Machines that bend strong steel wire have been an important part of industrial manufacturing for decades. But on Saturday, I saw a $3,000 wire-bending machine the size of a laser printer, and my brain bubbled with excitement over the possibilities for hobbyists and small businesses. The machine, called the DIWire, can take a curve that's been drawn in Adobe Illustrator and "print" it on a length of stiff wire. You could make some awesome Eames-style furniture with one of these machines. NASA is already interested in using it to make antennae. It opens new frontiers for artists and designers, too.
I saw the DIWire this weekend at the Engadget Expand event in New York, where I was a co-host with Engadget's Director of Media, Brian Heater for the Insert Coin competition. Our job was to present the ten inventions and their creators to a panel of four judges: Ben Heck, Hillary Mason, Peter Rojas, and Ryan Block. The judges would award one inventor with a $10,000 cash prize. And the readers of Engadget would vote for their favorite to receive $15,000.
DIWire ended up taking home the Judge's Award, and an indoor automated vegetable-growing machine called GrowCube won Readers' Choice. All ten inventions were interesting (having been selected by the Engadget staff from a much larger pool of entrants), but the two standouts for me (besides the award winners) were the BlinkScan scanner (which takes photos of many items at once and produces cropped individual files for each item) and the BITalino (an Arduino-based prototyping platform that comes with electromyography, electrocardiography, electrodermal activity, and accelerometry physiological sensors).
Watch the video above for highlights from the event.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects