MakerBot, the builder of a 3D printer-extruder platform for consumers, is mixing it up (almost literally) by releasing a mixtape kit. The kit enables the MakerBot to build a USB flash-player version of the vintage concept of making a cassette tape for your friend filled with your favorite music. Nowadays cassettes tapes are so far out of vogue I don’t even have the equipment to play one—but no doubt many people who wen to high school in the 80s and 90s probably still have some tapes stowed away in a shoebox.
“Before CDs and digital music, offering someone a mixtape was a way to show them that you cared enough to hand-craft a gift. Our Mixtape revitalizes that idea,” said John Dimatos, head of MakerBot Applications.
Not only does the MakerBot Mixtape kit revitalize that idea, it builds on it. The mixtape kits deliver information to the MakerBot on how to make a housing for a USB music player that looks like a cassette tape and thus behaves in pretty much the same way for our current generation and era of portable music devices. Because the MakerBot builds the housing, it means that you can choose what colors to make it.
“A long time ago, before Pandora or RDIO or even ancient technologies like iTunes, there was the mixtape,” writes MakerBot about the mixtape kit. “A carefully selected group of songs, organized into a playlist and recorded onto a cassette. You had to get these songs from other tapes or even record them from the radio. You had to have a machine that allowed for transferring songs from one tape to another tape. The whole process took planning… and patience. But the payoff was oh so sweet.”
It also means that your beau—the target of the care-and-presence to make such a thing with a MakerBot—can just plug in a pair of headphones directly to the casstte-like housing and listen away.
Some assembly required; but this is the event horizon of the physible
Even though MakerBots produces an amazing product, it still doesn’t put things together for you. That’s likely a future enhancement we’ll see in 3D printers. The Makerbot makes the housing and some of the internal components and it’s up to you to click them together.
We’ve seen some amazing products coming out of 3D printers and since this product is made on the spot and not delivered in parts (except for the USB flash component) this means that the housing can be e-mailed. This is the concept of a physible: an object whose specifications can be transmitted across the Internet aether and then transformed into a physical thing once received. We’ve already seen the first physible for sale/download from The Pirate Bay earlier this year.
Looking at what the MakerBot can do, you can see their presentation at CES 2012 (two colors!), the product of the physible pirate ship for TPB and the hybrid physible-electronics of the Mixtape Kit display with certainty that we’re likely going to start seeing an introduction of even more products that can use this technique.
As the technology advances, we will likely see self-assembly, smarter and more detailed production of products, and perhaps even on-the-spot made toys rise out of the imagination space opened up by this sort of innovation.