Why Handmade is Expensive

There are these tiny variances and idiosyncrasies in each object, each of them being soldered, assembled and then finished using hands is in a way putting your energy, effort and SOUL in it.

Since the time I started posting pictures and specifications of the handmade speakers, the response from everyone has been amazing. The speakers have been featured in Designboom, Yanko, Tuvie and numerous other blogs and articles. It is a nice feeling to get appreciated for your work. And a lot of people have shown interest in buying them and it’s all too great.

After the price of the systems is shared then comes the not so encouraging response. A lot of people respond by saying that they are a bit on the expensive side and why not buy a JBL or a Creative system at halt the price. Some friends who don’t want to be rude end up saying “Let me save money to buy them”. I don’t take offence in it and I know everyone has some or the other constrains. Some times even I wonder are the systems really expensive! But then when I look at the entire process and time which has gone into arriving at the final products, the price is spot on!

This post is not only about the speakers. It is about each and every painstakingly handmade object and system.

I agree that you can buy a system from JBL or Creative at half the price but at I’m not running megafactories consuming resource at an unprecedented rate. The components being used in big manufacturers and my systems are almost same. The systems I make are not mass produced and to make a comparison between them and counter-shelf systems is just as absurd as comparing a Prius and Pagani! (I’m no way close to the attention to detail which Pagani has but still). These systems are not meant to be sold for the purpose of instant gratification. These systems are meant for people who are patient enough for things to happen and can value the hardwork and effort which has gone behind making handmade objects and ones who are going to take care of them for a long time.

When a Handmade object is made a lot goes into it. It’s just not about putting things together.

  • Cost of materials and components
  • Labour
  • Packaging
  • Overhead
  • Profit
  • For the Greater Good

When one is making handmade and made to order objects then economy of scale becomes relevant. A small setup can never compete with giants like JBL, Bose etc when it comes to Bill of Material and labour cost.

There is an entire slow movement behind the handmade object, a movement away from instant consumption and consumerism. There are these tiny variances and idiosyncrasies in each object, each of them being soldered, assembled and then finished using hands is in a way putting your energy, effort and SOUL in it. One has to learn and improve constantly, handcraftmanship is a way of life. When people see a handmade object a lot of them think that it’s just material, why so expensive? No one has seen the work, research and efforts which have gone to take the material to a functionalist object. A lot of work goes into making mass produced objects as well but something thrown out of injection molded machines can never come close to the love and affection put in a handmade object. My friend who works closely with craftsmen once said “Each object has the stories of the makers entwined within them”. The labour is not forced, it is done out of love for the entire process and the object.

When running a small setup the overheads can be huge. There is no steady monthly cheque, no rolling forecast or assembly lines at the starting of the month! A lot of things have to be managed and the setup needs to be frugal and resilient to external factors.

At the end of the day after giving something meaningful to the world one has to fill their own stomach as well.  A setup that does not make enough profit will go out of business. Also in order to improve and create new processes and objects one has to spend money, which can only be done if some money is left.

Deciding on materials and processes which don’t end up damaging the surrounding and environment is something which is critical to me. Whenever possible components and materials are sourced and processed locally. There is a larger ecosystem and ideology at work behind the speakers, I intend to work with foundations and plant trees to give back more then what is taken. And if the ideology and objects grow to a considerable amount, I would like to include the local woodworkers into the ecosystem. Some of the systems have been open sourced as well. A lot of people who cannot afford to buy them can make them on their own in a non commercial way.

My Handmade systems can never compete with the big shots and I don’t intend to contribute to the pathological consumption. My intention is to make he finest handmade audio systems. Next time you see a handmade product with a price that surprises you, hopefully this will help you understand what’s behind that price.

Encourage and support small setups during the holiday seasons and year round. They might need your love and attention!

