Shapeways Employs The Crowd-Coalesced “Digi-Contest” As An Unbeatable, Online, 3DP-Marketing Tool To Delight Its User “Community”

There’s hardly anything we humans like as much as a high-public, audience-drawing, skill-spotlighting, award-presenting contest—especially if we’re among the baying contestants. Each of us with a firm belief that ours is the prize…by birthright if not pure dumb luck…

Shapeways Masters "Digi-Contest" Marketing with "Prototype to Product" Challenge

Shapeways Masters “Digi-Contest” Marketing with “Prototype to Product” Challenge

In this age of the Internet, Social Media and YouTube, any contest that can be digitally storified and glorified has the delightful opportunity of going viral (literally) at the speed of light. As a digital artifact, The Digi-Contest can draw on diverse forms of online-assembled and crowd-coalesced—and important— vectors at many levels. These vectors can be comprised of contestants; audiences; customers; partners; media-players; competitors; brand-awareness; word-of-mouth; goodwill…

Organizations of every stripe are now leveraging the Digi-Contest to further their commercial and/or common-good interests. The diversity of players in this new mode of crowd-participation, marketing and goodwill-building is broad.

At one extreme is the City of New York’s “Big App” challenges to develop mobile applications—derived from “Mayor Mike’s” [Bloomberg] new public-accessibility to City real-time Big Data—for smartphone using citizens. At an opposite extent is the X Prize Foundation that “designs and manages public competitions intended to encourage technological development that could benefit mankind”…with a mission to bring about “radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity through incentivized competition. It fosters high-profile competitions that motivate individuals, companies and organizations across all disciplines to develop innovative ideas and technologies that help solve the grand challenges that restrict humanity’s progress.”

By comparison to such sweeping and splendid Digi-Contest programs, Shapeways’ challenges are modest—but nonetheless effective in the overall promotion of Shapeways and its brand among the loyal communities of service-bureau customers it has fostered.

The Formlabs Form 1 + Desktop 3D Printer: First Prize in Shapeways latest Digi-Contest

The Formlabs Form 1 + Desktop 3D Printer: First Prize in Shapeways latest Digi-Contest

Shapeways of New York City (Manhattan administrative offices and Queens factory) recently announced the results of its latest competition—a set-to it entitled the “Prototype to Product Contest.” Shapeways partnered with Formlabs of Somerville, MA to offer a brand-new Formlab Form 1 + desktop printer as the Grand Prize for the one-and-only top finisher (with lesser prizes for other less-exulted finishers).

Here’s how Shapeways framed its (clever marketing) ploy: “Shapeways and Formlabs are partnering to help bring ideas to reality with the ‘Prototype to Product’ 3D Printing Contest. To enter the contest, submit a 3D model that you would prototype in high resolution on a Form 1 desktop printer and then print in one of 40 materials as a final product with Shapeways.” After drawing nearly 300 designs, the Contest ended officially on June 30, 2014 and the winners were announced on 8 July.

The Grand Prize Winner was MakeMeister for his “BritePod: Re-Hackable, Modular Mini Projector.”

MakeMeister's BritePod: Re-Hackable, Modular Mini Projector: the Grand Prize Winner in Shapeways "Prototype to Product" Digi-Contest

MakeMeister’s BritePod: Re-Hackable, Modular Mini Projector: the Grand Prize Winner in Shapeways “Prototype to Product” Digi-Contest

Shapeways has made a competitive advantage out of its community-building. It continues to devise ways to delight its community members. Shapeways’ Digi-Contest initiatives offer a subtle means to please its populations of users without appearing to market and ultimately sell. But, if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…perhaps Shapeways will 3D print it for you…

C’mon Back!



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Living (Hyper-Tech) Organically—The Race To Build 3D Printed Habitations Continues To Accelerate!

The Bits2Atoms Paradigm of 3DP—Digital Thoughts Into Directed Things—Continues To Disrupt Ever-Larger Objects In Our Personal Physical Landscapes: New Companies Are Now Trying To 3D-Printing Things In Which To Live AND Joining-In An Informal Contest To Claim “The First With The Most” 3DP’d House…

"3D Printed House 1.0"-Perspective: by American design-firm Emerging Objects Corp. of Oakland, CA.

“3D Printed House 1.0″-Perspective: by American design-firm Emerging Objects Corp. of Oakland, CA.

