January 8, 2017

What is a Makerespace?

Last year I joined the Swindon Makerspace, and all of my friends and family had the same question, What is a Makerspace?

So here is my attempt at answering that question.

The Maker Movement is simply the coming together of all the old hobby skills; Crafts, Model Clubs, Electronic tinkerers, the Garden Shed Inventors, Computer Hackers, DIYers and many others.

Most of the time these activities were carried out in a spare bedroom, garden shed or garage, usually by an individual or a few friends, and access to sophisticated tools was rare.

Over the last few years in addition to the old school machines like Lathes, Milling Machines and Welding equipment a lot of new technologies started to appear that meant interesting projects could be undertaken more quickly and professionally.

These technologies were CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machines, 3D Printers and Laser Cutters. We also started to see cheap & powerful electronic devices combined with easy to use computer coding tools, this meant we could produce sophisticated models and machines we could control.

The problem was a lot of these powerful technologies were still relatively expensive for the individual maker, and so was born the Makerspace”.

Think of it like a Super Shed” where the equipment is kept and where the members have access to the tools, and just as important to collaborate on projects and exchange ideas.

In the UK the number of Makerspaces has taken off, from a single one back in 2006 to hundreds (most large towns and cities have one)

The Swindon Makerspace to which I am now a director started small in the basement of the Swindon Computer Museum, it was called Swindon Hackspace, but it quickly outgrew the facilities.

Thanks to the generosity and hard work of the founder members it moved to a small industrial unit, this year the membership has grown to 40, and that means we are financially sustainable. It also means we again need more space so we plan to add a Mezzanine floor so we can separate the Crafts & Electronics from the dust and oil of the machines.

Our space has 3D printers, a Laser Cutter, both woodwork & metal lathes, a CNC machine, power tools, electronic test equipment, supplies of consumables and components.

Our membership spans a range of skills and ages, and we welcome anybody who is interested in technology or crafts to join us to make things and learn new skills.

We have been involved in a number of projects that involve the local community and plan to offer courses on many of the skills such as 3D printing and Electronics using popular platforms like the Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

I think 2017 is going to be a big year for the Maker Movement, so watch this space.

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