Bar graph, screen capture, charting growth of Maker Faire attendance over the last decade. Is the Maker Movement just a trend? The combination of affordable, desktop fabrication machines, an increase in demand for locally made products, and a nationwide rejection of Industrial Revolution-style work indicates the Maker Movement is here to stay. In fact, you should probably jump on board. . Via: Make:
When we think of the Maker Movement, images of DIY robots made with spare parts come to mind. The Maker Faire’s 10th anniversary marked the largest year yet for the convention, and one must wonder what’s to make of all this making madness. Several key factors, including advancement in technology, new market trends, and employee dissatisfaction, correlate with the surge in the popularity of making. The movement continues to press on in what Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan said could be as big as the dot-com boom.
The Maker Movement is an electric community of craftsmen, tinkerers, engineers, and entrepreneurs who are going back to the artisan style of manufacturing and business ownership by creating products by hand. The inventors include tinkerers from almost all industries, including tech, food, crafts, and art. In a recent survey, Markets and Markets projected the 3D-printing market would be worth $8.41B by 2020, not including other sectors of the Maker Movement that rely on others tools, like CNC machines.
But the factors contributing to the significant growth of the movement year-after-year are compounding. The innovation-fostering conventions could truly be the start of the largest shift in modern manufacturing since the Industrial Revolution.
In recent years, consumer buying habits indicate an overwhelming vote in favor of the local entrepreneur. Sites like Etsy have exploded and even food store chains like Whole Foods are relying on the homemade goods of local foodies to maintain sales. In fact, major brands like Levi have reached out to local entrepreneurs to collaborate, in an effort to keep the customer base it worked so hard to get years ago.
Perhaps the biggest factor driving the Maker Movement is advancement in technology. Career engineers now, for the first time in history, have access to safe, affordable, easy-to-use desktop CNC and milling machines, and the infamous 3D printer. Simultaneously, CAD/CAM software has become more accessible, affordable, and easier to use so much so that even a novice could eventually figure out how to manufacture her own products. Everything you need can now be stored, conveniently and securely, on the Cloud.
Another key factor to the Maker Movement boom is access to information. Pintrest and YouTube are wildly more successful than anyone could have predicted, because the platforms provide an avenue through which anyone who wants to learn a skill can find the resources to do so, for free.
In fact, open-source programs have made it possible to pursue any tech avenue on a shoestring budget, and sometimes, even for free. All around, people are helping one another gain the resources, skills, and confidence to make whatever they can think up.
Employee Dissatisfaction (and the economy)
Perhaps the most subtle factors contributing to the Maker Movement is the 2008 market crash and general employee dissatisfaction. While the recovering economy certainly isn’t the reason some career engineers traded desks for desktop fabrication machines, an uncertain professional career was definitely a factor for others.
Lauren Gitlin, for example, told Rachel Signer of Collectively in an interview that she traded a job as a magazine writer for a career as an artisan cheesemaker after getting laid off, and she couldn’t be happier. Gitlin said she fell in love with the process of cheesemaking and more than anything, grew in confidence through the joyous process of creation. Laena McCarthy also admitted to Signer she traded a tenure-track professorship to make jam when she realized the joy she gained through the creative process was unparalleled in any other career path. She had to be an entrepreneur.
Many professionals feel the same. Americans are sick of working behind a desk, helping realize a company’s dream, yet neglecting their own. In fact, according to a report released by the Conference Board, 52.3 percent of Americans are unhappy with their jobs. The grandchildren of the Industrial Revolution are throwing in the towel, so why not trade a little money for some reassurance and the unfounded confidence that accompanies a life of making?
Couple the increased availability of desktop manufacturing machines and free educational resources with a new age rebellion against the current status quo, and you have the Maker Movement. Whether we are making the world’s smallest microchips, or home-brewed beer, one thing is certain: you can find us at the Maker Faire, glasses in hand, sharing laughs and daydreaming about the endless possibilities.
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