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.
“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.”