Tag Archives: LA Times

The golden age of hardware is here

Writing for the LA Times, Chris O’Brien says consumer electronic start-ups have entered a “golden age” characterized by the removal of costly barriers traditionally responsible for blocking market entry.

As O’Brien notes, start-up hardware companies were a prominent part of CES 2014, with TechCrunch holding its first ever “Hardware Battlefield” at the show. Meanwhile, Eureka Park, the traditional start-up corner of CES, hosted approximately 200 companies prominently displaying their wares.

“After years of focusing on Web-based start-ups, which seemed cheap and easy to launch, there is a long list of factors that are making it easier for entrepreneurs to shift to making physical electronic things,” writes O’Brien. 

”The cost of many components such as sensors has fallen dramatically. In addition, boutique manufacturing operations have sprouted across the U.S. and Asia that offer low-cost options for building small batches of new products.”

In addition, notes O’Brien, the rise of powerful, inexpensive 3D printers like the Atmel-powered Makerbot and RepRap facilitate the rapid prototyping of products for both engineers and DIY Makers.

“If you had an idea and wanted to get it out into the world, you used have to be a tycoon in an industry,” says MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis. “Now you just need an idea and the willingness to fail until it works.”

It should be noted that Brady Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco, recently expressed similar sentiments in a San Diego Daily Transcript article authored by Phil Baker.

“New, open platforms such as the [Atmel-based] Arduino make it easier for anyone to make something,” explains Forest, who runs the Highway1 (highway1.io) incubator in San Francisco.

“However, a startup needs to learn how to create something that can be made — when they aren’t in the factory and do it tens of thousands of times. Mistakes in manufacturing can be costly and the wrong misstep can kill a company before it even gets to market.”

Baker, who also penned “From Concept to Consumer” for the Financial Times Press, notes that one of the major challenges faced by young hardware companies is bringing their invention to market.

“As [difficult] as it is to invent, engineer and manufacture a product, finding a way for it to be seen and purchased can be many times harder. And new solutions need to be found,” Baker concludes. “But there’s reason to be optimistic for our country. With so many new products being developed by so many innovators new channels will be found. As I told the class at Highway 1, there’s never been a better time to develop hardware products.”

3D printing at CES 2014

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has been using Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing has clearly entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena and science lab.

To be sure, the meteoric rise of 3D printing has paved the way for a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs, Makers and do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturers. As such, the lucrative 3D printing industry is on track to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the 3D printing revolution took center stage at CES 2014, where a total of 28 3D printing exhibits wowed conference attendees. Gyorgy Simo, chief executive of Leonar3Do, was interviewed by LA Times journalist Salvador Rodriguez at the show. According to Simo, the potential of 3D printers can be compared to the vast possibility of the Internet.

“While the Internet gave users the ability to have instant access to information, 3D printers will give users the ability to instantly create objects,” wrote Rodriguez. “In the future, users may be able to print shoes that are tailored to the exact size of their feet, among many possibilities. They may also be able to buy products directly from online retailers and print them out immediately, rather than wait for the item to ship.”

Meanwhile, MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis, who was interviewed by HLN, said 3D printing offers people as a way to express their creativity in three dimensions.

“If you think about the way a 2D printer works, you take a virtual document on your screen and you turn it into a physical document – 3D printing takes a virtual 3D model and turns it into a physical 3D model,” he explained.


“It does that by building layer by layer. The printer draws a picture and on top of that it draws another one. And up and up until it’s done, you take your model out and you’re good to go.”

Pettis also addressed skeptics who question the overall value of 3D printing and insist the market is a niche one limited to little more than toys and trinkets.

“My response is to tell them about the Robohand project, where two guys collaborated and shared their work with the Internet to make a prosthetic hand for one of them,” he said. “So when people say, ‘Oh, this is just for trinkets, I go, ‘Oh? Well we’re giving kids without hands, hands. So there.’”

Pettis concluded the interview by noting that MakerBot remained dedicated to creating tools for positive use-cases.

“On our community website Thingiverse, we specifically say that you should only upload designs that you created and we do not allow deadly weapons to be uploaded,” he added.