Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Maker Faire: The Revolution is DIY

Change is coming to industry. And it is coming quickly. That was the message this past weekend when the New York Hall of Science played host to Maker Faire, a DIY showcase of innovative thinkers, geek aspirations, craft inclinations, and a bit of the weird.

The ShopBot carves out a pirate
in the 3D Printer Village.
Maker Faire describes itself as "a growing DIY movement of people who look at things a little differently and who just might spark the next generation of scientists, engineers and makers." It is definitely this and a whole lot more. I was expecting a series of highly technical exhibits, which is why I brought S along to help me navigate what I envisioned would be rows of gadgetry. But Maker Faire makes the process of making accessible. What I actually experienced was a groups of enthusiastic, technophiles, who were more than happy to walk me through their designs and ideas step-by-step—which came in handy considering S was quickly seduced in the 3D Printer Village by a laser printer that could brand personal devices. (His iPhone has been properly marked as a result.)

This of course left me to my own devices, and while there was a ton of cool stuff to see and do, I kept coming back to the 3D Printer Village because the tools there really captured my imagination. The Shopbot was hard at work carving out 3D images and making furniture. The MakerBots were crafting cups and icons, and drawing funky designs. There were talks on CAD. And Wired's Chris Anderson tied it all together with his talk titled, The Next Industrial Revolution.

Anderson skillfully wove a narrative detailing how technology continues to change industry. The Second Industrial Revolution was borne on the wave of electricity, the internal combustion engine, new materials and substances, and communication technologies. However, the process of manufacturing a product remained in the hands of industry. When Internet technologies took off however, in keeping with this movement, we democratized the tools of creation and the tools of distribution and allowed a greater exchange of information and ideas over the web. This has meant that large information and media corporations such as Conde Nast now have to compete with smaller venues.
MakerBots hard at work.
The Third Industrial Revolution will build on this foundation of open access, Anderson said. For example, 3D printers are the new printers—if you can draw it, you can make it—so manufacturers now have to compete with smaller venues much in the same way media corporations are competing with bloggers and other smaller venues. In Internet has helped paved the way by opening up avenues for connecting. Have a design, but don't have the technology to do a CAD? You can outsource it via the web. Have your CAD, but don't have a 3D printer? There are plenty of manufacturers overseas who are looking beyond the normal boundaries for customers as a result of the recession—and they take PayPal!

Whereas in the 1960s, it was difficult for an inventor to go to market and he (or she) often lost control of the invention once the patent was sold for production, today's inventors can be entreprenuers as well. The tools are at their fingertips. They don't need to be backed by large manufacturers—they have Hacker Spaces, an open source lab where inventors can access the machinery and tools to bring their inventions to life for the price of a membership fee. They are the new factories!

Makers are moving faster than big industry, according to Anderson. And really, it's not hard to believe given the range of innovation displayed at Maker Faire. The next industrial revolution is coming. And there's a great opportunity to get involved—all you need is an idea.


  1. Good outline about the coming DIY revolution... I've worked with ShopBot as well as a few other manufacturers on some projects. Lots of opportunity!

    Jon @ 3DMarvels.com

  2. Jon, maybe we should be in touch. I wouldn't mind learning more about these types of technologies and the future that they're creating.