Makers are people that take things into their own hands. They like to come up with new and creative ideas, learn new things and be innovative. Makers usually start building new projects as a hobby, but some of them take it further to a point where they invent new products and contribute to the tech industry in many different ways. To find out what makers believe about their impact on the industry, we reached out to 30 makers and asked them:
Is the power of the maker movement a myth?
Even though the maker movement has been around for well over a decade, we’re only at the beginning of a much bigger shift in the culture around technology. As a movement, makers contribute to tech industries through the adoption of maker tools, values, and ways of working that open up innovation to a greater, more diverse talent pool. This democratization of information and materials is only just now maturing into a new wave of startups focused on building IoT devices and hardware products.
There’s work being done all over the country to build the kind of support system for hardware entrepreneurs that the software folks have been enjoying for several decades now. New organizations and maker spaces like NextFab in Pittsburgh are finding ways to incubate these startups and connect them with funding, prototyping resources, and manufacturers. Increasing the availability of maker resources in schools helps ensure that we are thinking of the connection between hardware and software in new and exciting ways and preparing for an increasingly creative economy.
That’s the vision we have for the maker movement’s contribution to the industry, and the key is going to be about preserving maker values like open source, collaboration, and individuality as we see more and more successes.
Do makers contribute to the 3D printing industry and how? Asking what is a maker should be considered, and also we should appreciate that people may work with 3D printing both professionally and as a hobby. In conversations with engineers at industrial additive manufacturing enterprises I often find many also run a RepRap or other desktop 3D printer after hours.
That's not to say all Makers are hobbyists. In my job, I often visit FabLabs and Makerspaces around the world and while occasionally I encounter people who spend more time talking about what they are going to make than actually making, plenty more are using 3D printing to meet a particular need or start a business.
I think the skill set gained from understanding the design, materials and actually building something that is valuable. Will this lead to a new age of innovation or will we be buried under a mountain of fidget spinners? Wait and see!
The maker movement is the platform for everyday creatives to dream up, sketch and develop useful ideas.
Combined with the growth of online creation platforms such as Instructables, Hackster.io, a plethora of Maker Spaces and micro-factories, the movement has become an engine for innovation and inspiration for a new generation of startups and products.
Makers are the early adopters and community seed for the more approachable products of the tech industry.
Makers form a passionate crowd of developers while facing limited time and money resources when compared to commercially employed developers. They embrace new technologies quicker and with lower requirements - ignoring future stock considerations and expected product life cycle, which is determinant for commercial applications.
However, since their resources are limited to weekend projects, anything that requires too much reading and research will usually be out of their scope. If as a technology developer you are aiming for easy adaptation of your products - then the maker community is your ultimate test-bed. See today how many development boards aimed at the professional market, adhere to the Arduino Uno’s form factor.
This simple implementation detail conveys the message of ‘simplicity of use’ and is a direct result of this great community. That being said, makers are not likely adopters of technologies with high entry barriers - like expensive component or components which require expensive machinery for their application or use.
These components, of course, form a large part of the overall tech industry, and lacking a maker community behind them will have to compensate somehow for their reduced user base.
Makers are definitely having a significant impact in regards to new product innovation. At Predictable Designs we specifically work with makers and entrepreneurs to help them develop new products, so we see this impact first hand. In fact, a survey by the maker website Hackster.io shows that approximately half of makers are interested in turning their project into a product they can bring to market.
By its nature, becoming a maker tends to make one more innovative. It opens up your mind to think outside of the box, and many times this inherently leads to ideas for new innovative products. Being a maker is a fantastic training ground for developing a new product that can be sold to the masses.
The biggest issue makers face is there are massive obstacles between creating a maker project and developing a product that can be manufactured and sold at a profit. However, those obstacles are becoming smaller thanks to advancements such as home 3D printers, crowd funding, and the widespread availability of freelancers with a broad spectrum of skills.
Makers are innovators who are willing to “get their hand dirty” and try things rather than just thinking or talking about it.
Ideally, they share their experience with other developers to inspire them and give them ideas about what works and what doesn’t. How to get started. What hurdles they encountered and how to overcome them. What code they used to accomplish a certain achievement. What code they used that didn’t work.