Sonic Architect: Lasercut Series

This new line is an amalgamation of digital fabrication, DIY and handcraftsmanship. Every system is handmade using MDF lasercut panels, grill and is hand assembled. Very functionalist in its approach, the speakers fit well along the lines of “Less but Better”; A lasercut Volume Knob, a 3.5mm AUX jack and a Micro USB charging port is all that these systems have. All the systems are powered by a Class D Amplifier and uses Fullrange drivers along with a Lithium Ion Battery lasting around 10-15 hours depending on the usage.

 

Portable music back with a Classic form!

 -Efficient 6 Watt Class D Amplifier
-Small Form Factor with Big Sound
-Sealed MDF Enclosure
-2000 mAh Battery
-Fullrange Drivers
-3.5mm AUX input
-Stained Grill
-Lasercut Volume Knob

Available as built and in kit form. Made to order.

Sonic Architect: Stevie Ray Vaughan

Sonic Architect’s Stevie Ray Vaughan(SRV) is an amalgamation of digital fabrication, DIY and hand-craftsmanship. The vintage character of SRV comes from the usage of materials like wood, leather and lasercut grill. Every system is handmade using Sagwan wood and MDF lasercut grill and is hand assembled. The system is built on Dieter Rams ideology of “Less but Better”. The volume knob acts as an On/Off switch and the listener just needs to plug in the 3.5mm AUX cable and let the music play. Charging is done using a micro USB cable. SRV packs a punch with its full range drivers and an efficient class D amplifier and comes with a 25 hours worth of portable fun.

  • Efficient 6 Watt Class D Amplifier
  • Handmade to Order
  • Small Form Factor with Big Sound
  • Sealed Sagwan Enclosure
  • 4400 mAh Battery
  • 1.6″ Full-Range Drivers
  • 3.5mm AUX input
  • Detailed and Natural Sound
  • Leather Handle
  • Aluminium Knob

The Picture!

There is power in participation, co-creation and openness. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. Design is of the people, by the people and for the people.

Since the beginning of my academic time I always felt there was something missing, and that for some odd reason I was being conditioned to live a prisoned life, in an ideological and psychological prison. The way the entire education and socio economic system was built, it made people believe that our lives are about achieving certain goals, one needs to have a job, a car, a house and so on. ekprayog was a way to move out of all this.

We have seen what industrial revolution has done. We have seen what consumerism has done to this planet as well. Looking at the current advancement in science and technology we don’t seem to be leaving our planets for some other system in the distant future. So, we’ll have to design our products, process, systems and lives in such a way that there is place for every living being to thrive and be happy.

Design is not personal effects of a designer. Design is a way of life, every single person who’s trying to solve a problem or creating creative solutions is a designer. Design cannot be done in isolation; it has to be done keeping people in mind, combining form, function and meaning with a focus on user centeredness. People need to be involved in the entire process of designing otherwise it takes the very humaneness from the entire system.

When people come together to look at the problem as a collective and listen to the issues and concerns of each member, they end up forming a very holistic perspective of the problem at hand. And when the solutions are built with the participation of everyone and by building on the ideas of others the system thus formed is an open and a democratically designed one. It’s a transparent system with every single entity visible to each member.

high-hopes

What the Education Systems can take from the Maker Movement

Whether you are getting started in your classroom or building a Makerspace, the most important thing to remember is that making is about making sense of the world, not about the “stuff.” Making connections and making meaning are the true results of classroom making, not the plastic or cardboard artefact.

• “Doing” Is What Matters

Makers learn to make stuff by making stuff. Schools often forget this as they continuously prepare students for something that is going to happen next week, next year, or in some future career. The affordable and accessible technology of the Maker Movement makes learning by doing a realistic approach for schools today.

• Openness

Makers share designs, code, and ideas globally but making occurs locally. Makers share their expertise with a worldwide audience. “We” are smarter than “me” is the lesson for educators. Collaboration on projects of intense personal interest drive the need to share ideas and lessons learned more than external incentives like grades.

• Give It A Go

Modern maker/tinkerer are driven to invent the solution to any problem by making things, and then making those things better. Perhaps “grit” or determination can be taught, but there is no substitute for experience. The best way for students to become deeply invested in their work is for their projects to be personally meaningful, afforded sufficient development time, given access to constructive materials, and the students themselves encouraged to overcome challenges.