The vision of 3D-Printed habitation seduces everyone who makes the imaginative leap from “hold” to “held.” We vault to new perspectives by scaling up the hand-cupped object—in our mind’s eye—to the object that “cups” an entire family. Voila! The 3D-printed “house.”

Alas, “house” is a word too rectilinear. It doesn’t bespeak the bespoke. The “house’s” paucity of flex in design makes it staid and sterile—and strait-jacketing.

Could it be the straight-laced containers — in which we’ve been forced to live since our loss of the cave, the wigwam and the yurt — are insanity conducive? Inamicable to human customized shapes and organic forms and fluid life-regimens that complement the human body—a supple and shape-shifting object without a single, physical, straight line.

Our first habitat—the womb—is ovoid: an infinite curve to egg on our analog desires. After that sinuous beginning, “straight” is the inorganic shortcut between to points with no algorithm for the beauty of meander.

Until habitation-scaled 3D printing, the escape from angled joins to amoebic continuities was impossible with commercial ROI.

A half dozen organizations around the world have been competing—over the last year or two—to claim the bragging rights to 3D printed-house “firsts.” (See 3DPI’s latest story on the Amsterdam Canal House—one of the leading contenders in this hotting-up, 3DP-habitation contest. Or, our earlier 3DP-housing piece on University of Southern California’s “Robotic Building Construction Using Contour Crafting.” Or, for mind—and body!—bending, check out our report on the integrated 3DP’ing of “Small Transportable Living” in a 50-foot square variation of a mobile mini-house.)

"3D Printed House 1.0"-Plan: showing organic shapes to major "rooms."

“3D Printed House 1.0″-Plan: showing organic shapes to major “rooms.”

Now, we have another Additive-Manufactured housing project—designed, managed and made for Beijing clients—by the American design-house Emerging Objects Corp. of Oakland, CA. (Perhaps it’s natural for a country with the world’s largest population and a chronic need for new ways to scale habitation-output to meet demand for housing—of whatever kind—with 3D printing.)

Addressing that Chinese housing-need head on, Emerging Objects calls itself a “MAKE-tank at the forefront of 3D printing architecture.”

The innovative Emerging Objects “house” in Beijing—“3D Printed House 1.0”— is a hybrid concept: in several creative senses of the phrase. First, it’s both right-angled and organically curved. The house plan could be seen as a group of gourds embedded in—and erupting out of—rectilinear slabs and planes. Second, the building process engages both local workers and construction management in Beijing and Emerging Objects “experts from afar” with the necessary innovative architectural designs, technological vision and new-maker/builder skill sets. And, third, the actual “house building” involves a mix of unusual building materials and “pierced-textures” treatments, e.g., cement polymers and crystallized, translucent salts.

Emerging Objects further explains that, “Our innovation lies in our unique approach to materials and sizes and our belief that 3D printing is the medium where good ideas become real. We provide 3D printing design, consultation and fabrication services and leverage our expertise in material development to help our customers create compelling designs that are unable to be achieved any other way.”

"3D Printed House 1.0"-Rooms: learning to live on the "curve."

“3D Printed House 1.0″-Rooms: learning to live on the “curve.”

“3D Printed House 1.0” will ask its Beijing inhabitants to rethink how life is lived in innovative habitations. From people interaction to privacy to the practicality of furniture and closets…or not. It’s also an absolutely gorgeous art piece—and great art can be notoriously difficult to life with—let alone in. (See any number of masterpieces of architectural “art” by Frank Lloyd Wright.)

That said, Emerging Objects is advancing the art, science and habitability of 3DP’s plane- and line-breaking habitations. Humans abiding in “3D Printed House 9.0” may be able to get their minds “around” the new arc of living with a new art of habitation.

C’mon Back!


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World Maker Faire New York 2014 Is Coming Back To Town: City Makers Turn Out For “Town Hall” In Prep

The folks at Maker Media, Inc. (MM of Sebastopol, CA) are as “hands-on” as their eTinker, 3DPer and DigiFabber constituents in the Maker Movement. (I think MM should get the lion’s share of the credit for—if not founding, exactly—helping to coalesce, support and nurture this dynamic community worldwide.) The MM Team goes to where the action is to make (good) things happen…hands-on!


