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  • Writer's pictureNed Patton

Composites at Maker Faire Bay Area 2023

I thought this week I would focus a little bit on a really awesome event that is happening in the Bay Area during two weekends this month. This is the Maker Faire Bay Area 2023, and it is happening at the historic Mare Island Naval Base. This place has some history for me as well, since my dad was stationed there when I was very little. We lived in a little house in Napa where they had a bunch of Quonset Huts for Navy personnel that were stationed there.

This is one of the displays that are going to be at the Maker Faire. This Maker is using low VOC composites as well as urethane and PE foam to make structures. And the resins he uses are low VOC and low toxicity – in other words they don’t give off nasty stuff as they cure.

For those that don’t know what Maker Faire is, it was created in 2006 by the creators of Make: Magazine – Dale Dougherty and Tim O’Reilly. The Make: Magazine was founded in 2005 in San Mateo, CA, and they held the first Maker Faire the next year in San Mateo. The first one drew 20,000 people, so Maker Faire was a huge hit with people who like to make interesting stuff. And it has remained a huge hit to this day. In fact, there are Maker Faires going on in several locations in the US in October as well as several countries abroad like Rome, Cairo, Rio in Brazil, Seoul, and Tokyo. I would urge you to check int out and see if there is one close to you if you’re interested. The map is here:

Dale Dougherty, one of the creators of Make: and the Maker Movement, is somewhat of a celebrity, and was honored by Obama himself when he was President for being a “Champion of Change” through Obama’s initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” That is a direct quote from the event.

Anyway, this is a newsletter about composites, so let’s get back to things composite. There are a few Makers at the Faire, as well as a couple of Universities that are doing all sorts of interesting things. Mostly these are student projects where they are making interesting things out of a number of materials, along with electronics, motors, etc. There are even toy makers that are 3D printing toys, including radio controlled model ships.

One of the more interesting displays - especially when it comes to composites - will be the Stanford Student Space Initiative, where the students are presenting engineering models of their open source cubesat (Sapling), their Antarctic rover (Polar Rover), and several high power rockets. This is a completely student run group at Stanford that is working to advance space exploration through education, engineering projects, and working prototypes that are actually going either into near earth orbit, or exploring places where humans have a hard time surviving on this planet.

Of course, everything that you see here was made feasible through the use of composites. Primary structure on spacecraft like the Stanford CubeSat are always carbon fiber composite because that is the only material that is light enough, strong enough, stiff enough, and environmentally stable enough to meet the weight restrictions for being a CubeSat launched on a SpaceX Falcon and survive the environment of low earth orbit. And composites are the only materials thermally stable enough to withstand the environment of the Antarctic as well. Plus, all of the rocket bodies that you see on the table at the far end of this display must be made using composites – again – light, strong, stiff, environmentally stable.

There is even a sailboat that can be towed behind a bicycle at the Maker Faire. This guy made this cute little 17’ sailboat using G-10, a glass fiber reinforced thermoplastic that can be molded into any shape needed. All of the ribs and stiffeners are lightweight plywood, and the spars look to me like they are simple aluminum tubing. The guy who made this thing – Paul Freedman – bought the plans and modified them to enable the attachment of wheels that tuck into sockets in the hull. So, the boat is the trailer. He tows this thing with a folding e-bike (that he probably stows on board when he’s sailing this thing), launches it into San Francisco Bay and goes for a sail. He is encouraging others to get out into nature and experience things like sailing without the need to use a car or a truck. I am sure that I am going to spend some time chatting with this guy when I go to Maker Faire Bay Area.

Which brings up another announcement that I need to make. My book is going to be in the Maker Shed at Maker Faire Bay Area, so anyone that lives in the Bay Area that reads this newsletter can go take a peek at it to see if you want to buy it.

That’s about enough for this week. I am going to be reminding everyone right here each week that I will be presenting two papers toward the end of this year. Both of them are about sustainability of composites – a subject that all of you that have read my posts know is a passion of mine. The first one is a paper about sustainability efforts for composites in general, with a focus on what to do with wind turbine blades. That one is going to be at the International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exhibition in New Orleans October 29 to November 2 ( The second one will be at the Carbon Fiber Conference in Salt Lake City being put on by Composites World ( In that presentation I will focus on current work in sustainability of carbon fiber in particular. I’m of course going to talk about new fibers and fiber precursors made from plants, so again, focusing on closing the circle.

And, finally, for those of you that have not heard, my book has been published and is for sale. The best place to get one is to go to my website and buy one. I will send you a signed copy for the same price you would get charged on Amazon, except that I charge $8 shipping. Anyway, here’s the link to get your signed copy: And as usual, here’s a picture of the book, for those of you just tuning in.

And, I will be signing books at the Maker Faire Bay Area on October 15. I’m going to give a short talk at 1 PM about the book and composites in general, and then sign books for as long as folks want me there.

See you all next week.

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09 oct 2023
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Hello Ned, I'm thrilled to be sharing this year's Maker Faire with you! I hope you come by my low VOC booth as I demonstrate how I use these materials to make a watertight pontoon. It'll be fun to talk shop with you! If you have a QR code for your book I'd be happy to display it in the booth. Bob

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