Wednesday, 16 May 2012

3D Printing from London's 'Silicon Roundabout'

Silicon Roundabout is London's claim to be a Silicon Valley. It is claimed to be  fast becoming a major hub for media agencies and tech firms with a digital edge, in an area encompassing Shoreditch, Hoxton and particularly Old Street. That may be the case, but Silicon Roundabout is very different from Silicon Valley. 

Wired's directory of Silicon Roundabout companies reveals that its startups are mostly users of the Web and related technology, developing the 'froth' of applications that sit atop the shoulders of companies in other parts of the world who have developed foundation technologies, based on decades of deep dive R+D and university/research labs collaboration. There may be a few important companies in London's Silicon Roundabout, but the UK should not over-estimate the importance of this cluster. The Cambridge cluster is more significant, but even it is a pale shadow of Silicon Valley, California. Despite this, there are of course some very interesting tech companies in London. Since this is a blog about 3D Printing, lets start there. 

MakieLab is a 3D Printing start up with ambition. 
MakieLab is a new toys and games company based in Shoreditch, London.  They are making a new kind of future-smashing toy: customisable, 3D-printed, locally made, and game-enabled.

Alice Taylor founded Makielab in February 2011 after nearly four years commissioning games, apps and web TV shows for Channel 4 Education. Previous to Channel 4 Alice was VP Digital for BBC Worldwide (LA), and previous to that, the brains behind another start up producing Java entertainment software – avatars, forums, chat apps. 

We wish MakieLab well, genuinely, but one cannot help thinking that the UK needs to shoot considerably higher than solely being a 'user' of technology in order to create niche toy on demand services. To boost UK competitiveness, to attract investors and to increase the national equivalent of "Market Capitalization", the UK desperately 
needs to restore its engineering and science prowess in core technology development and R+D. That's not to decry entrepreneurs working in London's Silicon Roundabout .... but all UK Governments of the last thirty years have been curiously willing to believe that the SME sector will be the UK's salvation. They will not. What we need are the Google's, Apple's and GE's of the emerging 'digital space' .... and those companies seed developments from the real Silicon Valley, not Old Street, London. Agreed?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Is it wise for MakerBot to move out of the market for 3D Printer kits

It appears as if MakerBot Industries may have moved out of the 3D Printer Kit market, and will now only sell fully assembled units. We think this is a mistake, and far too early a move in the rapidly expanding hobby/maker market around 3D Printing.

'Makers' and the 'maker culture' want parts, and kits, and extension kits, and the flexibility to make the 3D Printer of their dreams. They want to make things! Plugging a new real of plastic into the very same machine that everyone else owns is not the same thing at all. Not at all.

MakerBot should be a one-stop-shop for 3D Printing to the hobby/maker market. They need to supply everything required for making and using 3D printers, from the smallest parts, to the larger parts, to the specialist parts, right through to consumables.

'Makers' want to create 3D Printer mash-ups. It's the maker culture that's big, not yet the market for home 3D Printers.

A lot of people are going to be disappointed by MakerBot's decision and are going to find other ways to source parts for their 3D Printing maker projects.

As Bre Pettis, founder of MakerBot and the first 3D Printing celebrity according to Business Week, admits “The way I see is that we’re just at the beginning of this market ... In technology circles, people know about this stuff and maybe know someone who has a 3D printer. The next step is moving to where you go to a neighbor’s house to get a new doorknob printed or something like that. We will get there in the next year or two. In 10 years, having a MakerBot will be so normal. It will be like having a microwave.”

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

UK publishes a 'high value' manufacturing (HVM) strategy

"Additive manufacturing will change everything, but needs to be coupled with additive systems – structure, processing, display all as one – structural electronics."

This study sets out to understand the global manufacturing context in which UK  companies must compete and how that context is expected to evolve over the next 15-20 years. Time for renewal?