Though it seems good form to use the umbrella term, for us here at MAKE, so far, “crowdfunding” essentially means “Kickstarter.” Searching the word returns exactly 100 published posts in our archives, dating back to the first kickstarter we ever mentioned (the MakerBeam project) in October 2009. Of major competing crowdfunding sites, only IndieGoGo has received any significant coverage here, with eight total posts, and only one of those included a direct link to a project then in-funding (which did not, incidentally, meet its goal).
So, formality aside, this post is mostly about our year in kickstarters. Founded in 2009, Manhattan-based Kickstarter was mentioned in four of our posts that year, 33 posts in 2010, and 62 this year. Excluding general mentions of the site, posts that don’t link to a specific project, and posts that are following up on a previously-mentioned project, 24 different kickstarters were promoted on MAKE in 2011. Except for Greg Leyh’s Lightning Foundry and Eric Strebel’s Solar Vox projects, all the linked kickstarters, below, eventually met or exceeded their funding goals.
The biggest kickstarter of 2011, taking top place in three of our six metrics, was undoubtedly Brook Drumm’s PrintrBot, a $500 FDM/FFF printer kit that, as of December 17, had raised $830,827, which makes it not only the most lucrative kickstarter we covered this year, but also (per Wikipedia) the second-most-lucrative in Kickstarter history.
The year 2011 was abuzz with news of makers and making. From The Economist to Forbes, to Dale Dougherty (MAKE founder) being recognized by the White House, political and business leaders recognized that small companies and startups drive the economy, and that increasingly, innovation for these new ventures is coming from a rapidly growing maker business community.
Here is a list of some of the top stories influencing the growth of maker companies this year, followed by a deeper look at each.
What Was Big this Year?
Government recognizing small business/basement innovation as a driving economic force
Major retailers and electronics suppliers increasingly aware of the maker market
Open source hardware gaining more mainstream awareness and becoming increasingly affordable
More kit makers, build-to-order shops, and local factories coming to market
Crowdfunding is one of the most powerful tools for makers and do-it-yourselfers to advance an idea into a commercial product and it came into its own in 2011. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are two of the best known, but RocketHub (which focuses on education and the arts) is another to watch. And there are many others popping up.
All of the above bullet-pointed advances are helping to fuel the trend in open source hardware projects, such as Lasersaur, Ultimaker, PrintrBot, OpenPCR, and a host of other devices and services. This post from early September explains how Crowdfunding is getting traction in DC. While it isn’t specifically about crowdfunding, Mitch Altman’s Manufacturing Your Design is terrific and highlights some of the things that every maker business should consider.
Governments have long recognized that small businesses drive economies — the White House created the Champions of Change initiative to acknowledge those individuals who are catalyzing this market and type of growth. MAKE’s founder, Dale Dougherty, was honored this year for his work with and commitment to makers, starting with the very youngest in primary and secondary schools up to older adults starting second careers as an entrepreneurs.
Major retailers and large electronics suppliers are increasingly spending marketing and advertising dollars in the maker space. They are also forming synergistic partnerships, such as RadioShack’s 2011 Great Create program and their carrying of Maker Shed kits and merchandise in RadioShack stores. Even Home Depot ran crafty DIY holiday ads on TV (where the commercial itself was a holiday project how-to).
Simon St. Laurent (one of the editors of our Arduino Cookbook) brought forth fire and ice to soften this time when the northern hemisphere’s light dims:
In the darkest season of the year, the lights go up.
Every year, Christmas lights go up on houses, trees, shrubs, and lately, all kinds of stands. They go up on my house too, three brilliant sets of LED lights that add up to a mere fifteen watts of power. Some of these displays are massive, some tiny, but nearly all of them are electric reminders of long-ago candles and lamps.
Electric light feels very different from candle light. Even the best electric lights seem frozen in place, or blink and move awkwardly.
I decided this year that I wanted to do something with candles again – something safely outdoors, far from the children and the house, but something beautiful. That brought me back to ice lanterns, something I’d talked about doing years ago…
Open Music Labs has released a tutorial and detailed build documentation on how to read 48-key electronic MIDI keyboard with the XMEM interface on an Atmega640. If you’re building something that uses a musical keyboard and need to shave a few clock cycles off of your scan time, this is a good way to do it.
Inspired by this Instructable, Thingiverse user patchorang designed a 3D-printable plastic card that fits in your wallet and can hold the right amount of coins so that you can be prepared to pay with exact change. The card holds to coins in place with a friction fit and lets you carry the change without that jingle in your pocket. [via Makerbot]
Back in November at AnDevCon II, I met Jonathan Hirshon of Horizon Communications, who hooked me up with a complimentary robot from My Robot Nation. This had nothing to do with Android; it probably came up because we had a MakerBot running in O’Reilly’s booth printing out little Androids (using casainho’s Android magnet design from Thingiverse). Enough about androids and robots. As ST:TNG’s Lt. Commander Data is so fond of reminding us, there is a difference between the two!
After I returned home from the conference, I headed over to My Robot Nation’s WebGL-powered designer, and started working on a robot as close to Futurama’s Bender as I could get. I chose the type of head, torso, arms, and legs. Next, I added color, a robot part for the mouth, decals for his eyeballs, and posed him.
I placed my order, and a couple of weeks later, my bot Blunder appeared on my doorstep! The robot’s not posable, but he certainly is cute and fun to have around my office. (My Robot Nation has extended a 10% discount to readers, good until the end of January 2012, with the coupon code MAKE2011).
During the course of Weekend Projects there were several projects that I was personally excited about, to both tinker with and write about. But there was one obvious crowd favorite among the fifteen beginner projects we built. While there was no competition per se, the Light Theremin was the obvious winner. Even before drafting this article, the theremin had potentiometers and other components modded to the circuit, had been converted into a Snap Circuit, and was enthusiastically breadboarded by a first-time maker. Take a look at the following eight mods of this fantastic project, ranging from a full copper plate mod to a mod using a tiny DC motor in lieu of a speaker – this project is clearly intended for all skill levels and available components.
Make: Live‘s Best of 2011 show looks back at our favorite episodes from the very first season. Go behind the scenes with us for some of our most memorable moments– from goofs and gaffes to last minute surprises and change ups. It’s the best of robots, blinky LEDs, fires & explosions, electronics and giant mobile contraptions. It’s a whole year of making condensed to the action-packed clip above and behind-the-scenes photos below.
Did the dog eat all of your microcontroller I/O? Here’s a handy little article from Open Music Labs on how to do some clever circuit hacking to allow a shift register (and thus as many switches as you could possibly want) to be read from 2 or even 1(!) microcontroller pins. Nifty!
We’re broadcasting shortly! Make: Live‘s Best of 2011 show looks back at our favorite episodes from the very first season. Go behind the scenes with us for some of our most memorable moments– from goofs and gaffes to last minute surprises and change ups. And don’t miss the best of robots, blinky LEDs, fires & explosions, electronics and giant mobile contraptions. It’s a whole year of making condensed to 30 minutes of nonstop unbridled joy– don’t miss it!
We also give away a fabulous prize from Digi-Key to one chat member who can solve our photo challenge. This week you could win:
Make: Live 23: Best of Make: Live 2011
Wednesday December 28th, 9pm ET/6pm PT
Watch at makezine.com/live or on UStream
Please join us in the UStream chat or mark tweets with #makelive to interact live with the show.
Want to show us your project? Upload a video or photos and send a link to firstname.lastname@example.org.