Decoding Design

Mixtapes are reborn, through 3D printing

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MakerBot's Mixtape harkens back to the days when playlists were tangible. And made for better gifts.

I was just back home in Chicago and found an old box full of mixtapes I had stashed away at my parent's house. These handmade gifts from school buddies, created with care and carefully hand-written song lists, are awesome and instantly bring me back in time.

The dear cassette tape is bound to have a rebirth, just as vinyl records did, and this new offering by Brooklyn-based open source 3D printing outfit MakerBot might be at the front of that wave. But instead of magnetic tape, the MakerBot Mixtape contains a digital media player. The process of picking out songs, the song order, the name of the tape and the artwork for the tape jacket is just like it was in the '80s (except that it's easier, thanks to quickly searchable digital music libraries).

This spring, at Maker Faire, Wired editor Chris Anderson said that before long, we'll all be able to buy desktop 3D printers at the nearest Big Box department store. That time is now if you're willing to order the printer online and wait 7 days. Well, and if you're loaded. The MakerBot Replicator puts you back $1,749. (Alternately, join TechShop and get access to 3D printers and many other tools you probably can't afford.)

Back to the Mixtape. It's available on Thingiverse. Those with 3D printer access can just download the printer files to create the cassette housing pieces, which snap together, and then purchase the 2 GB electronics module and cables for $25. Or, you can buy the already-assembled mixtape for $39.

Once the cassette is assembled, you'll load it up with songs, decorate the jacket with hearts and rainbows and song names and then meet your sweetie on the Brooklyn Bridge for gift exchange time. Or not. But that's what these kids (who were likely born after my real mixtapes were made) did in this cute video:

Via: Wired.com

Photos: MakerBot

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Mary Catherine O'Connor

Contributing Writer

Mary Catherine O'Connor has written for Outside, Fast Company, Wired.com, Smithsonian.com, Entrepreneur, Earth2Tech.com, Earth Island Journal and The Magazine. She is based in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure