3D printing turns heads at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019

Maker Faire Bay Area 2019 in San Mateo wrapped up yesterday but with looming uncertainty about the future of the event which attracts thousands of 3D printing enthusiasts.  

As sponsorships for the event dwindle and financial worries grow for the show organizers, this year’s event may turn out to be the last of its kind.

Dale Dougherty, CEO of Maker Media, publishers of Make magazine and organizer of the of Maker Faire Bay Area, told the San Francisco Chronicle, “We’re doing it this year. We tightened everything down so we could do it […] But I’m not sure what the future holds for Maker Faire. I think it’s needed more than ever, and it’s valuable more than ever […] we’ve had to reconsider what we do and reconsider the things that we provide.”

Maker Faire worldwide

Maker Faires are organized each year in 44 countries, including the UK, Hong Kong, and Canada.  

The Maker Faire Bay Area, since its inception in 2006, has taken place annually. It is sponsored by Google, Digi-Key, one of the largest electronics distributor, and Arizona-based investment firm Seed River, among others.

Each year, the three-day event attracts thousands of cosplayers, hobbyists, engineers professionals, and enthusiasts, who join the event to show their own creativity and admire others. In 2014 and 2015, the attendance peaked at nearly 100,000.

This year’s Maker Faire Bay Area was held between May 17-19 at San Mateo County Event Center, where 175,000 square feet space was occupied by exhibits and visitors. Nearly 500 makers joined the Maker Faire 2019.

With a dedicated space on the floor, 3D printing technology featured heavily on the show.

A cosplayer at the Maker Faire Bay Area. Image via Maker Faire/Twitter.
A cosplayer at the Maker Faire Bay Area. Image via Maker Faire/Twitter.

Inspiring the children

Maker Faire Bay Area has been influential in educating young people and getting them interested in STEM subjects.

Sue Cusack, director of Lesley University’s Steam Learning Lab, said, “I do see that more schools are adopting some form of making […] Whether it’s through a maker space, whether it’s through (science and technology) initiatives.

At this year’s event, to inspire 4-14 year-olds workshops like Dream It & Build It—Solidworks Apps For Kids, was held. The workshop demonstrated the basics of 3D design using professional CAD software SOLIDWORKS.

Digi-Key also sponsored a theme titled, Make: Electronics By Digi-Key which included, ‘How To 3D Print On Fabric & Helpful Robotics’ by designer David Shorey.

Moreover, to promote 3D printing and inspire people with its potential, talks, and presentations from professionals in the field were also held.

Presenters included Melodie Yashar, who is a co-founder of Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch+), which won Phase 1 of NASA’s Habitat Centennial Challenge for 3D printed habitat on Mars.

Yashar gave a talk on the topic, ‘Mars X House: Designing and 3D-Printing a Future Surface Habitat’ and was joined by Apis Cor, a maker of construction 3D printers, who also took part in the NASA challenge.

Brent Bushnell of Two Bit Circus, an immersive entertainment provider, was also at the show and talked about ‘Rapid Prototyping Immersive Entertainment’.

Mythbusters’ host Adam Savage also joined the event. 

Young children using 3D pens at the show. Image via Maker Faire/Twitter.
Young children using 3D pens at the show. Image via Maker Faire/Twitter.

What the future holds

Even though the show attracts large amounts of crowds, due to rising costs of producing the show in San Mateo Maker Media is unsure about another edition of the Bay Area Maker Faire.

Furthermore, previous corporate sponsors like Autodesk, Intel and Microsoft have also withdrawn their support.

Dougherty said, “We are struggling a bit to keep it all going […] On one hand, (the event’s) impacts on education are really clear and they’re still going. … But … it’s harder to do this media and events business than it has been, and I’m just trying to figure my way through it.”

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Feature image shows a gigantic mecha called Prosthesis, one of the highlights of this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area. Image via Maker Faire/Twitter.