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Holy Cow!! A MakerBot Thing-O-Matic

 Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

 Last week I flew to New York City to speak to a group of venture capitalists about my ideas on how to Repair the Healthcare System from a physicians point of view.

All of the software innovation in healthcare comes from software engineers who are influenced by secondary stakeholders that are trying to increase their profit from the healthcare system and not by physicians who have been in the trenches practicing medicine day after day. 

 My son, Brad Feld, was in Boston involved in a project at his alumni MIT. He decided to come down to New York and sit in on my meeting. 

I love hanging out with Brad. It is always a learning experience for me. My readers have guessed by now that I love to learn and especially from my son. I especially love to learn about the potential of the future.  It stimulates me to think.

Two months ago Brad sent me a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. MakerBot is a company in which he and his venture capital firm Foundry Group invested. The MakerBot Cave is in Brooklyn, N.Y.

 My MakerBot Thing-O-Matic came in five boxes weighing 25 pounds. I opened the boxes and it looked like at least a million pieces (o.k. at least a half million).

It reminded me of the time I was a medical student. My roommate’s father bought him a HealthKit HiFi. I helped him put it together.

It took us months to finish. When we finished the HealthKit I thought it was going to explode when we plugged it in. It worked to our joy!!.

A MakerBot Thing-O-Matic is a 3D printer. I saw it with Brad at CES in 2011. He invested in it then.



I told Brad I thought he lost his mind. I thought the MakerBot was just a toy making little kids’ toys.

Construction of my MakerBot Thing-O-Matic looks like a 10-12 hour project with a lot of software interaction.

After our N.Y.C meeting he took me to the Bot Cave in Brooklyn. Manufacturing things in Brooklyn has a nice ring to it.

As soon as I walked into the Cave I decided Brad once again made a brilliant decision.

The first thing that impressed me was the number of young (25-40) people working in the Cave (about 100).

 If President Obama wants to create jobs he should visit the Bot Cave in Brooklyn. He would learn a thing or two.

I was told the next iteration of the MakerBot would be pre-built.

After watching these kids build them I got pumped to get home and build my MakerBot. I was also promised a personal assistant if I got stuck.

 3 dimensional printing is beyond toys. There is a web site called Thing-O-Matic that lets users post their creations for other users. The MakerBot community has become an organic social network.

 For example, someone designed a wall coat hook that is being reproduced all over the country. The Bot Cave had coats hanging on them everywhere.

I have been looking for flat electric outlet covers without curves. They have been impossible to find. All I have to do is scan my design into the computer, size it and print out a very sturdy electric outlet plate.

 Three weeks ago I needed a replacement plastic gear. I had to buy all the parts for the machine just to get one part. Now (after I put my MakerBot Thing-O-Matic together) I will be able to reproduce any plastic part I want. The practical potential for 3D dimensional printing is infinite.

 How does it work? It is all about software innovation. Your smartphone takes multiple pictures of an item. You import the pictures to the computer software. Maker Bot recommends multiple pictures at many angles to get the proportions perfect. The pictures are transformed into 3 dimensional co-ordinates. You hit go button and the machine melts the right amount of plastic at the weight you specify and extrudes your part or model in 3 dimensions.

Who would have thought there were people that smart to create an appliance like this machine for consumers.

The more intriguing thing is I could not understand the MakerBot’s potential until now. Brad understood it as soon as he saw it.

The reason is clear. He could visualize MakerBot’s potential. I predict everyone will have a MakerBot Thing-O-Matic in 10 years just like everyone has a smartphone after 4 years.

I have a gut feeling “we ain’t seen nothin yet.”

Everything will be consumer driven. Even healthcare will be consumer driven.

 The MakerBot people gave me an iridescent expandable plastic bracelet for my wife.

It reminded me of the bracelet Hank Rearden in Atlas Shrugged. Hank Rearden gave to his wife a bracelet made out of Reardon steel after it was invented.

Reardon bracelet

 She did not understand its significance. His wife traded it with Dagny Taggatt, the heroine, for a diamond bracelet.

The future is in 3 D printing.

 Brad thanks for taking me to the Brooklyn Maker Bot Cave and opening my eyes again.


The opinions expressed in the blog “Repairing The Healthcare System” are, mine and mine alone

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