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Makerspaces: Get Inspired and Learn

Makerspaces are growing to be the best and most appealing trend to learn while doing. Without a doubt, they’re here to stay! So, now let’s review what it is exactly and the promising future we believe it entails. What is …

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Alejandro Auerbach

December 8, 2020

Makerspaces are growing to be the best and most appealing trend to learn while doing. Without a doubt, they’re here to stay! So, now let’s review what it is exactly and the promising future we believe it entails.

What is a Makerspace

A makerspace, also known as a hackerspace, is a physical space where people come together to share resources and knowledge, work on projects, do networking, and build things. In these environments, you can get help from other users or designated experts for assistance and to establish effective teamwork.

It has its origins in open-source, non-academic communities like the maker or DIY (Do it yourself) cultures, which were popularised by the MAKE magazine and their Maker Faire events as 3D printers and CNCs became more affordable. Now, if we take heed of its origins, we can look at makerspaces as informal combinations of labs, conference rooms, and workshops.

Go!SCAN3D 3D Scanning used by Heriatge Preservation

Core Aspects

Some of the core aspects that can allow us to have a clearer view of a makerspace are:

  • A “Learning by Doing” approach. First, and above all, education is the core purpose of a makerspace. These spaces offer a unique proposition in promoting STEM (Science, technology, engineering, mathematics) engagement with a craftmanship spirit.
  • A place that facilitates the peer-to-peer exchange of knowledge and the sharing of passion.
  • Just as it happens with hobbies or sports, makerspaces can provide a playful and even therapeutic experience.
  • An ideal breeding ground for innovation and project development. Beyond obvious advantages like physical resources, being immersed in this social environment offers a great networking value. The ideal place for meeting collaborators and even financing opportunities, crowdfunding, partnerships and subventions.
  • A dynamic learning environment, in contrast to standard and, at times, tedious academic studies.
  • Interdisciplinary work where fields of knowledge such as mechanical engineering, electronics, computer science, and many more converge in mutual reliance.
  • A place where people enthusiastically engage with a more democratised and accessible state-of-the-art digital technology. Nontheless, with a renovation in the use of traditional crafts approaches.
  • A makerspace is also the place where art can flourish alongside scientific and digital knowledge. It is a place where not only space for pragmatic and innovative solutions are of value, but also artistic creativity, self-expression and beauty. As sciences and arts coincide with each other, the term STEM becomes STEAM

Activities

Some of the activities that soak these environments with life are:

  • Idea prototyping
  • Tinkering and repurposing of objects
  • Sustainable development and environmentalism
  • Hardware development
  • Robotics
  • Computer sciences, programming, software development, CAD
  • Graphic design
  • Moulding and casting
  • Woodworking
  • Sewing
  • Painting
  • Sculpting
Large-MASSIVit 3D-Format-3D-Printed-Molds-for-Creative-Concrete-Construction-Joints

Makerspace Variants

Non-profit: Community-driven makerspaces that maintain the open-source, DIY philosophy. They tend to have a free or at least low fee access and earn income through user collaborations, donations, crowdfunding, foundations and even through their own projects. The Fab lab network, for instance, is a model of non-profit and interconnected makerspaces worldwide that receive assistance from contributors.

Commercial: Makerspaces can also be profitable businesses, which can be sustained by a membership fee model. Due to having the possibility of earning a steadier income than non-profit spaces, equipment with top-notch technology becomes more feasible. Every day new commercial makerspaces emerge with new business models with the aims of ensuring viability.

Makerspaces have also been embedded as part of educational institutions as a legitimate complement to formal education in university campuses and libraries as an integral part of higher education and research. Also, spaces like these are reaching schools with special programs for children.

Tools and Equipment

Driven by a craftsmanship spirit, where only a lack of ingenuity and imagination is the limit, makers come up with a whole inventory of tools. Depending on the makerspace’s resources , the set of tools can vary from having just analogic tools to having high-tech equipment. But in general terms, makerspaces are commonly equipped with:

  • Workbench components like tops, shelves and drawers
  • Computers
  • Hand tools. The standard toolbox set found in workshops such as screwdrivers, hammers, wrenches, allen keys, pliers and saws.
  • Power tools like drills, grinding machines, lathes, nail guns and even sewing machines.
  • CNC machines (Mills, routers, laser cutting)
  • Electronic components and tools like wires, resistors, microcontrollers, soldering irons and multimeters.
  • 3D Printers, mainly FDM and SLA
  • Welding tools like MIG and TIG

Challenges    

Some of the main challenges makerspaces face nowadays are:

