Apart form the new announcements, which I will be covering in separate articles, the recent Maker Faire Rome – European Edition was an opportunity to get to see, in person, some of the biggest recent new products lunched by Italian 3D printing companies, especially those focused on making these technologies more affordable.
Apart from student movements manifesting outside (I explain the reasons why further down), this year’s edition was definitely a huge success in terms of participating public, as well as for the number of exhibitors, announcements, and talks (and not just because I held one, too). The fact that this edition was going to be big for 3D printing companies – apart from the palpable enthusiasm for 3D printers/ing by parents, small children, and teenagers alike – was WASP’s 12-meter, clay-extruding BigDelta sitting right at the entrance of the show.
WASP also brought several other innovating projects to show off, including the new TOP DLP (see photo above) and an interesting Delta made with Cresco wooden Meccano components and targeted at the educational sector. The company, a leader in clay extrusion 3D printing and also very “culturally aware”, additionally presented a project dedicated reproducing some of the ancient masterpieces recently destroyed by ISIS forces.
In the same booth, other Italian leaders of low-cost 3D printing, including Sharebot, FABtotum, and Kentstrapper, presented their newest machines. Sharebot’s Andromeda sat alongside the latest SnowWhite design, with a new external “dress”, or casing. Kentstrapper’s new Zero – a tough, enclosed, and self-balancing 3D printer (photo below) – went along with the new Noah accessory for remote 3D printing access. Roland’s Italian team even presented a new version of its plotter capable of full-color 3D printing by adding resin on the Z-axis and software modification made by Alessando Ranellucci, himself, to his Slic3r tool. Alessandro Ranellucci, as well as Massimo Banzi – two of Italy’s “Maker celebrities” – are both among this year’s show organizers.
Another one of Italy’s most active Makers is Massimo Temporelli, the founder of TheFabLab – Make in Milano. Among his many, many activities, he also stars in X-Makers, a TV show airing on De Agostini’s satellite TV channel with a focus on 3D printers, drones, coding and hardware/software hacking, in general. The entire cast held a conference and signed autographs for the dozens of schoolchildren that attended the Maker Faire on Friday.
Several large TV stations, radio networks, and other media covered the event, which has grown to have a true mass appeal. Strangely enough (however, nothing is too strange in Italy, a country where some things just seem to work backwards in comparison to everywhere else), the Maker Faire was actually the target of protests by groups of students outside. The reason for this is even more of a paradox, as this year’s Maker Faire was set up inside the La Sapienza University of Rome.
Oddly enough, instead of this being a reason to rejoice for Italy’s educational system embracing the Making community, it became a reason for conflict. The students were not granted free access to the school during the days of the event (only a very significant reduction in the ticket price, from €10 to €2). It probably would have been simpler – and more logical – for the organizers to just let every student in for free and avoid all possible incidents.
However, this was not the case and a relatively small group of student manifested against the “industrialization” of the Maker movement, even clashing with police forces. All the while, visitors to the faire – tons of families and children, entire classrooms, Makers of all ages and several large sponsoring companies, including Intel, ENI and Microsoft – ended up witnessing the strange phenomenon of students fighting to get into school. If they had gotten in, they probably would have had a lot of fun.