Has anyone out there heard of Makerspaces before?  If you have already heard of them, you could probably just skip the rest of this, because I don’t really have any deep insight on them.  I just happened to hear about this movement one day, and I happen to think it is absolutely an amazing phenomenon, and it’s one that would never have been possible even just a few short years ago.

Maker workshops are springing up all across the country.  I was even excited to see one in my old home town of Pittsburgh, but their website was beyond terrible, so add that to the list of cool things Pittsburgh almost has.  A better example of what one looks like is this one, which is the Maker Works, located in Ann Arbor, MI.  You can also check out Make Magazine for some cool stuff about the Makers too.

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So what is a Maker Space?

A maker space is a large workshop containing many of the newest cutting edge manufacturing and fabrication technologies.  The exact selection varies by workshop, but you could find a plasma cutter, injection molder, 3D modeler, vinyl cutter, etc.  Basically, large, awesome, expensive fabrication machines that your average guy isn’t going to be able to afford or know how to use at home.

They charge a membership fee to have access to the equipment, and they offer classes on how to use the machines.  After that, you can go in and use the equipment as often as you need.  If you don’t know how to do something, odds are good they can show you how to do it right there, if not, sign up for a class.  At the end of the day, for a small fee, you have access to the exact same type of manufacturing equipment as the big corporations do.

How does that help?

Well think about it.  You have an idea for a great product.  You know that by getting this product built, you could sell them at a handsome profit.  Yet in order to built it, you have to go secure funding by either getting an investor, or taking a bank loan.  Then you have to prototype it.  Then you have to order 1000s of them to get the economy of scale going for you.  Then you have to try to sell them, all while being stressed out and drowning in debt.

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Go down to your local maker space.  Learn how to build it.  Build it.  Sell it.  If it doesn’t work, you are out a lot less than the start-up guy.  If it does work, you have a business model now.  You can map out your product on the 3D molder.  Create a prototype on the injection molder.  You can even mass produce things there.

Why this is amazing?

We always talk about how nothing is made in America anymore.  Well here is our chance to change that.  How many good ideas are floating around out there inside the skulls of American’s everywhere?  Who know where the next world changing idea will come from.  How many great ideas have died a slow death because no one was willing to give them a shot?  Now you don’t have to convince anyone.  The ability to proof something is in your own hands.

When the internet was created, it changed society because it broke down the controls to information.  No longer could our knowledge be dictated by others.  I see things like this having the same effect, but on products.  I doubt GE will be selling solar power garden waterers anytime soon, but if you want one, now you can make one.  We homesteaders stand to benefit from this the most.  If we see a need, we can fill it.  We can solve more of our own problems, and create a business at the same time.

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