There is a new thought process happening behind the scenes of modern disposable society. It has to do with a renewed focus on do-it-yourself projects and being able to repair what you already own. The media buzz phrase is “Maker Movement”, and it encompasses fields such as robotics, electronics, three-dimensional (3D) printing, and CNC machinery combined with traditional activities like metalwork and woodwork.
The maker subculture harkens back to the 1960s and 1970s era of building blue boxes to make free long distance calls. People with amazing ideas, pursuing the newest technologies to expand their personal knowledge, could possibly change the world as we know it.
One of the single coolest devices to come out of the subculture is 3D printing. What this allows you to do is take a design and print a 3D model of it using different media, most commonly plastic. This opens up the ability to make some pretty interesting things. Broke a D-ring hook on your backpack? Print a new one. Custom hinge on your baby stroller broke? Make a new one. Restoring a classic car and need a long-discontinued retainer clip? Design a new one, share it on a forum and everyone interested in that piece can print a copy and use it. The technology allows for rapid prototyping of almost anything you can think of.
Now, let’s say you have a great idea and want to get to market. Websites like indiegogo.com and kickstarter.com allow you to market directly to interested consumers, who can help provide funding while creating interest and providing feedback on your product. If you have some time, take a look at Indiegogo and Kickstarter to see some amazing ideas! You may even want to sponsor one or two yourself.
My favorite thing about the culture is the open sharing of ideas among like-minded individuals. To this end, people are creating spaces to allow folks to gather, much like an art collective. These areas are termed Hackerspaces. They can range from a classroom used after hours, to commercial operations that can have memberships and provide access to specialized tools. The main requirement is an area that promotes open-minded discussions, normally with a high-technology focus.
Here are some websites to check out for more specific information:
• makerbot.com — Makers of the Replicator line of affordable 3D printers.
• lifx.co – Home LED bulbs that can be controlled from your smartphone. Born on Kickstarter.
• ifixit.com – Walk-throughs of how to repair electronics, with tools available to buy online.
• makezine.com – A web blog specifically focused on creating, with designs and projects available.