The Illuminated Maker Media “Man” outside World Maker Faire NY '14 Town Hall at the new Kickstarter HQ in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 10 July 2014

The Illuminated Maker Media “Man” outside World Maker Faire NY ’14 “Town Hall” at the new Kickstarter HQ in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 10 July 2014

Approximately 30% to 35% of all MM’s Maker Faire activity is directly related to 3D printing. So, as the Maker Movement grows—at a furious pace, as measured by the MM’s booming Maker Faire business (see below)—“Makerism” and its Digital Fabrication base is likely to be a major driver of 3DP education and popularization.

As a kind of hybrid commercial/common-good organization (but very-much a business), Maker Media addresses Maker-centric issues of all kinds across what is now a rich ecosystem. MM is focused on delivering the Maker message, “toolkit” and ethos as widely as possible. Maker Media accomplishes its mission via media publishing (MAKE Magazine), event production (Maker Faires), online merchandizing (Maker Shed) and player-coalescing (, the Making in Education programs and more) at multiple levels.

Thursday night (10 July) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Maker Media came to the Techreative Borough to host a “Town Hall” around their upcoming (20 & 21 September) 5th AnnualWorld Maker Faire New York 2014 at NYSCI (New York Hall of Science) in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens.

In truth, World Maker Faire New York has—in the five years since its debut—now become “New York Maker Week.” In 2013, “Mayor Mike” Bloomberg proclaimed “Maker Week” (a la “Fashion Week”) and MM & “Partners” (local and otherwise) managed to put on—or contribute to—10 major ancillary events in the week before World Maker Faire itself. These ranged from the “Hardware Innovation Workshop” to “Education Day” to the “Make a Makerspace Workshop.”

For last week’s Town Hall, MM put out the call to its faithful: local Makers, educators, collaborators, partners, exhibitors, non-profits, public/private partnerships and government supporters. Maker Media gathered them all in—at the new HQ and home of Kickstarter, NYC’s innovative startup-crowdsourcer—in far north Williamsburg. (Kickstarter holds the undisputed title as the driver of more desktop 3D printer development than any other organization in the world…perhaps KS should create a special division and call it “3DPStarter.”)

John Dimatos, Kickstarter Spokesperson (white shirt) & Sherry Huss, Maker Media VP (far right), Presenters at World Maker Faire New York 2014 "Town Hall" 10 July 2014

John Dimatos, Kickstarter Spokesperson (white shirt) & Sherry Huss, Maker Media VP (far right), Presenters at World Maker Faire New York 2014 “Town Hall” 10 July 2014

These days, event production—in the form of its booming “Maker Faire” franchise—is MM’s “growth engine” offering. In 2013—according to Maker Faire Co-Founder, traveling Team Leader, primary spokesperson and MM VP Sherry Huss Thursday night—Maker Media managed to help Maker communities, from all over the world, expand that “boom.” Sherry announced—with understandable pride—that MM assisted in successfully staging 100 variously sized Maker Faires, based on its continually evolving model, last year.

These Faires took place in organizational locations (hey—just in the last six weeks or so—The White House Maker Faire, Maimonides Medical Center MiniMaker Faire for Nurse Makers in Brooklyn, and others), towns, cities and major metro-areas worldwide in 2013. Ms. Huss further remarked that “over 530,000 people experienced those [100] Faires.” Sherry also stated that the largest Maker Faire growth last year was in Europe—reconfirming the international nature of the Maker Movement.

World Maker Faire New York Invites The World's Makers To Join-In For The 2014 Faire Edition

World Maker Faire New York Invites The World’s Makers To Join-In For The 2014 Faire Edition

I suspect that the 37% growth (2013 over 2012) of the Maker Faires’ aggregate “gate” encouraged Maker Media to proclaim 2014 “The Year of the Maker.” Sherry Huss told the Town Hall audience that this tagline—and emphasis—would be used at World Maker Faire, too. Buttressing this natural Maker constituency spotlighting, Sherry and MM have also said the following: “The Maker Movement has reached new heights over the last year, impacting the way people are learning, creating, sharing, and collaborating on hobby projects, new inventions, and product enhancements. [In 2014, we] will showcase this electric enthusiasm for making and bring together the community that exemplifies the maker spirit.”

