September 04, 2014

3D printer

3D printers are just one part of the maker movement. Credit: Creative Tools / Flickr Creative Commons

Is the revolution going to be manufactured?
 
People have always tinkered – working on projects in the garage or basement. But now the “maker movement” is moving into the mainstream. This summer, the White House even sponsored its first-ever Maker Faire.
 

 
According to Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics and the author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, the movement has brought about an “explosion of entrepreneurship and innovation.”
 
But who are these “makers,” exactly?
 
“Makers are basically anyone who's creative and interested in technology, and they’re interested in using the new technologies that are available to create devices and projects and products around them,” says Limor Fried, the founder of AdaFruit, an online source for the movement.

It isn't all high-tech tinkering and robots, though. Anderson expands the definition to include most peoples’ grandmothers. “If you’re cooking in the kitchen, you’re making; if you’re gardening, you’re making.”
 
However, the maker movement doesn’t signify the death of big box stores or retailers like Amazon. In fact, the makers’ relationships with retail is much more symbiotic. Many people “take off the shelf stuff -- especially Ikea, which has a huge maker and hacker community around it -- and then modify it by either 3D printing extra pieces to make it more useful, or adapt[ing it] to your home,” says Fried.  
 
The 3D printing aspect of maker culture has paved the way for what Anderson sees as the next industrial revolution. You might not have a 3D printer in your home to make bowls and spoons whenever you feel like it — but for small business owners, 3D printers are a game-changer.
 
“From idea to prototype used to be super hard,” says Anderson. “It used to require machine skills and expensive equipment, and now it really is no more complicated than a regular paper printer."

"Instead of spending $30,000 on a prototype," says Fried, "I can spend 30 cents.”
 
Even Amazon is getting into the 3D printing business. But Fried says she's not concerned that the behemoth's involvement will adversely affect the movement. “I do think Amazon is very smart to get into this because maybe what they’re doing specifically isn’t the future, but they’re experimenting with it and they’re getting involved with it…oftentimes we don’t know necessarily what the disruptive innovation is until it’s already passed.”
 
So will the maker movement really change our lives?
 
Anderson says yes — comparing the movement's rise to the rise of the personal computer. Over time, computing power shifted from the hands of big companies to every household in America. The maker movement, he says, is doing the same thing. “Any time you give the means of production to everybody, it changes the world.”
 
Still curious?

  • Watch a 3D printer in action

maker movement, Chris Anderson, Limor Fried, Sci and Tech

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