They’re willing to share their experience with others to contribute to the greater good of the developer community. DZone provides them a platform on which to do this – help developers learn faster and be more successful.
Makers help drive innovation in the industry because they represent a unique form of market. They’re not a traditional consumer market; instead, they are a creator market, generating added value from components in unexpected ways from outside the mainline hardware development and manufacturing process.
How and what sort of value do they generate?
One way is by taking standardized components used by the industry supply chain, appropriating them, and discovering unanticipated affordances. For example, just looking on Hackster, you will find projects ranging from new kinds of in-car computers to Arduino-based mini-guitars to composting system controllers to stuffed toy bears that read tweets; all built from off the shelf materials. Projects like these expose the broad range of utility in electronic hardware components beyond their originally intended use.
Another way is that they power STEM education outside the school system, through maker events and spaces, cultivating and training the next generation of professionals who will drive innovation from within the industry. Some of these makers even find themselves transitioning into a professional career path inside the industry, or serving as a bridge between hardware developers and other adjacent roles within their organization.
Makers are greatly influencing means of experimentation and development timelines of product creation life cycles. The culture of innovation brought by Makers combined with accessible, inexpensive tools built for and available to individual Makers challenge the incumbent workflows of product realization. While Makers may not be directly creating products that will scale beyond their own home use, they are demonstrating rapid and creative iteration cycles driven by the level of capital afforded by an individual.
These resource constraints and desire to Make have built up and sustained an ecosystem of tools, hardware, software and communities that have enabled Makers to achieve a myriad of homegrown, home-implemented solutions that can extend creativity beyond the necessary limitations of an enterprise; free from road maps or judgment.
While this creativity and autonomy may not directly benefit product realization, it certainly influences product realization by challenging the existing paradigms of research, development, and traditional constraints while simultaneously extending product realization beyond the confines created by the specialized expertise needed to experiment in practice beyond an imaginary dream.
There are tons of ways that a maker can turn their hobby or passion into a profession. A capable maker can now start a fablab, start a 3D print shop or invent 3D printable, smart, connected products that they can sell. Since the first open source, low-cost systems appeared on the market inventors have had more tools to invent and young entrepreneurs have had the possibility of buying their own “factory” for just a couple of thousand dollars. This is a huge revolution.
That said there is a huge difference between using a tool to invent something fresh, innovative and useful and revolutionizing manufacturing. Manufacturing is being revolutionized by huge companies - often founded by scientists - that have had access to millions of dollars in funding to enable scaling their business and thus try to truly bring about a global change in manufacturing. These companies have teams of hundreds of engineers working on innovating on an entirely different scale.
Many of the engineers that work at these companies are also hobbyist makers. And making can be a great way to shape the engineers and scientists of tomorrow. But the illusion that anyone can start the next revolution of manufacturing in their garage is IMAO just that, an illusion. Thinking out of the box can bring new ideas but you also need the financial, scientific and entrepreneurial backing - along with lots of luck and hard work - to turn your idea into the future of manufacturing.
The racing drone market is growing rapidly mainly due to a large community of Makers. Most high-end racing drones are assembled piece by piece (almost like building a PC) and there is a huge amount of customization. The custom nature of these products allows for hobbyists to experiment and rapidly improve upon the existing tech in the market.
A few ways this is happening:
1. Much of the drone racing market is like the early PC market. Businesses are running out of garages, small hobby shops, and even out of homes that are designing new and exciting components. These individuals all share a passion for the hobby, and are using their deep understanding of the technology to bring about rapid improvements to the market. Many popular components in the hobby started out as a person designing something at home!
2. Accessible technologies such as 3D printing allows almost anyone to prototype ideas and get feedback quickly. Instead of waiting for a fabricated prototype from a manufacturer, you can print a component, see if it fits or works as expected, and get instant feedback. Moreover, you can release designs to the community for free through sites such as Thingiverse.
To summarize: In the drone racing market, the shared spirit of growing the hobby is bringing about rapid improvements in technology from a variety of Makers.
Making has always been fun and educational. I have been a Maker since the late 1970s, building crude robots in my parents' basement, and it is a lot easier now. The availability of information on the Internet, the huge amount of low-cost commercial level components, and the open source nature of Making all contribute to enabling the current generation of Makers to create things that are as good as products you would buy.