• Iterative Design

Computers make designing new inventions risk-free and inexpensive. You can now tinker with designs and programs and make prototypes easily and quickly. This is a departure from the linear design methodology that assumed that mistakes were expensive and need to be avoided.

• Aesthetics Matter

Many Maker projects are indistinguishable from art. It’s human to embellish, decorate,
and seek the beauty in life. In schools, there is a movement to add the Arts to STEM subjects (STEAM). That’s a good instinct, but if school hadn’t artificially removed all traces of creativity and art from STEM subjects, we wouldn’t need to talk about STEAM. Find ways to allow students to make projects with pride and unencumbered by categorization.

• Mentoring Defies Ageism

As Sir Ken Robinson says, school is the only place in the world where we sort people by their manufacturing date. The Maker Movement honours learners of all ages and embraces the sharing of expertise. Young people are valued alongside decades-older master tinkerers and inventors. Schools may create opportunities for mentoring and apprenticeship by connecting with the greater community. Access to expertise must not be limited to the classroom teacher.

• Learning Is Intensely Personal

The current buzz about “personalized learning” is more often than not a scheme to deliver content by computerized algorithm. Not only is it magical thinking to believe that computers can teach, it confuses learning with delivering content. Learning happens inside the individual. It can’t be designed or delivered. Learning is personal—always. No one can do it for you. Giving kids the opportunity to master what they love means they will love what they learn.

• It Is About the Technology too

The Maker Movement sees tools and technology as essential elements for solving unsolvable problems and not just a tool. To makers, a 3D printer is not for learning to make 3D objects. Instead it is the raw material for solving problems, such as how to create inexpensive but custom-fit prosthetic for people anywhere in the world. The Maker philosophy prepares kids to solve problems their teachers never anticipated, with technology we can’t yet imagine.

• Ownership

One motto of the Maker Movement is “if you can’t open it, you don’t own it.” Educators often talk about how learners should own their own learning, but if the learner doesn’t have control, they can’t own it. Pre-packaged experiences for students, even in the name of efficiency, are depriving students of owning their own learning. Learning depends on learners with maximum agency over their intellectual processes.

tinkering_grantpotter

Why do we NEED makerspaces in Schools?

We must re-imagine school curriculum not as a way to prepare students for the next academic challenge, or a future career, but as a place where students are inventors, scientists, musicians, painter, poets and mathematicians today.

The Maker Movement, a technological and creative learning revolution underway around the globe, has exciting and vast implications for the world of education. New tools and technology, such as 3D printing, robotics, microprocessors, wearable computing, e-textiles, “smart” materials, and programming languages are being invented at an unprecedented pace. The Maker Movement creates affordable or even free versions of these inventions, while sharing tools and ideas online to create a vibrant, collaborative community of global problem-solvers.

Fortunately for teachers, the Maker Movement overlaps with the natural inclinations of children and the power of learning by doing. By embracing the lessons of the Maker Movement, educators can revamp the best student-centered (in-fact human-centered) teaching practices to engage learners of all ages.

The big game-changers of the Movement should be on every school’s radar:

• Computer Controlled Fabrication Devices

Over the past few years, devices that fabricate three-dimensional objects have become an affordable reality. These 3D printers can take a design file and output a physical object. Plastic filament is melted and deposited in intricate patterns that
build layer by layer, much like a 2D printer prints lines of dots that line by line create a printed page. With 3D design and printing, students can design and create their own objects.

• Physical Computing

New open-source micro-controllers, sensors, and interfaces connect the physical and digital worlds in ways never before possible. Wearable computing – in which circuits are made with conductive thread-makes textiles smart, flexible, and mobile. Plug-and-play devices that connect small microprocessors to the Internet, to each other, or to any number of sensors mean that low-cost, easy-to-make computational devices can test, monitor, and control your world.

