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Hackers are not the Bad Guys: Confessions of an Inventaholic.

Transcription of the talk given at BarCamp Rochester on April 20th, 2013, by Skip Meetze.

Hello.  My name is Skip.  I’m an inventaholic.  I am compelled to invent things for reasons that I can not control.  I would like to welcome you to Inventaholics Anonymous.

Over the past 40 years, I have followed a path familiar to many people with my affliction by accumulating as many patents as I could.  But with the help of my new friends at INTERLOCK, I have overcome those tendencies, and I am proud to say that I have moved on to the sober world of hackers and makers.  A world  known as the Open-Source Hardware Movement.

stepcounter 1

First Patent: The Stepcounter

In many ways, being an inventor has scarred my life.   In the early 1970s I squandered all the funds I could beg or borrow (at least I didn’t steal), and I blew it all on my first patent.  The Stepcounter was a research device to measure the activity levels of laboratory animals.  My wife wanted to make the down payment on a house.  Thanks to my addiction, we rented for 25 years before we bought our first house.

Kenneth Brown, the author of a book called Inventors at Work asked my old friend, the late Bob Gundlach an important question during an interview: “Is it better to be an inventor working for a large corporation, or would you rather be working on your own?”  I can relate to Bob’s answer: “Being an inventor on your own is a good way to go broke! Being an inventor in a corporation is a very fortunate happenstance.”

But even within a corporation you run into the Not Invented Here Syndrome.  If you offer a solution to improve a product that is outside of your assigned responsibilities, you will probably be rebuked with something like “No thanks. I’ve got my own ideas and I know what I’m doing.  Go work on your own assignment.”

vue iPad in comfort


I graduated from Xerox a few years ago and in 2010, my friend Ken and I invented a stand for iPads that we called the vue-stand.  It would hold your iPad at a comfortable eye-level.  As a human factors engineer I have spent decades designing easy-to-use products, and I thought that we were onto something.  After we spent thousands of dollars to do a pilot run at manufacturing and did a little test market, I couldn’t help remembering Bob’s words of wisdom.  People didn’t buy the vue for reasons we now understand.  We decided not to keep throwing money at trying to market a dead horse, so I bought out Ken’s interest in our company, and I continue selling off my inventory online without promotion.  That inventory will cut my losses, but it will not cover my investment.

Last summer something happened that changed my life:  A couple of guys from this Hackerspace called INTERLOCK Rochester gave a talk at AppleCIDER, a local Apple Computer Users Group.  They demonstrated a little desktop 3D printer that they had built themselves.  I was blown away.

I knew about Stereolithography and CAD (Computer-aided design).  Xerox engineers had made rapid prototypes using that technology for decades.  But specialist operated those machines, and they had talent and training that I didn’t have.  Furthermore, the machines cost more money than an individual could afford.

Now, people are building these little machines that can even build parts to replicate themselves.  And people are sharing their designs and discoveries for other people to build upon.  The source code for anything built on these little industrial robots can be shared online at a site called

They call the shared technology RepRap for replicating rapid prototyping.  The designs are evolving unbelievably fast because people are sharing with each other!  What a sobering thought!

I don’t plan to get any more patents.  Now I have a reprap machine, and I have joined the people who share ideas in a Hackerspace.

I used to think of hackers as being the bad guys who stole identities and maliciously created computer viruses and things like that.  Now it has come to mean people who take an existing good idea and hack on it to make it better.


iPad on a HandleStand

For instance, I have hacked-up an iPad accessory that I call the HandleStand.  I took a protective iPad case that I bought on Amazon for $8 and hacked it.  I drilled two holes and attached a pair of hinged handles to it with screws.  The case I chose also allows me to attach a Keyboard that protects the front of my iPad.

The handles open up to make a stand that allows the iPad to tilt at any angle.  Great for making videos or calling people on FaceTime with the iPad camera that can be pointed in any direction.  By the way, it also holds the iPad at a comfortable eye level just like the vue-stand.  But it is better for all these reasons.

