The term maker culture has been used to explain a paradigm shift in the way products are designed and manufactured. It was first used to describe product development as a hobby or past time. However, it has crossed over into the commercial sector as well.
Maker cultures are also referred to as maker movements. Change is largely based on the use of digital technologies. This includes solutions like 3D printing, which impact upon product development at a process driven level.
3D printers have enabled affordable materials like plastic to be turned into working prototypes of design parts. These parts can be tested in real world scenarios before mass production takes place.
Maker movements explain why design and manufacture can now take place anywhere. 3D printing firms like MakerBot (above) are champions of the movement. The New York based company is creating affordable and easy to use solutions.
Jay Leno’s Garage
Jay Leno’s Garage is a well used example of the maker movement in action. 3D imaging and fabrication have been used in the automotive industry since as early as the 1970s. Equipment costs, however, now fall within a price range where classic car enthusiasts like Jay Leno can turn part of their garage into a production line. Leno’s team can reproduce machine parts or build working design prototype.
Leno’s Garage uses a laser scanner attached to a machine arm. The solution is manufactured by a Florida based company called Faro. It is used alongside software called Geomagic to produce the otherwise rare car parts needed. Geomagic turns 3D data points into solid surfaces, otherwise known as meshes. These are then smoothed out in the software in order to obtain the results shown in the video. Geomagic is now owned by South Carolina based 3DSystems.
Packaging A Movement
The Third Industrial Revolution and Internet of Things are terms often associated with the maker movement. The idea of a big make has been thrown into the mix by companies like Autodesk as well. It is used to explain the point at which maker activities go from cottage industry to large corporate endeavors. For instance, the SD Card sized Edison computer from Intel uses the Internet of Things to encourage a product development cycle based on crowd sourcing.
The Edison is an extension of preexisting examples, such as Minimig. Dennis Van Weeran – the electrical engineer who built Minimig – used a programmable chip known as a field programmable gate array “FPGA” in order to recreate the Amiga 500. Built in 2006, the Minimig demonstrates how a known distribution outlet (in this case Amiga enthusiasts) help turn a hobby into an actual product.
Labels like the Third Industrial Revolution and Internet of Things help grow technology driven markets by repackaging the development process. Companies like Intel, for instance, are now looking to appeal to a broader audience – an audience that represents what is being called a prosumer market. The prosumer can be seen events like SXSW Create (shown in the video below).
Prosumer is a term used to bridge the gap between consumer and professional markets. For example, it is being used in 3D design communities to include the maker movement. An example is the 123D series of tools or SketchUp. 123D Catch and a web display package called Sketchfab were some of the 3D technologies used by Paleontologist Louise Leakey to reconstruct and bring together fossilized evidence of early humans.
Prosumer driven technologies had a noticeable presence at the Consumer Electronics Show “CES” 2014 and South by South West. They offered an opportunity to introduce once specialist technologies to a new set of users.
Progress and marketing spin are two diametrically opposed labels that have been used to describe the maker culture or movement. It is clear that the development of this global scene is the result of an increasingly connected world.
Products are becoming easier to make and bring to market. Consumers can now design and manufacture a product according to their individual needs.
Even the White House recognized the potential of the movement when it hosted it’s own Maker Faire, June 18th, 2014.