Leaving China and Taking a Part With Me.
3D printing technology is booming in the states, nearly every hackerspace in America has a Makerbot and design firms have Shapeways to turn to to get their rapid prototyping. But elsewhere in the world these things are still fresh! Sharing tools is something I love to do because you never know where people's creativity will take them. You never can know all the problems in the world, but all the people know all their problems! One of my missions then is to share low cost and open technologies to people I think can make awesome use of them!
The night before after the Shenzhen Maker Faire all the Makers were invited to a gathering. Beer, frogs on skewers and peanuts were all provided free of charge. We ate, drank, wheeled and dealed. Wiess Tech is a filament company in Shenzhen and they have started noticing that more and more of their customers were 3D printers. Especially DIY 3D printers. So they've begun to make Makerbot replicas with some modifications. And there I was - I wanted a 3D printer to bring with me to Beirut and they wanted… Well, I wasn't sure. The language barrier between us was strong. Somehow Eric and I convinced them that it would be a good idea to give me a machine, and perhaps I'd pay them back when I got to the states. At this point I was at $244 dollars and dropping and I couldn't even afford the incredible hackerspace price the company was offering of $500 dollars! They agreed, and that's how I found myself rushing off to their head quarters the next morning before catching my ship.
But first. We must go to Seeed Studio to buy a cup of coffee from the robotic tweeting (QQ) coffee machine in their break room. Hahaha!
We headed out to Wiess Tech and on the way there we drive by construction zone after construction zone. Aparently Shenzhen didn't exist 30 years ago, and now you can still see the signs of a rapid expansion. Everything here is growing at an incredible pace, and apparently even maker culture.
We arrive at Wiess HQ, which is housed in a 30 story complex decked out with multiple confusing entrances, cafeterias and dual elevators for the odd and even numbered floors. After spending a bit of time wondering how to get to floor 22 and circling the building, we found ourselves face to face with a small crew of about 8people. A few people managing papers, a secretary, some of the marketing team, and one guy sitting at a table putting together Wiess Tech versions of the thingimatic.
After speaking with them we find that they also sell a machines based around the Reprap project, one of the earliest open 3D printing projects and have in the works a few models of their own designs. I'm excited to see how Weiss Tech bootstraps itself off of open sourced designs and starts producing their own versions! I hope to see a whole new generation of better, faster and cheaper machines that stay open! Go Weiss Tech!
Heading out to take a 3D panorama from their deck Eric rushes and tells me that my ship leaves in 20 mins and that the time is now. After an awkward moment or two talking about paypal and me giving them advice on staying open we undo all their packing (too bulky) throw the machine into my luggage and run.
In the car Eric and I discuss the future of Chinese makers. It really seems this is just the start of something much larger. It's an exciting time, his company is building great products, more Chinese companies are looking at open source technologies and more people are calling themselves makers. Perhaps it's through Maker culture China will be able to become more than the King of manufacturing, but also participate in producing quality designs and solving serious problems.
Leaving China, the baggage handlers on the ferry were rough handling Adriana, my 3D printer, and it really cut deep. But as I watched Shenzhen bay slowly recede, I knew the next time i came back, again, everything would again be different. This is the pace of China and yet it seems softened by the fog falling over the rolling green hills.