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Transforming our Digital Graffiti Colouring Book with 3D Printed Magic

One of our most popular interactives is our giant digital graffiti colouring book wall. It's a 10-foot wide interactive display where guests use digital graffiti cans to colour and create huge murals. It's been a compelling draw at events, family fun at the Royal Ontario Museum, and car painting for Toyota. But when we were approached by The Children’s Wish Foundation for their Princess & Superhero Party, we knew our normal cans wouldn't cut it — we needed magic, not paint. We put our digital graffiti cans on the studio shelf, and began designing a magic wand.

Our amazing creative maker Rickee Charbonneau designed the wand by coding in the parameters manually (which is a bit over the technical top, but she’s like that), planning for batteries, conduits, and the infrared technology that allows our digital graffiti wall to pick up signals from the wand.

Between 3D printing rentals and events, Rickee printed the wand into reality. Each component required several design iterations to get just right for kids hands. We used Adafruit’s Circuit Playground board to drive the IR LED, and the colourful magic light up action.

Our design lead Joanna Lepiesza then got to work creating a fantasy scene that kids could colour in. We started with painting, but discovered that it was more fun to reveal a hidden mural with "magic" and redesigned the interactive that way.

Of course, the best part was putting the wands in kids' hands and watching the magic. This was a super fun project for us, and we were thrilled to be invited by The Children’s Wish Foundation and Mosaic to help make it happen. 

The team’s working on new interactives based on this one, for Canada 150 events and a whack of great experiential activations.

Tech Meets Haute Couture: Announcing New Event Illustration Interactives with Fashion Artist Monica Smiley


We’re creating a new collection of pop-up gifting experiences where guests can have live-drawn illustrations produced into full card sets, gifts, and edibles. These new interactives are designed for special VIP events and experiential activations where photo booths don’t fit the vibe or aren’t enough to create a lasting impression. Guests watch as their custom piece be created, ready to take home right away. We’re super excited to be designing these experiences with fashion illustrator Monica Smiley of eighty seventh ST. Monica has collaborated with fashion brands like Holt Renfrew, Hermès, Burberry, Tiffany & Co, MAC Cosmetics, and Joe Fresh. Here are a few of our upcoming offerings.

Live-Made Card Sets

For this interactive, Monica will live-draw, or prepare illustrations to be customized by guests on-site. The MakeLab team will then print and pack them into gorgeous gift sets. Everything’s done on-site while guests watch, with live-made card sets or stationery ready to take home right there.

It’s All in the Wrapping Paper

This is a favourite of the MakeLab team. Monica will draw live caricatures of guests, or prepare custom themed illustrations in advance. The MakeLab team will then digitally customize, pattern and print them onto rolls of one-of-a-kind fashion wrapping paper. Everything’s done on-site, with wrapping paper rolled, custom branded, and ready right away to take home.

Live-Lasered Illustrated Macarons

For this offering, MakeLab brings its studio-class laser cutter on-site. Monica draws live caricatures of guests, or pre-draws design elements, which MakeLab then laser-caramelizes onto colourful French macarons. Guests can watch the entire process, snapping photos of the action at every step.

Custom Caricature Tote Bags

We'll bring our fleet of clean, sleek black heat presses on site. Monica will draw live caricatures of guests, or prep design elements in advance, which MakeLab can then heat press onto totes. Guests get to watch every step of the process.

For more details on these, send us an email to, or tell us about an upcoming event here. We're also busy working on our summer event ideas too — Pop yourself on our newsletter and we’ll keep you in the loop!

Images via: eighty seventh ST. and MakeLab

Meet Norman, Our New Live-Events Laser Engraving Machine

The MakeLab family has an exciting new member — a sleek new event-ready laser engraver — and we’ve named it Norman. Norman joins our eight 3D printers, and makes our new Edible Instagram Photo Booth and Laser Bow Tie Bar interactives possible.

Fashionable For Live Events

Norman is a laser cutter which we’ve modified for live events, trade shows, and marketing activations. Appropriate for any event, Norman has been powder coated for a sleek but sophisticated look, accessorized with interior lighting and specialized bed plates to attract attention to his work and streamline our process. Norman also travels in style, with a custom designed road case, making appearances at events in Toronto and across the continent (shout out to Boxer Custom Cases).

New to Customizing Event Swag

We’re always on the hunt for new takeaways we can laser engrave at events — from bottle openers to bow ties, bananas to baked goods. A big thanks to Don’t Call Me Cupcake in Kensington, who has been generously supplying Norman with all the cupcakes and cookies he's been going through during the experimental phase. We can now add these beautiful and delicious treats to our tried and true laser-etched Macarons (from the famous Nadège Patisserie in Toronto). We’re super excited about the Edible Instagram Photo Booth, and have more event concepts in the oven.

Experimenting with New Materials, Foods, and Fun

We’re working on our holiday season interactives, and will be rolling out new offerings over the next few months. Pop yourself on our email newsletter and we’ll keep you in the loop! 


Well hey there Startup Weekend teams!

We've got FIVE 3D printers at your disposal this weekend, and are here to help you get your stuff from mind to print. First, a big shout-out to the U of T Faculty of Information who lent us some extra printers while our 8 printer fleet is at Maker Faire this weekend (by the way, the Faculty is looking for master's and Ph.D. students to join them in their study of emergent digital tech — contact them if you're interested).


How much can I print?