I take some robots to play with to local maker fairs and science shows. I started doing that to promote my website, but quickly realized there was little marketing value in those shows. What I discovered is that it's an opportunity to inspire a new generation of kids. Those opportunities were extremely rare when I was young, and now there are so many events like those, competitions, STEAM camps etc.
When I went to college, the goal was generally to get a job at a big company. The widely held belief was that innovation happened in big companies. These days, the level of tools available enable innovation to happen in thousands of startups. I was fortunate to be able to work in and create several Internet software startups, bringing my innovative Maker approach to those companies. Now, I am able to use that experience, along with my robotics knowledge to start up new robotics oriented companies. So, all of that Maker experience has played a huge role in my career.
Is the current Maker movement creating more innovation than before? I don't know, but I can say for sure that more people have more access to high-quality components, information, and inspiration than ever before. If my experience is an example, then the Maker movement will certainly drive more innovation in the future.
A simple and popular case study would be fidget spinners. While Toys R Us, Walmart and other multi-million (and billion) dollar companies are trying to airlift fidget spinners to meet the trend/demand, our users are just 3D Printing them at home for 1/10th of the cost.
Makers can simply find a fidget spinner (for free) on Thingiverse, download it and 3D Print it without even having to go to the store.
You see, since the cost is minimal (usually just time) to design 3D Printable objects on Computer-aided design (CAD) software, major manufacturers & corporations cannot keep pace with the sheer volume of free designs that get uploaded every day by amateurs and professionals alike
Furthermore, these designs are improved by other makers which force designs to improve indefinitely based on market demand.
In fact, there are tens of thousands of 3D printed objects being sold on Etsy.
I know a lot of this stuff because we are the fastest growing cloud platform for Desktop 3D Printing. Our users have 3D Printed over 600,000+ HOURS on our platform.
The entire spirit behind making is using what you have and sharing what you build with open source projects. This is not exactly the kind of market that would benefit traditional businesses, so it’s understandable that many look at the hobby and the business of making wearily.
Despite this many stores and services have popped up to provide the raw materials to make, as well as streamline the service or host resources such as code and guides.
While the obvious role of the everyday user of these businesses is to, well, use them, I would argue that it goes beyond that. The most important way makers contribute to the industry is by propagating it forward.
Let me give you an example. My friend Tom Van den Bon operates a local maker space in South Africa by the name of BinarySpace. When the Raspberry Pi Zero W launched in our country he didn’t just get to creating with it, he created a course to teach people how to use it.
That’s the way a lot of us think when it comes to building these projects: to document and share and teach. One maker can inspire hundreds if not thousands more to get into the hobby and contribute to it, increasing the number of people buying components and using the services which make them work.
As a maker, I put a lot of time and effort into creating what I think is a brilliant idea. This effort triggers new ideas that I shared on the blog and with the maker community.
In general, a maker combines knowledge from different fields, which helps develop new skills, generate new concepts and innovative tools. In addition, almost every maker searching to reduce the production costs, which is very important in the DIY area.
The clearest thing that I can think of that was mostly driven by the maker community was the proliferation of 3D printing technologies. I remember about 5 years back when Maker Faire in San Mateo was nearly 50% different companies with 3D printers trying to hawk their wares. Or even earlier when the first Rep-rap was made which was the basis for all the said 3D printer designs taking up space at Maker Faire!
The Maker Movement is more of an art movement rather than some trendy thing that people like to talk about. It allows anyone and everyone to develop and build something that fixes and itch or is just plain cool. Sometimes those projects turn into something commercial and sometimes those things just generate a lot of view on Youtube.
I often interact with Makers who have found super cheap ways of building their connected devices. While not exactly the most legitimate, legal-wise, it shows how creative they can get. Driving technology to the fringes makes it cheaper and more available for everyone. I look forward to the day when some young kid creates a breakout product by themselves using the products and services derived from Makers of the past.
So overall, makers have made a huge contribution. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have wireless flying drones or desktop 3D printers.
I work at Kell ideas - robotics company founded by engineers who previously worked on Mars rover prototypes at Wrocław University of Technology (Poland).
