for artist and maker housing and studios in Aurora. Although this was only an idea that was poked around, it was certainly an interesting one, and I was happy to chat with the booth members about how the proposal would turn out.

Pixel Plane





The Pixel Plane is a setup consisting of lots of circuitboards with LEDs on them, hooked up together to make a large, addressable panel. The demonstration caught my eye and it was cool to see the hardware up close when off.

Denver Mad Scientists Club (3DR 3D Printer)






The Denver Mad Scientists Club was a mashup of adults having loads of fun. At there display, there was a tennis ball shooter and small robots, but what caught my attention was this little 3DR printer. One of the gentlemen there explained in detail his struggles in building this printer and his aspirations for what he wants to see in his next printer. He was very talkative and interesting to listen to, and I would definitely look into their both next year to see how his build is progressing.

3D Printing Store




The 3D Printing Store had, obviously, lots of 3D printers. What I really liked about their display, though, were the range of pieces that they had out that displayed the marvels of 3D printing, such as a planetary gear set (see bottom left) and the use of acetone smoothing (see top left). I'm sure that these pieces provided better insight for those wondering what exactly that 3D printers could do. Also, they had another ubiquitous MakerBot printer around, shown here (bottom right) printing out some samples with knurling.

A Monster to Love




These adorable little guys were one of the interesting parts of DMMF that showed the target audience for makers is not only adults, but also children. I liked that the monsters were up for the kids to touch- I'm sure that lots of sales were made though that.

Donek Tools




This drag knife can be mounted to a CNC to cut out thick materials by using a cheap utility knife blade. I thought that it was a good deal to use a commonplace item as a refill- this means that the tool can be used and fixed easily by yourself.

Boxed Kit Amps




These little kits were pocket amplifiers and other musical equipment that you could build yourself. I played their guitar a bit to try out their pocket amplifier, which was well designed and fun to use. One of the most interesting parts of the pocket amplifier was that it would turn off once the cable was unplugged from it.

Cryptotronix



Cryptotronix demonstrated their products for securing communication to and from single-board computers such as the Raspberry Pi and the Beaglebone Black at their booth. One of the products that I liked the most was their Hashlet, which provides authentication and digital verification from a single-board computer.

"Tesla Art"




This was just a sampling of some of the non-electronic booths at DMMF. This artist specifically made interesting drawings that were in the theme of Nikola Tesla.

Solid State Depot




I didn't stay long at this booth, but the Solid State Depot makerspace has some talented members! The item pictured in the far above picture is a game controlled by the distance your hand is from the top of the box, and the item on the bottom is an amazingly thin watch that also plays Asteroids. Although the game on the bottom was malfunctioning, it was still an impressive piece of technology.

Colorado Springs 3D Printing and Maker Community






This booth was especially impressive because it had such a wide variety of handmade 3D printers. Although I cannot name the model on the bottom, the Reprap Prusa v2 pictured above was by far the most aesthetically pleasing Reprap I have ever seen. The elegant green plastic parts were printed with nearly invisible layers, the wires were zip-tied neatly to the supports, and the cabling was very well organized and professional. I was very impressed by this printer and the perfect prints it made, as well as the other printers at this booth.

Loveland CreatorSpace



I'm sorry that I don't remember this booth clearly, but I thought that it was pretty cool that the Loveland CreatorSpace was handing out 3D printed trinkets. All of the other booths sold or held on to their 3D printed items, but this booth gave their trinkets away. Although I didn't put this on my keychain, I did buy and put on a 3D printed Open Hardware trinket from a different booth.

Open Source Water Quality Sensors




These tools were designed to monitor the specifics of water chemistry. The one thing that I was amazed about was the amount of documentation put into each piece. The instruments pictured above are just a sampling of what they were showing at their booth.

Club Workshop



One of my favorite parts of the Faire was trying out the welding practice at Club Workshop's booth. It was my first time ever welding, and with the help of a friendly CW employee, it was very rewarding to see my welding joint come out looking good. On a bittersweet note, I managed to make it to their appearance at DMMF, but they are now closing. I really wish I would have been able to pursue welding classes there at some point, but I'm glad that Club Workshop piqued my interests in a new skill.

"Modified Rostock 3D Printer"






This person had a huge modified Rostock 3D printer sitting at their table, with at least a meter of z-axis and an equally impressive total build volume. The delta bot produced many fractal-inspired figures, as shown in the pictures above.

Lulzbot







I'd seen Lulzbot 3D printers before, but I was very impressed with the new Taz 4 3D printer that they brought. The Maker Faire was just a few days before the public release of the Taz 4, and the upgrades from the Taz 3 were impressive. Some were ones that I expected, such as putting in a bearing for the top of the z-axis linear rod (near left), and some were more unexpected, such as the addition of secure plugs for the different parts of the machine (near right). Their booth was very neat, and it was great to speak with the employees and get a peek at the Taz 4 before it was released.

Roland




Roland DGA's booth was interesting since it provided a live demonstration of its tools and provided abundant samples for attendees to look at. They had a CNC machine running and cutting out some sort of plastic material (upper left).

Universal Lasers




The laser engraver/cutter (far above) by Universal Lasers was, in performance and quality, very similar to Epilog's offerings. However, one of the most interesting parts of Universal Laser's product pitch was that they would match Epilog's prices for equivalent products. Food for thought, I suppose.

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And that was Denver's Mini Maker Faire in 2014. Full of exciting booths and interesting members, the Maker Faire was a joy to attend and I will definitely return next year!