If we build it, will they come…..MakerSpace takes a punt

By Peter Kerr 26/06/2012 9

Lee Bennett (L) and Nick Taylor, providing the MakerSpace environment for people who want to create new things

If we build it, will they come…….is one of many thoughts swirling in the active minds of Wellington MakerSpace founders, Nick Taylor and Lee Bennett.

The two, whose backgrounds sweep across coding, making (for Peter Jackson), creating and being socially/societally useful have taken a big punt along with their financial backers.

The first floor space at 6 Vivian St they’ve outfitted provides a workshop on steroids.

It is specifically provided for those looking to make one-offs, prototypes and sellable items from plastic, metal and wood – but who don’t have either their own facility nor the scope or scale to necessarily approach larger scale engineers or fabricators.

MakerSpace links into the mass customisation trend (see sticK story here :) , and simpler and often free software allowing individuals to design something and produce a machine-read (CAD) file.

These CAD files in turn are able to be turned into physical products by MakerSpace’s three (especially sexy) machines that you normally don’t find in a home workshop – a laser cutter/engraver, a CNC 3D router and a 3D extrusion printer.

The five-roomed venue also has a swag of other power and hand tools (see here for description).

At their heart though, the two are looking at the mashing and intersecting world of design, manufacture and the democratisation and providing a place for this to happen.

Lee Bennett and a plastic rabbit – courtesy of the 3D printer

“Over the past two or three years we’ve talked about creating such a space, we’ve had lots of people say what a good idea it is, and how they’d use it if it was built,” says Taylor; the coder side of the equation.

“Now I guess we’ll see whether those who talk the talk walk the walk.”

As they start promoting both the facility’s manufacturing capabilities, and their own and others’ abilities to teach the skills required to drive such machines, MakerSpace has one or two clients potential clients for whom it is looking to carry out some contract creation.

One of the main jobs though is to spread the word, let people know MakerSpace exists.

The slightly underground digital cum creative cum design cultures of Wellington are already well in the know about MakerSpace. Already it has a number of people who have signed up for its Day Experience, Maker and UberMaker (monthly ‘passes’).

“But we want lots more people to be aware of us, let their kids and parents now we exist and can help,” says Bennett.

“Word of mouth, and spread of that word through social media networks are aspects we’re particularly keen on.”

Another trend MakerSpace is looking to tap into is the almost immediate feedback that can be provided through creative people developing a new product (say a piece of jewellery), testing at a market (e.g. Frank Kitts on a Sunday) to gauge demand, and then selling the item across the internet.

This form of (relatively) instant market validation is perfectly suited to what MakerSpace can provide.

“And naturally, if the product’s successful, we’d like them to continue to use MakerSpace to manufacture,” says Taylor.

Taylor himself is a prime example of how this might work. See here .

Bennett envisages that one day, a MakerSpace-like facility will be attached to libraries and be found throughout a community. As more people become adept at designing their own one-offs and potential world-beating products, the likes of MakerSpace will become commonplace.

The challenge is to now, you suspect, spark the interest and unloosen the wallets of those corporate-type employees looking for an outlet (literal and actual) for their own good ideas. There’s sure to be any number of bureaucrats for a start with thinking time on their hands who have a much greater opportunity to visualise and create in 3D.

A Melbourne colleague, when pointed out the existence of MakerSpace made the observation. “Oh, I’m so jealous. We don’t have anything like that here, but wouldn’t many love to have one. Well done Wellington.”

9 Responses to “If we build it, will they come…..MakerSpace takes a punt”

  • Thanks Ben.

    Sounds like they carry out some interesting projects, and are on much the same collaborative wavelength as MakerSpace.

    It will be interesting to see if MakerSpace’s 3D router, 3D printer and laser cutter provide a resource/functionality that Tangleball doesn’t (yet?) have.

    Thanks for pointing them out.


  • And there’s one in Dunedin as well – DSpace (http://dspace.org.nz/). Though it’s much more of a community-based experience – we concentrate on being a community resource, rather than a commercial resource. And we’re a non-profit, so one of the issues we struggle with is funding, since we keep the membership cost as low as possible ($20/month, or a gold coin donation for students/unwaged) to ensure everyone can join in.

    The 3D printer is certainly an attraction – both kids and adults love to just watch it, and even better make something with it. We have two in the workshop, and often another one is being made. We’ll print off the plastic parts for free for members wanting to build their own 3D printer – on the condition that they do the same for someone else. That’s built up a small collection of home-made 3D printers around the Dunedin area.

    At the moment, the big group project is helping a local marine research company design and build an open source scientific instrument they use and sell to universities, government agencies, and private consultants both nationally and internationally (with DSpace collecting some of that revenue). That’s involved people with expertise in mechanical engineering, electronics, programming, etc – as well as draw in people wanting to learn, who wouldn’t otherwise have access to anything like that.

    Christchurch also as a makerspace – SpaceCraft (http://spacecraft.org.nz/), although they’re on hiatus due to the earthquake.

    • Thanks Blair,

      And as the dspace site reveals, there’s a number of such entities around the country. When’s a good time to yarn about the big group project?


  • We are just about to open the first MIT affiliated fab lab in Australasia here at Massey University. We are also hosting the annual fab lab conference here in wellington from the 22nd – 28th of August. There will be fab labbers from all over the globe visiting for the AGM, symposium and workshops. The 7 day event is for fab labbers and people wanting to start a lab. There are weekend workshops with limited public places for makers. There is a one day public symposium for digital fabrication at the Michael Fowler Centre on the 27th featuring speakers from MIT, NASA, DARPA, Ponoko, Arup and Harvard speaking on subjects from printing human organs to fabricating buildings. There is more info at http://www.fab8nz.com and early bird regos finish in a few weeks.

    This is an amazing opportunity in NZ – and everyone should make the most of it as it probably won’t be hosted here again :)

    Hope to see you, and please spread this through your networks.

  • It’s a global movement – we are all just making it happen here in NZ , which could be a real hub for it (as it makes sens for NZ in a lot of different ways) if more people, including government, recognise the value in in it. It’s only going to get bigger.

  • A makerspace has been included in the Melbourne Library Service new library in Docklands. The library is due to open in March 2014

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