Where can you buy this HandleStand and how much does it cost?  Sorry, but you can’t buy one.  You can get the source code from Thingiverse however, and if you can get access to a 3D printer you can make your own!  You can even hack it to make a better one!

You don’t have a 3D printer?  Well come on over to INTERLOCK on any Tuesday or Thursday night and we will help you hack one up.

I must admit that getting these little printers to run is a bit tricky sometimes.  They are complex electronic devices that run on an open source micro-controller called Arduino.  The hardware and software are made from the contributions of many-many people, and instructions don’t necessarily keep up with the latest developments. A lot of things can go wrong, and Murphy’s law does apply.

But hackerspaces are springing up all around the world where people help each other with things like that.  So you should join the world of hardware hackers.  Free CAD software has gotten so easy to use now that even I could learn it.

Pretty soon most people will know how to design using CAD just like now most people can make Powerpoint presentations.  Perhaps it won’t be long before most people will have access to a 3D printer.  I built one from a kit for a little over $500.  Or you can get a MakerBot already assembled for $2000.

I no longer spend a lot of money trying to sell inventions, I give them away and save a lot of money.  My designs can no longer be stolen from me.  I’m publishing the source codes on Thingiverse and I am happy that people are downloading them for free.

People tell me that I’m missing an opportunity to make money on my inventions… I don’t care.  I’m an inventaholic.


from on April 21st, 2013Comments0 Comments

3D Printed HandleStand for iPad


If you have access to a 3D printer you can make this!   

HandleStand, 2

This is an Open-Source design, and the STL files can be downloaded from Thingiverse:

*    *    *

The HandleStand is hacked from an inexpensive protective case by adding a pair of 3D printed handles.

Stand and case

As the name implies, the accessory provides both a handle and a stand function for the iPad, but it is also quite portable, and the handle can be folded out of the way.

smart cover 3      keyboard 1  keyboard folded


The assembly also accommodates a shoulder strap, a magnetically attached “Smart Cover” or keyboard.

*    *    *

 The A-Frame stand gets the iPad screen up to a comfortable eye-level.  A recent study at Harvard concludes: “Head and neck posture during tablet computing can be improved by placing the tablet higher to avoid low gaze angles (i.e. on a table rather than on the lap) and through the use of a case that provides optimal viewing angles.”

ergonomic stand

 *    *    *

“But how can I print a handle big enough for an iPad on my little printer that has a 6″ x 6″ bed?” you ask.


Well the answer is: “solvent bonding”…  I use Oatey cleaner that is sold in hardware stores to be used on plastic plumbing pipes.

* * *

The trick is to design the device in pieces that are small enough to be printed, and they also must fit together precisely.  Then you print them in ABS plastic which can be bonded with solvent to form a solid piece of plastic!* (Please see the WARNING below!)


Exploded 1


* * ** * *

I carry my HandleStand with me everywhere!

Travel with MacBot

* * *

With the HandleStand, an iPad can be adjusted to any position about the horizontal or vertical axis, so it is great for FaceTime or shooting video.  

HandleStand as tripod

The iPad is protected when conveniently carried using the handles or when on a shoulder strap or when folded and stuffed into a backpack or briefcase.

* * *


Hinge set 3Handle set Handle set


The iPad HandleStand is made up of parts that are small enough to be printed in 3 runs on a PrintrBot LC (which has a usable print area of 120mm x 130mm). The plastic parts are solvent bonded to create handles that are too large to fit on the printer bed.

The Hinge Set contains 2 brackets and 2 sets of A-Frame hinge members. The brackets are screwed onto a polycarbonate protective cover such as the Poetic Basic Smart Cover Slim-Fit Case.

Hinge assembly 2

Each bracket is also screwed to a pair of the A-Frame hinge members with o-rings providing the controlled friction for the hinges. Locknuts insure that the hinges stay adjusted and don’t come off.

The Hinge Set takes about 2hr to print on a Printrbot LC with ABS. Handles each contain 3 handle parts and a Microbeaner, and they take about 1hr 20min for each to print (for a total of about 5hr printing time). ABS is recommended because it allows the parts to be solvent bonded together. If PLA or other material is used, then superglue (cyanoacrylate) can be used to bond the parts.