Our plan is to give teams the ability to leverage 3D printing to build larger, more innovative and complex prototypes, while enjoying the freedom to iterate over several prints. It’s a veritable all-you-can-eat 3D printing buffet!

Our staff will be running the MakeLab printer fleet Saturday from 10am to 10pm, and Sunday from 9am to noon. We'll also be setting large models to print through the night Sat to Sunday. And as Startup Weekend Toronto is providing unlimited free filament, you can plan for large multi-hour builds that will take your prototype to the next level. MAKELAB staff will also be overseeing the printing on-site, and is here to help you with advice on preparing your prints.

New to 3D printing? Here’s what you can do with it.

MakeLab’s printers are FDM (fused deposition modelling) type. They work like computer controlled glue guns, melting and laying down successive thin layers of plastic one by one until your object is printed.

It’s helpful to think of 3D printing not just in the context of printing your entire solution top to bottom, but in creating components to allow you to use other materials in innovative ways (think: hinges, corners, feet, structural elements). Take some time and get inspired on Thingiverse, one of the best collections of downloadable 3D models on the internet. Check out their Tools category for some great applications of 3D printing in creating custom components, fasteners, gears, etc. Remember that you can download something, and alter it to suit your needs using a 3D modelling program (more on that below).

Search Thingiverse with keywords of components you've already decided on for your project. For example, you can search Arduino on Thingiverse and see what others have created that you can alter or build off of. From the practical to the absurd, it’s all there.


MakeLab uses MakerBot Replicator 2 printers, with build volumes of 285 mm L X 153 mm W X 155 mm H. You can print larger objects in multiple sections, and glue or fit them together. We'll be printing exclusively in MakerBot white PLA plastic for free over startup weekend, though you may purchase a more colourful spool of plastic from us should you wish.

3D design: a lot easier than you think.

If you've done a lot of 3D modelling, you know there’s plenty of software options out there. Just make sure you can export an .STL file.

If you’re new to 3D design, there’s a plethora of 3D modelling programs that are super easy to use. Start with Autodesk’s TinkerCAD or 123D Design. Both have great tutorials and a short learning curve. With the appropriate plug-ins, you can also export STLs from Trimble SketchUp Pro. You can also check out Autodesk’s super fun and useful family of 123D apps (TIP: 123D Make is an incredibly powerful way to use a laser cutter to make 3D objects. Laser cutters will be available at Startup Weekend, are faster than 3D printers, and can yield some spectacular results). 

Once again, remember that you can import a Thingiverse model as a starting point. Just download the .STL file for the model you want from Thingiverse, import (not insert) it into 123D Design or another app, and make your edits. It’s also not a bad idea to run your model through an app like Netfabb’s free 3D model analysis tool to check your model for any errors and repair it automatically.

If you need some help, feel free to run your model by us for a tip or two. With the volume we’ll be handling at Startup Weekend though, we won’t be able to offer from-the-ground-up design services during the weekend.

So you’re ready to print.

Great! Come over to our on-site printing area. We’ll take a look over your model with you, start the print, and let you know when it’s likely to be done.

We’re excited to see what you create. #MakeAllTheThings.


We're fascinated with how museums around the world use 3D printing to enrich exhibit experience. We're awestruck at projects like Smithsonian's X 3D platform and American Fossils' Virtual Lab. We love this stuff, and we were thrilled when an opportunity came to design a 3D printing exhibit for the Royal Ontario Museum.

The result was our D-I-Y 3D Printed Mesopotamian City exhibit, where ROM guests used 16 iPads and our 8 3D printers to design ancient city blocks, print them out, and add them to a massive collaborative 3D city. At the end of the exhibit, we had generated a spectacular menagerie-cityscape with hundreds of unique elements — each piece designed by a different person. Here's how we did it.


The plan was to use Autodesk's 123D Design for iPad to design a virtual 3D city block (4x4x4cm) using a combination of pre-designed Mesopotamian architectural elements. 123D Design is a gorgeous free app, designed to be easy to use for basic 3D modelling. After twenty minutes of design time, we would print participants' city blocks in front of their eyes, and place them on our specially designed light table for display.

We worked with students from the [R]ed[U]x Lab (Ryerson University Architectural Science Design Lab) who designed twenty discrete Mesopotamian-inspired architectural elements in Rhino (a more robust, commercial grade 3D modelling program), before exporting them to 123D Design. The key was to design elements that were beautiful and recognizable as Mesopotamian, yet would support our target print time of 15 minutes per city block. This meant designing details that would withstand low resolution printing (0.4mm), a fast nozzle speed, and require no support material. We took a few liberties with Mesopotamian architecture, but we don't think our ancient architectural predecessors will mind.

Our 16 iPad design area was facilitated by our team at a 1:4 ratio, to ensure the learning curve for participants was smooth. Guests had a great time, and the quality of the design and prints was incredibly impressive. We were shocked at how adept the general — and inebriated — public was with 3D modelling (the exhibition took place during the ROM's Friday Night Live event series), and with the quality, creativity and diversity of models produced in the short 20 minutes we allowed for design.

After the exhibition, we uploaded all models to our Shapeways store so participants could view or download their city block. They can also order their own model there in a variety of materials.

The project was a great success, one we owe to our great partners at Ryerson's [R]ed[U}x Lab, who also designed our gorgeous light-table city foundation, file workflows, and helped facilitate; the University of Toronto’s Critical Making Lab who kept our 3D printing fleet operational during intense use; and of course the ROM.