In a world of mass-produced products, modern technology has made it easier than ever for a single individual to create and distribute items that are customizable and unique without having middlemen like manufacturers. Every day, millions of people cut out the middleman, using online resources to create their own technology products, from printers to speakers to robots. There’s been nothing like it before and it is changing the future. Welcome to the maker movement.
What Is the Maker Movement?
The maker movement is an umbrella term referring to the increasing number of independent inventors, designers, and tinkerers employing do-it-yourself (DIY) techniques and processes. Self-described “makers” range wildly in scope, from computer hackers to traditional artisans. These individuals use a wealth of diagrammed, textual, and video resources online to create sophisticated devices and gadgets.
With so many people able to freely share ideas and spread inspiration across the web, makers are forming communities of their own, and more people around the world are becoming influenced to be makers. There are already approximately 135 million adult makers in the US alone. The market for 3D printing products and other “maker services” reached $2.2 billion in 2012, a number which is expected to grow to $6 billion by 2017 and to $8.41 billion by 2020.
Fostering the Movement
This growing movement is being fostered by online companies, which provide spaces for makers and the DIY community at large to connect with each other and access resources. This can be seen on sites like Pinterest, where DIY is one of the most popular categories, and Etsy, which is home to over one million artisan sellers who have created handmade products to be sold on the site. Video websites like YouTube host thousands of instructional and educational videos covering everything from EMC design to building your own 3D printer. Other startup companies, like Quirky and Kickstarter, are equipping makers with access to resources that can help turn an idea into a real-life product.
Larger companies have been getting involved as well. General Electric, for example, participates in building “GE Garages,” spaces where makers can come and learn modern ways of prototyping and manufacturing new products using devices like laser cutters and 3D printers. Retailers like Radio Shack sell products geared towards makers, such as Arduino, a popular open-source electronics platform that lets makers easily create interactive objects.
Hundreds of thousands of people attend Maker Faire, the world’s biggest maker event that now takes place in many global cities each year. Maker Faires are put together by Maker Media, a company that has been focused on the maker movement since 2005. There are eight Maker Faire flagship fairs, including one in New York City which will be held in Sept 2021. Other major Maker Faires are held in US cities such as Kansas City, Detroit, and Atlanta. Other Maker Faires or Mini-Maker Faires happen all over the world, with over 280,000 people in attendance globally.
These Maker Faires have caught the attention of many major players in the tech and corporate worlds. Companies like Intel, NVidia, AMD, Autodesk, Oracle/Java, Ford, NASA, Atmel, Qualcomm, TI, 3D Robotics, and many more make regular appearances at these fairs, because they see the movement as important and want to support it. When asked why Intel was at the San Mateo Maker Faire, CEO Brain Krzanich responded, “This is where innovation is occurring and Intel has a great interest in helping spur innovation.”
The result of the maker movement and the Maker Faires is indeed innovation. It is the general philosophy of makers that people should create products instead of only consuming them. In a world of mass-produced products, it is a revolutionary concept.
Makers will continue to be found in a diverse range of fields, from food to crafts to technology. Together, they will push each other forward to invent and build new and innovative things. While some makers will merely develop life-long hobbies, many of them will eventually use their tools and creativity to start businesses. The maker movement has only just begun, and it would not be surprising if the next great inventor or tech leader came out of it.