Meet Your Maker: Zaber Technologies


 

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Zaber Technologies is a Vancouver-based manufacturer of computer-controlled motorized linear slides, miniature linear actuators, motorized rotary stages, and other devices. Make sure you stop by their booth this year to catch all the moving parts! They’ll have several interactive demos, including a “Microsurgery Game”, interactive musical stages called the “Zee Board”, laser-cut give-aways that will be made at the booth, and “Big Zed” – a moving/changing Z-shape that lights up. In fact, they’re bringing so many different projects to Vancouver Mini Maker Faire that we had to talk to several of them to put together the details for this article!

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What are you making/exhibiting at VMMF this year?

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Several Zaberians (people who work at Zaber) have gotten together to make the following:

Frank’s project: Micro-surgery game – Think “Operation”, but miniaturized and with a joystick.
Justin’s project: Big Zed – A giant, multi-part, moving, 3D “Z”.
Aaron and Connor’s project: Zee-board  – Make your own music with our stages.
Dan’s project: Laser cut give-away – Something to take home and make yourself!

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What else do you guys make?

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Zaberians have been known to make a lot of things, including music, automata mechanisms, heliostats, etc…

 

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What is your favourite part about being a Maker? Your least favourite part? The most challenging part?

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Frank: I’m an engineer and my work projects are expensive, complicated and precise. Building personal projects helps me develop my skills in new areas with low risk. My least favourite part is not having the right tool for a job or waiting for parts. The most challenging part is finding time.

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Connor: My two favourite parts about being a Maker are the satisfaction of seeing something I created come to life, and the look of enjoyment and surprise on people’s faces when they see the project for the first time.  My least favourite parts (which thankfully haven’t happened this year) are the rare occasions that someone calls into question the usefulness of spending time on the project.  The most challenging part would definitely be when I’m 20 hours into a 5 hour project and it finally feels like I’m about halfway there.

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Justin: Favourite part about being a Maker is the simple joy of creating, sucking sawdust, getting my hands dirty, and problem solving. I’m also able to express my sense of humour through my creations (when possible) which otherwise may go unnoticed from day to day by others. I also actually on occasion make myself laugh because you never know exactly how things will turn out….
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Dan: I’ve never called myself a Maker, but I like making things. My favourite part is starting projects, when every idea is possible. The most challenging part is finishing them.

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How else does the passion for making manifest in your life? Where does it come from?

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Frank: I became an engineer as I enjoyed designing and building things. It comes from years and years of training with Lego.
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Connor: I’m fortunate enough to work for a company that allows me to embrace my passion for making and work on cool projects, so my passion for making manifests itself almost daily at work. It’s hard to trace the passion for making since I’ve had it for as long as I can remember; however, I can say that my family has fostered my curiosity and enthusiasm for making since I was a small child.
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Justin: Being a ‘Maker’ is a central part of my soul. I create and ‘make’ at home constantly, so much so a day without ‘Making’ would be fairly unusual. Making comes from a desire to create and express where words rarely can be used or are insufficient -OR in some cases words are just a waste of time. One glance, you get it…

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Dan: I try to do my own car and bicycle repair. I get to make lots of prototypes at work. A lot of it comes from pride; I think I can do a better job than what’s out there, or I care more about the end result, so I end up doing things myself.

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Have you been a maker your whole life? What’s your earliest memory of making ?

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Frank: Yes, building a Lego gun with a trigger that could shoot Lego blocks about 5m when I was 8.

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Connor: I have been interested in making for as long as I can remember, but I would have to say I was initially more of a watcher and un-Maker – staring at construction sites and taking apart old appliances.  My earliest memory of creating rather than dismantling something is probably one of the hundreds of Lego or science kit projects I undertook as a child.

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Justin: I have been a ‘Maker’ all my life from very young. My earliest projects included a dozen or so tree forts, a Return of the Jedi Scout Walker made entirely out of cardboard and wire (because we were very poor and I couldn’t afford the proper model kit), and a large aerial view diorama of Kennedy Space Center made on a large table in my folks basement – which was inspired by the excitement of the first Space Shuttle launch.

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Dan: I spent a lot of time drawing as a kid. I think that has something to do with it. I also did origami with my mom. I probably inherited some of her Japanese “eye-for-details”.

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Who’s your favourite Maker? Other than yourself.

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Frank: Dan Gelbart. There are few other engineers that are so proficient at design, machining, and prototyping with such a broad range of expertise and experience.
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Connor: I don’t really have a favourite Maker, or even a favourite project.  If I had a dollar for every time I was blown away by the creativity, complexity and detail of another Maker’s creation, I’d be able to retire and just spend my time building things for fun… however taking into consideration what I get to do at work, I probably wouldn’t.

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Justin: Hands down automata artist Paul Spooner. A close second is Tim Hunkin and his ‘Secret Life of Machines’ BBC series.

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Dan: Tesla, but I guess that’s a pretty popular answer, so maybe Curt Herzstark.

 

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Who or what inspires you to keep on making, even when your project falls to pieces?

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Frank: You usually learn the most from failures. I actually enjoy massive failures, because that it is something that I’ll never forget and eliminates an approach, technique, or at least makes for an interesting story.

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Connor: To paraphrase Thomas Edison “I have not failed.  I’ve just found another way that will not work.”

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Justin: I have to, it’s who I am. Cliché but true. You always learn something from a failed project. The next one is ALWAYS better than the last.

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Dan: It’s whoever I promised something great to. If I don’t tell anyone about a project, I will probably just leave it in a box when it stops being fun, but if I tell someone about it, I feel obligated to deliver something, and nobody likes delivering something below expectations. This is why I usually don’t like showing unfinished work.

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What is it about Maker Faire that attracts you as an exhibitor? What are you looking forward to the most?

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We like that Zaberians can get together to make something using our products. The process is fun, challenging, and team building.  We also really like that VMMF is a family event. It might sound cliché, but we look forward to the “show and tell” aspect of VMMF. We like to talk about what we have made, but we also enjoy seeing other people’s projects. We are still kids at heart!

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Your company is a VMMF 2014 Sponsor. What is it about the Faire that draws your organization?

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Zaber’s roots are in “Making”. The company’s founders are Makers, and a lot of Zaberians are too. We also understand the vital role “making” and creativity play in building a strong community. All of the groups who participate in VMMF – crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, artists, science clubs, students, authors, and commercial exhibitors – get together because they are passionate about making things. We feel like we have a lot in common with these folks – some of them may even one day work at Zaber or go on to start their own companies. We find this very exciting.

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For more background on Zaber’s progress for VMMF projects, please visit Zaber on Facebook to see more photos and write-ups.