• Programming

Programming is the key to controlling a new world of computational devices and the range of programming languages has never been greater. Today’s modern languages are designed for every purpose and learners of all ages.

Hard Fun and the Process of Design and the breadth of options and the “can-do” attitude espoused by the movement is exactly what students need.

Tinkering is a powerful form of “learning by doing,” an ethos shared by the rapidly expanding Maker Movement community and many educators, that inspires students to dig deeper and construct big ideas. Making learning hands-on honours the learning drive and spirit that is all too often crushed by endless worksheets and vocabulary drills.

Real science and engineering is done through tinkering. We owe it to our children to give them the tools and experiences that actual scientists and engineers use, and we are at that point in time when we can bring these tools and learning opportunities into classrooms. There are multiple pathways to learning what we have always taught, and things to do that were unimaginable just a few years ago.

There are extraordinary young people in every city, every school, and every classroom who deserve the opportunities to express themselves by inventing, creating, and making. All students need experiences that call upon their heads, hearts, and hands.

 

Makerspaces! What are they?

A collection of tools and machines does not define a Makerspace. Rather we define it by what it represents: Democratization of design, engineering, fabrication and education.

To define them simply, Makerspaces (hackerspaces, hacklabs or hackspaces) come in all shapes and sizes, but they all serve as a gathering point for tools, projects, mentors and expertise.

Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. All are united in the purpose of providing access to equipment, community, and education, and all are unique in exactly how they are arranged to fit the purposes of the community they serve.

 

FABLAB

  • What is a fab lab?

Fab labs are a global network of local labs (They began as an outreach project from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms), enabling invention by providing access to tools for digital fabrication.

  • What’s in a fab lab?

Fab labs share an evolving inventory of
core capabilities to make (almost) anything, allowing people and projects to be shared.

What does the fab lab network provide?

Operational, educational, technical, financial, and logistical assistance beyond what’s available within one lab.

  • Who can use a fab lab?

Fab labs are available as a students, staff and community, offering open access for individuals as well as scheduled access for programs.

  • What are your responsibilities?

Safety: not hurting people or machines Operations: assisting with cleaning, maintaining, and improving the lab Knowledge: contributing to documentation and instruction

  • Who owns fab lab inventions?

Designs and processes developed in fab labs can be protected and sold however an inventor chooses, but should remain available for individuals to use and learn from.

  • How can businesses use a fab lab?

Commercial activities can be prototyped and incubated in a fab lab, but they must not conflict with other uses, they should grow beyond rather than within the lab, and they are expected to benefit the inventors, labs, and networks that contribute to their success.

 

I’ve worked extensively in Fab Lab CEPT. The freedom, expertise, help and sharing one comes across in this space is unparalleled. Fab Lab CEPT has enabled a lot of designers, architects, engineers, students, makers and tinkerers bring their ideas to life.

makerspace-white

Digital Fabrication

Digitization of fabrication is where you don’t just digitize design, but the materials and the process. The computer program doesn’t just describe the thing but becomes the thing.

 

Digital fabrication is a type of manufacturing process where the machine used is controlled by a computer. The most common forms of digital fabrication are:

  • CNC Machining It is a computer controlled cutting process that uses a milling cutter to remove material from the surface of a work-piece. The milling cutter is a rotary cutting tool, often with multiple cutting points. As opposed to drilling, where the tool is advanced along its rotation axis, the cutter in milling is usually moved perpendicular to its axis so that cutting occurs on the circumference of the cutter. The milling process removes material by performing many separate, small cuts. This is accomplished by using a cutter with many teeth, spinning the cutter at high speed, or advancing the material through the cutter slowly; most often it is some combination of these three approaches. Shapes are cut out of wooden sheets

 

  • 3D Printing Some times also called Additive Manufacturing (AM), are processes used to synthesize a three-dimensional object in which successive layers of material are formed under computer control to create the object. These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry and are produced from digital model data 3D model. Commonly used methods to melt or soften material to produce layers are Fused
    Deposition Modeling (FDM), Selective Laser Melting (SLM) and Selective Laser Sintering (SLS), Objects are built up out of layers of metal or plastic

 

  • Laser Cutting It is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials, it works by directing the output of a high-power laser most commonly through optics. The laser optics and CNC (computer numerical control) are used to direct the material or the laser beam generated. CO2 and Solid State are the two main types of lasercutter used. Materials like metal are burnt or melted by a laser beam

There are a huge range of digital fabrication techniques. The important aspect that unifies them is that the machines can reliably be programmed to make consistent products from digital designs.