* * *

A shoulder/neck strap that is made from printed “microbeaners” and Parachord can be attached.


* * *

Parts list:

parts 1

-(1) Hinge Set (containing 2 brackets and 4 hinge members).

-(2) Handles (each containing parts for a 3-piece handle and a MicroBeaner for the shoulder strap).

-(1) Polycarbonate iPad case that snaps on at the corners such as

-(2) Stainless steel 6-32 x ¾” oval phillips machine screw (attach hinges to brackets)

-(2) flat-head 6-32 x ⅜” machine screw (attach brackets to polycarbonate case)

-(4) 6-32 lock nuts with nylon inserts

-(4) #6 o-ring provide friction for hinges

-(4) #41 o-ring provide friction against a table

-(1) ⅛” parachord   5’  long

* * *


-Drill with ⅛” bit and countersink bit

-Solvent to bond ABS such as Oatey cleaner (yellow label white can) made for ABS plumbing pipe (or use acetone or superglue)… See warning below!

-Use match or lighter to burn the cut ends of parachord

* * *


-Use CAUTION during solvent bonding!

-Use eye protection.

-Work in well ventilated area!

-The solvent dissolves many things, and the wet plastic stains whatever it touches!

-Use latex NOT vinyl gloves!

-Use aluminum foil on work surface!

* * *




-Use great care to go back and coat the whole part for a uniform glossy finish (especially if parts were sanded), but do one end and hang to dry (for a few minutes) before doing the other end!

-The solvent can also be used to heal delaminated parts, but BE CAREFUL!

Countersink the holes drilled in the Poetic case so that the screw heads will not touch the iPad.

-A large rubber band can be added to keep the the Ultrathin Keyboard or Smart Cover closed while the assembly is being carried around.



Enjoy the HandleStand! 



from on April 6th, 2013Comments0 Comments

MacGyvrBot Introduction

Hi there Hardware Hackers,

My name is MacGyvrBot.  I’m an open-source 3D Printer hacked-up from a Printrbot LC kit by Skip (Printrbot LC | printrbot).  I hang out at the INTERLOCK space a lot, but I’m portable and I often follow Skip around to help at Tango Product Design.

MacGyvrBot Mug

Skip creates most of my gcode  instructions on Slic3r – G-code generator for 3D printers from stl files created on  Tinkercad – Mind to design in minutes.  I often publish my designs on Thingiverse – Digital Designs for Physical Objects.


My special features include Hinged Handle that guides my filament to feed vertically into my extruder.  This minimizes perturbations on my x-axis and doubles as an alarm by slamming down if my Filament gets snarled from the supply spooled on a Rack made from a hacked-up Power Tower | printrbot.  I can carry my MacBook around in Brackets on my starboard side. MacBook Brackets by MacGyvrBot – Thingiverse


Fan Shroud

My power cord and my usb connector along with a power connector for the MacBook can be stored in a Zipper Pouch below the filament rack.  I also have a handy Z-stop Adjustment Z-Stop Adjuster for Printrbot LC by MacGyvrBot – Thingiverse that lets Skip tweak the thickness of my first layer if the printed perimeter doesn’t look perfect.

On my starboard bow there is 70mm Muffin Fan (scrounged from Skip’s junk pile)  with an Air-flow Adjuster and Shroud custom made for the fan 70mm Fan Shroud by MacGyvrBot – Thingiverse.  I made a similar fan for my RepRap Mendle friend from an 80mm fan 80mm Fan Shroud by MacGyvrBot – Thingiverse.  The adjustment allows Skip to conveniently adjust my bed-cooling during a print job.  The maximum airflow marginally allows my heated bed to maintain the 80 degrees C required to stick onto ABS while it allows tall single features to quickly cool layer by layer. The fan can be adjusted back to make sure the first layers stick properly.



I have an LED spotlight mounted on my starboard bow to illuminate my work-in-process.

Handle Stand

Skip’s iPad can hang on my port side during our travels.  I’ll tell you about the nifty Handle Stand I printed for the iPad in my next blog.

from on February 7th, 2013Comments0 Comments