Now, we are during a preparation process for Kickstarter campaign with our newest "baby". Turtle Rover is World's first Mars rover designed to work back on Earth, and it will be available for everyone.
As makers, we are more than happy to provide a product that will encourage other makers to build their own mobile robots using (or not) our chassis.
If you look for examples of makers being serious, looks inside the maker-society as well. Most of the products (for ex. 3D printers) are made by makers for makers, but makers are not anonymous. Sometimes they work in the serious industry as here. We provide an inspection robot which gives the possibility to be used by DIY users but essentially is a medium-sized open-source robot with a quality of industrial-grade components.
The main difference between traditional invention and the ones today is that more and more people prefer not to patent and sell, but to involve more and more people during the development period.
We all know that backbone of any industry is its research department. If you are designing some product then you must be having a strong competition with your competitors and you can only succeed if your product is better and here comes the Makers.
I myself once got an order from a textile industry, they need to upgrade their relay system to increase their production and now they are having a significant increase in their production.
Makers don’t just contribute to the industry; I believe that the emergence of Maker culture will soon bring about a full-scale revolution.
The future of product development is now in the hands of the people. We live in an age of affordable technology, whether it be 3D printers, remote-control drones, DIY robots for kids, etc. More people are interacting with technology, and this allows them to not only develop an enhanced understanding of how the technology works but also influence how new innovations are made.
Today, Makers are able to create personalized gadgets to their own specifications. Sometime very soon, countless new products will be introduced to the market, as Makers will invent their own customized products and share them with a blossoming online community. Many of the mundane gadgets we see every day will be redesigned and reconfigured each individual Maker’s needs or tastes, allowing for new permutations of old products to emerge, and in many cases, completely original products will be introduced.
The industry will be turned on its head; gone will be the days when products are carefully planned for mainstream audiences in business meetings because people will be able to design custom products for themselves. The process by which products are developed will be changed forever, thanks to the Maker revolution.
I’ve been interesting in how stuff works and making things for as long as I can remember. As a kid, this meant LEGO sets, Construx, and taking things apart, likely to my parents’ dismay at times. Eventually, though, I, and likely many kids of the time hit a point where to go any further with our “inventions” we needed something beyond constructions bricks, but weren’t ready to use heavy power tools.
I later got an engineering degree and learned how to use many of these tools, but there was a huge gap where I didn’t make a lot of interesting projects. Perhaps today that could have been filled in with greater Internet resources, 3D printers, and other maker-style tools.
So in that aspect, I see much of the Maker movement as a way that people can keep up that creativity when they’re ready for something beyond basic building blocks. Can it lead to real, useful inventions? Certainly, but people have been tinkering long before “Making” was a thing. We now have more resources that people can use in their own ways, whether for fun, profit, or even to make a unique gift for someone special!
I am a MakerBot alum and CEO of both FLEKS3D and FormTap. Both of my companies are born out of the maker/diy movement. FLEKS3D was created when my business partner was 3D printing a client product and cut his hands one too many times.
FormTap was born from the idea that makers love making but generally have trouble getting their awesome ideas to market. We manage marketing, manufacturing and selling their product while they do what they love.
To answer your question though the maker movement has barely even started impacting industry at large and it has already changed industrial goods prototyping. 3D printing as we know it today, desktop FDM, was born from makers and has changed the way everything from shoes to airplane engines come to market.
A founder I have been working with founder RaceYa which uses 3D printing to create RC cars. Abigail is a maker and built her company from the first prototype. She is hoping to inspire the next generation of makers to create their own RC cars and get into building things with their hands.
Making isn’t just a fad or something limited to a very small group of people; it’s all around us. The biggest way making contributes to the industry is by introducing the next generation of professionals to important concepts and trends hitting the market. By enabling young inventors all over the world to access resources such as 3D printers and microcontrollers, maker-focused companies are helping educate the next generation of youth. The plethora of online tools made available by these companies and hobbyists enable young makers to construct impactful and marketable projects.
I myself am a young maker—I have benefited greatly from the plethora of tutorials and websites dedicated to teaching the fundamentals of electronics. Without these free resources, I never would have had the opportunity to create much of anything. The key to the whole making movement is that young adults like me no longer have to wait for university instruction to make.