Open Source Movement

At the end of the day, the goal of Openness is to liberate our time to engage in exactly that which each of us wants to be doing- instead of what we need to do to survive. All have the potential to thrive.

Today, an increasingly smaller percentage of the world’s population is in this position.

Open Source refers to the model of providing goods and services which includes the possibility of the end-user’s participation in the production of these goods and services. Open participation and collaboration – which implies the vulnerability to share work in progress, without ego, power struggle, and insecurity. The core values are efficiency, and the ethics and wisdom to understand what we should be efficient about. In practice, we should strive to find effective ways to document our work – to create an open collaboration platform – where collaborators can come on boards rapidly. While it is difficult to document – the real-time, online collaborative tools (like Instructables) of the information age make it easier – and we should aim to tap these new tools to document and develop together.

This concept has already been demonstrated in open source software and hardware. The crossover between software and hardware has lead to Open Design.

Open design is the development of physical products, processes and systems through use of publicly shared design information. Open design process is generally facilitated by the Internet. The goals and philosophy is to lead to the development of physical products rather than just software. Open design is a form of co-creation, where the final product is designed by the users, rather than an external stakeholder such as a private company.
Open source movement has lead to opening access to the information and technology which enables a different economic system to be realized, one based on the integration
of natural ecology, social ecology, and industrial ecology. This economic system is based on open access- based on widely accessible information and associated access to productive capital- distributed into the hands of an increased number of people. Companies like Local Motors, Esty are practicing this.

A highly distributed, increasingly participatory model of production is the core of a democratic society, where stability is established naturally by the balance of human activity with sustainable extraction of natural resources. This is the opposite of the current mainstream of centralized economies, which have a structurally built-in tendency towards of overproduction.

The integration of the natural, societal, and industrial ecologies – Open Source Ecology- aims at sustainable and regenerative economics. We are convinced that a possibility of a quality life exists, where human needs are guaranteed to the world’s entire population- as long as we ask ourselves basic questions on what societal structures and productive activities are truly appropriate to meeting human needs for all.

 

el-arduinoposter

Drivers of Maker Culture

What defines the influence, scope and power behind this movement is its optimism in action-the-belief in individuals’ ability to enact change, and then do it. Three driving forces pushing the maker movement forward at both the individual and systemic level:

Economic: Individuals are empowered by a growing array of alternative ways to engage in the economy — taking advantage of new services and marketplaces to share, shop, sell and scale.

Communities are championing maker efforts to revitalize urban centers, stimulate small business and provide a competitive advantage to attract even more business.

Societal: Curiosity, ideology, necessity: whatever the reason, people are relying more heavily on their own hands and brains to meet daily needs. By experimenting with self-sufficiency, individuals are recognizing their own power through everyday action.
Makerspaces and private/public fab labs are popping up everywhere, allowing communities to teach themselves new skills that could revive local business or traditions in craftsmanship.

Massive person-to-person interactions are changing the landscape of information exchange and political action. Rather than waiting for institutional change, individuals are banding together to initiate social reform.

Technological: The barriers of access to making have come crashing down, as simplified design tools and cost-effective DIY kits provide individuals with cheap means to make extraordinary projects.

Makers and hackers are pairing indigenous materials, found artefacts or repurposed tools with lab-grade technology to tailor solutions to local community needs.

Knowledge of making, once passed down through specialized guilds, is being digitally codified, documented and shared. The global community of makers radiates outward from these digital networks to create a collective, transcending both language and geography.

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