The journey continues. Since leaving the corporate world over three years ago, I have followed a bootstrap path for my current project that I have found more satisfying than my past business experiences—no more investors, no more board members, and so far no more full-time employees.
I am shepherding a community of makers; folks who like to build stuff. This community has grown to over 50,000 subscribers and tens of thousands of additional followers, with hundreds of active contributors. The properties supporting this community continue to expand and include this website/blog, an active community forum, forum.makewithtech.com, with over 2,200 members and over 10,000 posts, and the foundation of the community, the YouTube channel, which now counts 54,000 subscribers, thousands of comments, and over 4 million views.
While Youtube pays me a bit of money and affiliate links contribute a bit more, I couldn't support a family or even myself on my MakeWithTech income. Most of the income supports the community's technology needs, hosting fees, internet fees, equipment, and supplies for the projects I highlight. To date, this is perfect since, as a "retiree," MakeWithTech is an avocation vs. a vocation.
But it is time for me to get off the bench and ramp it up a bit. I will be adding software via a freemium model to the community. All software will include a free tier with, in some cases, a subscription tier for enhanced services. The first application, a 3d printer terminal interface, targeted enthusiasts with 3d printing experience. In contrast, the application I am announcing today targets the millions of home, educational and small business 3d printer users, Over two million 3d printers were shipped last year.
The Models @ MakeWithTech application addresses the following common problem for home-based and small business 3d printers users. Where do I find models to print on my new 3d printer. Not just any model, but models customized to my specifications.
The power of 3d printing is its ability to create bespoke (custom) objects. First, however, you need a 3d model that you create yourself or obtain from someone else to create these objects. While there are now many online sites with free or paid 3d models, they offer limited if any customization. The customizations users are looking for may range from size to complex configuration to just adding your name to an object.
Thingiverse in conjunction with OpenSCAD, a script-based 3d modeling tool, offered a "customizer." Unfortunately, the online Thingiverse customizer has been unusable for a couple of years. The free desktop OpenSCAD application supports a friendly customizer interface. Still, it is often a bit complex for novice users since it is part of an overall CAD (computer-aided design) tool.
Models @ MakeWithTech fills the need for an easy way to find 3d models for printing and customize them for your specific use. This application offers a free tier where anyone can search for a model, fill in some parameters, queue the models for rendering (creation), and then download their 3d model in the proper format for printing.
Initially, Models @ MakeWithTech interfaces with Thingiverse as its source for models, but the list of model sources will expand in the future. The application will also offer its own model repository supporting a two-sided financial model with creators (the folks who design the models) so everyone benefits. The search interface is streamlined by design, focused on helping you find your model as fast as possible, with both image and 3d viewers of the model's parts.
The steps to use the application are pretty simple:
- Search for a model using the keyword search.
- Select the model and preview the finished model images on the screen.
- Click on the customizer icon next to an OpenSCAD file and enter the parameters defining your model.
- Click on Queue for Rendering to process your file with OpenSCAD.
- Monitor your private queue and results listing.
- View the results on screen as a 3d image and review the OpenSCAD log file.
- Download the 3d model, prepare for your printer with your preferred 3d slicer, and print.
The application is hosted on Amazon AWS and can simultaneously process up to 1,000 models.
I anticipate releasing this application for a public beta in the next couple of weeks. As part of the beta, I have included a bug reporting and feature request capability right into the application to promote community involvement.
I am excited about this next step in the evolution of MakeWithTech and want to continue learning together.