Engineers are engrossed in traditional methods of doing things. The task of an engineer is to approximate scientific principles and apply for the desired outcome.
However some of the breakthroughs happen because of Makers, who may not necessarily dwell into engineering, but they GET something and implement an approximate model.
1. Wright Brothers are the greatest examples of Maker success. If you know the story of Samuel Langley, who was a sophisticated physicist and engineer, who didn't succeed in endured flight. He even went to the extent of saying it is impossible!
Wright brothers changed history because they were "Makers" by spirit.
2. Jordi Munoz: Look at entire Drone revolution today in the USA and elsewhere, a much less talked Mexican immigrant inventor, made an affordable flight controller/stabilizer. The Ardupilot, Pixhawk, DroneCode group and the eventual startups wouldn't leap forward if he didn't produce an affordable autopilot with Arduino.
Firstly, it’s clear that making develops lots of skills for the later working life of those interested in it. Makers are able to understand the technology they are using, developing or improving which is important in most modern fields of work. Apart from that, making is more than a hobby to many people, having developed a whole new branch of industry.
This becomes especially obvious when regarding the flood of startups, being companies that often develop from makers who faced and recognized everyday problems or found innovative ideas on how to create certain technologies. The central part of the founding of these businesses is the maker-community that supports their roles with new stimulus on its fairs.
The new thing about the maker-scene however, is that it is open to everyone wanting to participate in it. In the end, everybody can buy an Arduino to develop his/her skills and make something new, go to an urban gardening community or create a 3D-model on a computer, the possibilities are endless.
This way, the maker community has a great impact on the industry as a whole not only by taking leading positions in big enterprises but by also making those on their own.
Makers are essential to drive demand and raise the popularity of a specific niche.
Let's talk about drone racing for example and how makers contributed. Initially, racing drones were not extremely customized. However, as the races evolved and became more popular, drone racers started to compete on more than racing skills. Customized drones started to become essential, which in turn drove the popularity of drone kits. The popularity of drone kits, in turn, spurred the growth of more customized drones for all kinds of uses.
Today you can see that custom-made drones using kits are a full industry in itself which has evolved from makers.
Makers are essential to drive innovation and demand in a particular direction. This, in turn, spurs the popularity of that niche, leading to more and more products serving the demand and needs of the industry more widely.
At DIY Projects our makers work mostly with their hands, but also with their minds to tap into new creative approaches to make things. We love making NEW things, but we especially love making OLD things new!
My favorite form of making stems from innovating the old. Some call it "trash to treasure" I call it, "making the world a better place." You see, when you upcycle, you save the world from landfill by repurposing what could have easily been thrown away. I also love finding a good thrift or yard sale find! This is my way of combatting consumerism - by rebuying from neighbors, and neighborhood consignment stores and thrift shops.
Recently, I found a vintage lamp with an opaline pineapple base. I took off the shade and turned it into a plant stand. This was a double win, and it fit perfectly into my eclectic home! Makers find joy in creating new things out of old, they love a good challenge, and it's always nice to know you're recycling and keeping post-consumer products out of landfills.
This might be a backward approach when looking at invention, but if we're helping the environment then we must be doing something right?
Makers are not just contributing to the industry because any particular “industry” encompasses the known. While makers are indeed contributing to existing industries utilizing innovative technologies and methodologies; the truly exciting and compelling aspect of the Makers Movement is the capacity to create entirely new industries. Not long ago technologies such as 3D printing were only available to elite universities, institutions, and companies – and this is where many important discoveries were made and products are given life.
As the Makers’ Movement has grown - and technologies have become readily available to a broader base - the capacity for discovery, creation, and industry building has been moved from the laboratory to the garage. And that is truly revolutionary.
We are raising a generation that can design, create, and give life to their own passions and ideas at any age. As parents, we saw this first hand when we bought a 3D printer. Our oldest son was 3 at the time. He would come down stairs in the morning and instead of asking for us to buy him a new toy he would ask “what can we make today”. We think about him, and the fact that at an age where his imagination had no limits, he had the opportunity to truly brings those dreams to life (with a bit of help from mom, dad, and some modeling software). It is his generation that will be the cradle of innovation, of the new industry.
