“They don’t make things like they used to.”
But there may still be some hope; today’s maker movement, helped along by open source hardware, may be able to replenish some of the awe that the Industrial Revolution took from us. Not to disrespect mass production, I’m as much a fan of affordable goods as the next person, but it seems sterile now. Products seem manufactured, not thoughtfully designed and crafted.
The maker movement, though, is tackling this head on. Quite simply, “makers” are innovative pioneers dedicated to finding the overlap between DIY projects, technology, and community. Makerspaces, which serve as the nuclei for the local maker communities, are like tool sheds for the techie and the tinkerer alike. They house industrial equipment not typically available to the average person, like 3D Printers and laser cutters, and serve as hubs for collaboration and idea exchange. Access to these kinds of resources allows designers, engineers and next-door neighbors alike to become inventors.
While this flight from the assembly line and return to the workbench may seem regressive, the maker movement is pretty cutting edge. 3D printers, drones, software and other technologies of the like are spurring the makers on in their quest for smart innovation. Universities across the nation are investing in communal innovation spaces, with notable Engineering schools like MIT pioneering the way. With the maker movement building momentum, it’s possible that art again becomes pragmatic and product development again becomes communal.
Further, makerspaces stand as a new frontier for entrepreneurship – for real entrepreneurship. Because there’s a potential to make a profitable product with few barriers to get started. If you have an idea, you have the means to execute it. It doesn’t take large amounts of capital or an intricate web of connections. Makerspaces typically operate on a membership model, making access to one just as common as access to a gym. So people with an idea and enough drive to make it happen can actually design and build a product for the market.
Currently, makerspaces aren’t having much impact on the global manufacturing economy. But while they might not serve as an actual competitor for the manufacturing industry, they do serve as an exciting avenue for people to get more involved in their community and in the art of making things. So the next time you’re doing something and you think “Hmm, this would be so much easier if only I had this thing,” perhaps you should make it.
You might have a makerspace near you. To find out more, check out some makerspaces here: Paxspace, TechShop, Milwaukee Makerspace, Dallas Makerspace, RaumZeitLabor, Chattanooga Library 4th Floor makerspace, and there might be one in a strip mall near you…
Justin is a contributing author who loves to read and write about the advancements of technology and robotics. When not at work, you can find him conquering Risk and Catan or on an adventure with his wife and kids. Last Father's Day he received a #1 dad shirt, so now that's official.
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