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Maker Toolsets [Education
Posted on February 15, 2016 @ 06:52:00 AM by Paul Meagher

I previously blogged about David Lang's book Becoming A Maker (2013) when I was a quarter of the way through it. I finished it off this morning and wanted to post a few more observations about it.

In the later parts of the book David discusses some of the technology and tools that you might find in a communal makerspace setup. One professional-level makerspace is Techshop where you can pay a fee and have access to wide range of high-end maker tools as well as classes to learn how to operate them. It is possible to start a business here by building your prototype and if you are successful in getting orders you can also use the facilities to manufacture units. You can learn from others who are similarly occupied and in some cases you might be occasionally employed by someone with a hot-selling product.

What distinguishes a maker tool from other tools is that maker tools are often used to make other tools. The TechShop at Austin-Round Rock allows you to reserve 3D printers, CNC machines, Welders, Heat Presses, Industrial Sewing Machines, Injection Molding Machines, Laser Cutters, Milling Machines, Powder Coating Equipment, Waterjets and more. In addition to all this hardware, there will generally be a need to use a variety of computer aided design software programs. It is alot of learn but if there is a community of makers around you this can make it easier to cope and eventually become a maker yourself.

Makers wanting to commercialize their offerings will often attempt to get funding on Kickstarter. One useful observation David makes about Kickstarter is that raising funding on Kickstarter is often more about activating a fan base that you have built up for your ideas than recruiting new people to fund your ideas. Some makers may be reluctant to share their ideas with others and in some cases that is understandable, however, it may put you at a disadvantage when it comes to raising money in a Kickstarter campaign because you haven't built up a fanbase prior to launching your campaign. One might consider Kickstarter another in the list of tools that makers should become familiar with.

David's book is still worth reading 3 years after its publication as an introduction to the maker culture and the tools that they commonly use. David would be the first to admit that this is an area where things are moving quickly and there is a danger of any publication becoming rapidly out of date. An example would be that David does not include much discussion of biotech makers who might have makerspaces that look more like university chemistry/biology labs (places to grow anything) than industrial workspaces (places to build anything). In the coming years we might expect these biotech toolsets to become more popular. It will give people with less financial resources access to tools that are normally only available to universities and corporations.

One of the main reasons the maker movement has become popular is because people are increasingly able to access maker tools that were once prohibitively expensive. Either the price has come down so people can purchase the tools for their personal use, or co-op and professional makerspaces have been setup that make access possible. Many of these co-op and professional makerspaces are appearing in larger cities first and there is still room for such spaces to grow in smaller cities and communities. Schools and public libraries are a common entry point for makerspaces in local communities.

I recommend David Lang's book as a way to get oriented to the maker culture. Chris Anderson, former editor of Wired Magazine, also wrote a book called Makers: The New Industrial Revolution (2012) that David makes frequent reference to. Here is a recent video of Chris talking about the Maker Movement:

There is huge amount happening in the maker movement today and you only need to google "maker movement" to take you where your particular interests might lead you.

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