Makers contribute to the industry by providing their expertise to make replacement parts for machines that can no longer be ordered. Machines become functional again and available to the next generation of makers. Fresno Ideaworks in Fresno, California is 501(c)3 nonprofit, public benefit organization. Fresno Ideaworks offers many classes to develop technical skills and provides an abundant array of tools and equipment that enable makers to bring their ideas into reality.
Fresno Ideaworks accepts donations of machines including those that are no longer functional. Many of the replacement parts have to be custom made since they are no longer orderable. Makers use their expertise to create replacement parts and service the machines so they are in good working order. The knowledge of skilled workers, donations from the public and grants allow for a creative space that houses a wide variety of different types of makers including robotics.
Fresno Ideaworks hosts Super Sumobot Saturday which is open to the public of all ages. People can build a bot, explore capabilities of the bot and work amongst peers and experts in order to prepare for Sumobot competition!
Makers are vitally important to the 3D printing industry. Some of the biggest brands in desktop 3D printing were founded by makers. They’ve also been responsible for innovation in many other areas of 3D printing including design, materials, software, and workflow, to name just a few.
On a larger scale, makers also make a significant contribution to the manufacturing industry. They invent many of the products that eventually hit store shelves. At the same time, they’re highly disruptive to traditional manufacturing. They’re constantly looking for ways to localize and democratize the way things are produced.
Finally, makers contribute to the greater good. They’re the opposite of consumerists. Makers look for ways to extend the life of products or salvage them for use in other ways. They’re the people who solve the problems others haven’t. Makers have the will to find a way.
The results are striking if you look at how the industry has changed over the past several years, and it all comes from technology becoming more open and accessible. It doesn't matter whether you're talking about a hobbyist or a professional: it has never been faster or easier to turn ideas into something working than it is today. Retailers like Sparkfun and Adafruit have been helping make technology (and the tools needed to use it) more accessible for years. We take the fact that hardware can have WiFi (or even cellular) connectivity for granted today, but places like Particle and others were instrumental in making it readily available and easy to use. I've worked on projects that would not even have been feasible even just a few short years earlier.
Contributions and growth include the industry of desktop manufacturing, which is making tools and processes previously limited to large, well-funded organizations more accessible to small businesses and individuals. Products like desktop CNC and 3D printers are good examples. Innovations in this area run the spectrum from Octoprint (an add-on for 3D printers that has made countless lives easier) which is mostly a one-woman show, to the fact that Formlabs has just announced an SLS Nylon 3D printer for under ten thousand dollars. This is a tool that would normally cost over $200,000. The idea that you could purchase an SLS nylon printer online to set up on a shop bench would have been utterly unthinkable, even just a year ago.
It's also never been easier for an individual to turn their idea into a product than it is today. Services like Kickstarter have grown, but there is also stuff like The Hackaday Prize (now in its fourth year) which has $250,000 to give a simple mandate: help people build something that matters.
These things don't spring fully-formed from a secret lab. They have developed thanks to all the advancements that came before and keep coming. A little over ten years ago, getting an LCD display hooked up and working for a product I was developing was an all-day job. Debugging took days after that. Today? My niece has used laser cutters and 3D printers, and I look back on getting that LCD working like it was making fire by rubbing sticks together.
Makers are in a unique position to be able to operate independently while having the ability to communicate with millions. Whether it be through a flow of ideas or insight to niche interests, makers constantly contribute to the industry.
Makers thrive on the internet. They are able to iterate and receive feedback faster than ever. They challenge industry standards and latch onto trends faster, and in turn, have the ability to steer consumers and generate sales in unexpected ways.
Makers are specialists. They are born out of specific fandoms, hobbies, and interests. Many are so deeply embedded in their passions, they have a better sense of their audience than some larger companies.
Makers are untethered. They aren’t bound to restrictions or guidelines. They are governed by themselves in a way that makes any idea viable, and they bring a sense of quirkiness that garners attention.
Makers are inspiring. They are the modern day mad scientists. They present a sense of possibility that encourages young people to problem solve and explore STEM fields. Whether or not an individual chooses to become a maker, many will be inspired to become agents of change in the industry one day.
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