  • Costly to implement and sustain, especially within non-profit organisations. The difficulties of opening makerspaces for places, like schools and public libraries include cost, space, liability, and availability of personnel. Many makerspaces are struggling to sustain viable business models in support of their missions (For example, the now-extinct TechShops).
  • Workplace hazards have become an essential topic of discussion, given the unorthodox settings for potentially inexperienced users. As the makerspace phenomenon grows, experts encourage formulating policies based on safety standards (like a hierarchy of controls, for example) to conform to safety requirements effectively.
  • Other issues like queues for highly demanded machines, wearing of tools and machines due to high usage, potential and ill-intentioned theft of materials, and increasing complexity of inventory storages calls for more robust management strategies as makerspaces grow.
  • As this trend permeates into mainstream dynamics, access from undeveloped areas becomes a genuine challenge. Diversifying participation is rising to be a focus of interest for activists in building concrete support strategies for more inclusion.

Where is it Heading?

As trends like virtual communications and digitalisation of machines arise, interactions within makerspaces might evolve in parallel. Having the means to operate machines remotely and to invite experts via video conferences, can be a massive advantage. It has the potential for broader participation, not only among one makerspace but even in a collaboration network with other facilities globally. The Fab lab network is an excellent reference for this concept.

But we don’t need to go too far. The COVID-19 crisis has been a collective experience on how remote modalities can make the difference. Returning to the core idea of the potential makerspaces have as innovative self-learning tools, hope exists that portfolios built from makerspace projects will be recognised in high esteem by companies for job opportunities and by formal educational institutions for admitting talented students.

With the rise of urban population, makerspaces will likely gain traction. Since they are places for entrepreneurs to gather and collaborate, providing solutions to environmental, social and economic issues, the future is promising.

SolidPrint3D: Mission on Education

The SolidPrint3D team of experts offers personalised assistance and training to help you make the best decisions on how to equip your makerspace with the finest desktop technologies on the market. Taking into account how vital STEAM education, innovation and entrepreneurship is for society, SolidPrint3D offers special deals with the hopes of equipping makerspaces with cutting edge 3D printing, 3D scanning, CNC, and software technologies. The following are the SolidPrint3D brands of choice:

Ultimaker

The best choice for versatility in standard FDM printing. Despite reaching the top of the market with its high-quality technology, this dutch company has remained loyal to its open-source philosophy in regards to their filaments, software (Cura), and licences. Ultimaker printers work with a wide range of materials, dual printing capabilities, and their ease of use is the best match when it comes to learning purposes.

Ultimaker S5 7
UltimakerS5

Formlabs

The leading desktop resin printer company in the market. Resin printing is the best choice when it comes to achieving prototypes with the best dimensional accuracy. Their innovative, and still growing, catalogue of materials earned them to be the first choice for leading research in biomechanical engineering while remaining, at the same time, as an affordable option for small enterprises.

Formlabs Form 3 and Form 3L
Form3

Markforged

As progress is made in the development of additive manufacturing, the possibility of printing materials with high-performance mechanical properties becomes limitless. Markforged offers the best solutions for printing robust prototypes and end-use parts made out of continuous fibre composites and metals in a desktop format.

Markforged X7
Markforged X7

Pocket NC

CNCs are now a must in digital manufacturing in this day and age, and having it as portable as possible for makerspaces is a big success. At this stage in the game, desktop CNCs aren’t a novelty, but what you can achieve with a Pocket NC goes just way beyond what any desktop CNC can do. Within their compact design, these machines contain a 5-axis mill system that can replicate what many industrial CNC mills can do, in a smaller scale, for an even smaller price.

Pocket NC on Shop Floor
Pocket NC

Peel3D

With the rise of digital trends in manufacturing and design, 3D scanners are becoming a vital part in understanding the future of reverse engineering and dimensional inspection. Peel3D is a hand-held scanner that works with professional efficiency and accuracy at budget-friendly prices, the ideal choice for learners to engage in whole new levels of innovation.

Peel-2-3D-Scanner-Solid-Print-3D
Peel3D

SolidWorks

One of the most comprehensive parametric CAD software for mechanical design. 

SOLIDWORKS Banner
SOLIDWORKS

3DPrinterOS

The best cloud-based management platform for 3D printers. Within this system, makerspaces can network all their printers to a centralised server, allowing the most efficient management of users, queues, resources, data analytics and real-time monitoring. 3DPrinterOS’ scalability won’t let you down when it comes to securing and handling your data under just what your makerspace needs, no more, no less.

3D Printer OS Software
3DPrinterOS

If you’re willing to take part in this magnificent makerspace phenomenon, Solid Print3D is here to help you! For more information, please call Solid Print3D at 01926 333 777 or email at info@solidprint3d.co.uk

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