Here are the highlights of the rest of Thursday night’s Town Hall, garnered from MM staff presentations, comments by showcased partners, the revelatory Q&A, my individual discussions with Maker Media Team members in breakout sessions and my exchanges in the hospitality-driven meeting-epilog:


  • Adding to World Maker Faire’s growth promise, MMers and the audience-member Makers—at the Williamsburg Town Hall—seem to agree with other knowledgeable players in one important strategic point. NYC appears to be developing into America’s epicenter for Digital Fabrication and 3DP—outstripping Silicon Valley in this disrupting-creativity segment. As 3DP technology continues to grow in empowerment and drop in delivered price—particularly on the desktop—more Makers will employ Additive Manufacturing in their “making.”
  • Given the booming, demonstrated growth-rates at Maker Faires in aggregate (2013 over 2012)—and extrapolating from the attendance figures of last year’s World Maker Faire New York (75,000)—this year’s Faire in the City could see 100,000 through the gates over its two weekend days of 20 and 21 September.
  • As additional confirmations of international Maker Movement growth, MM has well-advanced plans to found a third “Flagship” Maker Faire in London, at Olympic Park, in the Summer of 2015. (This will add to this year’s original two: Maker Faire Bay Area in San Francisco and World Maker Faire in New York.)
  • Sherry Huss and the MM Team also showcased the potential leverage and multiplier effects of New York City—the planet’s most diverse mega-city—as THE world hub of international Makerism. Maker Media’s World Maker Faire is designed to foster that important vector. (This is the only Maker Faire with “World” in its title and the branding reinforces the positioning.)
  • [Note to MM: consider reaching out to and informing the 150+ foreign consulates in NYC about World Maker Faire and its international commercial implications. And, involve NYC & Company (the City’s official portal for tourism activities) to further spread the World Maker Faire “word.”]
  • One MM Teammate commented that New York City—for several compelling reasons—would likely surpass Maker Faire Bay Area (the founding venue nine years ago) in size and influence. First, the City is America’s most prominent magnet for transcontinental flights, international tourism and foreign commerce. (A projected 56 million-total tourists and travelers are likely to visit NYC in 2014, of whom over 20% debark from foreign locations.) Furthermore, World Maker Faire’s geographic location, physical growth potential and transportation infrastructure assets in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens—on the former 1964 World’s Fair site—promise growth vectors superior to the Bay Area’s.
  • In her Town Hall introductory remarks, Sherry Huss also announced MakerCon New York 2014. This event debuted in May in at Maker Faire Bay Area. MakerCon (this link is to the 2014 Maker Faire Bay Area) is superseding 2012 and 2013’s Hardware Innovation Workshops—and perhaps incorporating other World Maker Faire Week events, e.g., Make a Makerspace Workshops—held as part of the Maker Faires in the Bay Area and NYC. The Hardware Innovation Workshops were semi-exclusive meetups of Maker insiders and industry players—and at least one was, in fact, an award winner. However—consonant with the “Year of the Maker” theme and positioning—MM is apparently out to democratize this Workshop’s usefulness in 2014 and going forward.
  • So—Voila!—MakerCon is a conference (held during the Flagship Maker Weeks) by and for Makers. The key themes are tools of innovation, Maker community building and the business of Making. Here the fuller MM profile of this new event (see 2014 Maker Faire Bay Area online Overview here): “The Maker Movement is providing new insights into local and global manufacturing, design, workforce development, education and even creative culture. MakerCon will provide valuable, practical insights into the impact of the maker movement on science, business and technology.” Ms. Huss opined that 300 to 400 would attend the two days of MakerCon New York—prior to World Maker Faire itself—on September 17 and 18, 2014.
  • [Have you noticed how long this post is?!! I have. Sorry: stopping now… OK, I haven’t talked about some other ancillary (and also important) events during the Week (prior) of World Maker Faire New York 2014. These include:]
  • NYC’s Top Maker Program,
  • The Five-Borough Pop-Up Maker Tour, Sept 15-19: Discover making in NYC,
  • Maker Faire Traveler Program,
  • Maker Camp (a free summer camp for building, tinkering & exploring),
  • Maker Faire Education Community,
  • And more…


You know, I’ve attended all four of the previous World Maker Faires here in the City. But, until I joined-in the MM Town Hall at Kickstarter in Williamsburg last week—and then researched deep into the Maker Faire phenomenon to write this article—I never really understood how rich the Maker Faire ecosystem is. Maker Media Inc.—according to Sherry Huss—is an organization with only around 50 employees. Yet, MM has figured out how to empower a universe in the Maker Movement via its Maker Faires and its interlocking Maker Media offerings. Kudos!

I’m looking forward to participating in my fifth World Maker Faire New York 2014 in September…

C’mon Back!


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