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.

Print

The Maker Culture

The maker culture is not about the STUFF we can make, it’s about the MEANING we can make.

The Maker Culture is a contemporary culture or subculture representing a technology based extension of DIY culture that intersects with hacker culture and revels in the creation of new devices as well as tinkering with existing ones. Maker culture emphasizes learning-by-doing in a social environment.

Maker culture accentuates informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning motivated by fun and self-fulfillment. Maker culture encourages novel applications of technologies, and the exploration of intersections between traditionally separate domains and ways of working including electronics, robotics, 3-D printing, and the use of CNC tools, as well as more traditional activities such as metalworking, woodworking, and, mainly, its predecessor, the traditional arts and crafts. The rise of this making subculture is rooted in the phenomenon of hackerspaces emerging themselves from the counterculture movement.

Community interaction and knowledge sharing are often mediated through networked technologies, with websites and social media tools forming the basis of knowledge repositories and a central channel for information sharing and exchange of ideas, and focused through social meetings in shared hackerspaces

Some say that the maker culture is a reaction to the de-valuing of physical exploration and the growing sense of disconnection with the physical world in modern cities.

Many products produced by the maker communities have a focus on health (food),
sustainable development, environmentalism, local culture and can from that point of view also be seen as a negative response to disposables, globalized mass production, the power of chain stores, multinationals and consumerism.

Maker culture has its roots in the fifties and sixties. Magazine like The Whole Earth Catalog offered something very precious to the non-professional practitioners: the access to tools and information.

The maker culture is a social movement with an artisan spirit in which the methods of digital fabrication – previously the exclusive domain of institutions – have become accessible at a personal scale, following a logical and economic progression similar to the transition from minicomputers to personal computers in the microcomputer revolution of the 1970’s.

 

In the end maker culture isn’t about robots or 3D printing or STEM or even building things. It’s a new Renaissance, post-industrial, that is led by each person and every person being fluent with the idea of meaning making, ethics, politics of technology, and conscientization.

 

drawing-dg-and-mitch-talk-1000x668

makerfaire_nyc_the_maker_movement_manifesto-x3

A Complex Self

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi three decades of work on psychological concept of Flow establishes a link between happiness, creativity and making. Idea of an optimal learning environment is one where the activity engaged in is perceived as meaningful, one’s abilities are in balance with the challenge at hand, and one has the tools to express the emerging knowledge. While making people experience the state of flow in which they are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; Concentration is so intense that there is no attention left over to think about anything irrelevant or to worry about problems. Self-consciousness disappears, and the sense of time becomes distorted. The experience itself is so gratifying that they will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.

Making leads to higher form or complexity of human consciousness and to the growth of self. Complexity is the result of two broad psychological processes: Differentiation and Integration.

A complex self is the one that succeeds in combining these opposite tendencies. Flow helps to integrate the self because in a state of deep concentration consciousness is unusually well ordered. Thoughts, intentions, feelings, and all the senses are focused on the same goal. Experience is in harmony. Once experience is over; one feels more together, less predictable, possessed of rarer skills and unique than before, not only internally but also with respect to other people and to the world in general.

Differentiation implies a movement towards uniqueness, towards separating oneself from others.

Integration implies a union with other people, with ideas and entities beyond the self.

happiness-is-absorption-t-e-lawrence_5285f2e3613af_w1500

Why Do We Make?

Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create, and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. Things we make are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our soul.

Make. Just make. This is the key. The world is a better place as a participatory sport. Being creative, the act of creating is actually fundamental to what it means to be human. Physical making is more personally fulfilling than virtual making.

According to Jean Piaget (Constructivism) and Seymour Papert (Constructionism) building knowledge structure occurs best through building things that are tangible and shareable; Learning-by-Doing. People learn effectively through making things. Knowledge and the world are both constructed and interpreted through action, and mediated through symbol use. Each gains existence and form through the construction of the other. Knowledge structure building happens felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sandcastle or a theory of the universe.

Making is not just learning-by-doing, but engaging reflexively and socially. Both the creation process and the produced artifacts ought to be socially shared. Once you make
something, there is a sense of achievement, whether you make a notebook or an insanely complex contraption.

We as a race are driven by reward system, when someone appreciates our work and efforts we lower our guards and engage in conversations. So, act of making something eventually leads to act of engaging into conversations, idea and knowledge sharing. And this entire process taken on a macroscopic view leads to formation of collective consciousness.
Jay Silver states making leads to re-seeing (lens) the everyday world as something we can re-make (block)

Making is fundamental to what it means to be human. We must make, create, and express ourselves to feel whole. There is something unique about making physical things. Things we make are like little pieces of us and seem to embody portions of our soul.

diagram-2-1-w600diagram-3-3-w640-1

The World We Live In

At the moment we live in an economy which is overwhelmingly linear. It is a take-make and-dispose system powered by fossil fuels. It is like a machine: the bigger it is and the faster it runs, the more efficiently it runs, and the more it produces- so long as there are resources to transform and sinks for the wastes, credit for investment and enough economic growth to pay for it all.

In the entire market and profit driven world, designers are creating desire and aspiration for objects which have no absolute necessity in our lives. Everything is about consumption and to be better than the others around us.

The use & throw mindset in getting heavily ingrained within the population. And the way the population is on the rise, soon we’ll be covered in huge rubble of discarded objects.
Consumerism is a complex and wicked entity. Consumerism indirectly leads to the withholding of information, knowledge and technology. Corporations want to maintain
their supremacy and market lead. So, in a way consumerism leads to an iron curtain for any sort of open dialogue.

We have no regard for nature and other species living on our planet, we have become like machines devouring on natural resources without thinking of the consequences. We have already destroyed a lot of biodiversity around us. The rate at which the natural resources are depleting and the e-waste is increasing is alarming and daunting.

Mass consumption and consumerism is what has created the modern world and its comforts. That is also why we need to think it through afresh. Resources are expensive and getting more so, waste sinks are full, credit limited and growth stumbling.

Will the superfluous consumption come to an end or will it eventually lead to the downfall of the human race?

Design and Designer

According to Oxford dictionary, ‘Design is the arrangement of the features of an artifact, as produced from following a plan or drawing’. This is the Victorian definition of design, a definition which was fueled by industrial revolution, mass consumerism, use and throw attitude and disregard for nature.

‘Designer is a person who plans the look or workings of something prior to it being made, by preparing drawings or plans’. Designers were the few creative elite who were entrusted with the job of creation. Designers created want for objects which were not needed. A lot was being made without any thought for its existence. Designers were playing god.

Machines were constantly being improved. Abacus gave way to mechanical calculators, which in turn gave way to electronic calculators and finally arrived the computers. Initial computers were huge and humans had to be trained to find ways to interact with them. Within the realms of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), sprouted human centered design, a widely practiced design philosophy rooted in the idea that users must take center-stage in the design of any system. Users, designers and technical practitioners work together to articulate the wants, needs and limitations of the user and create a system that addresses these elements.

Design was morphing, rather than just creating a want, it was creating universal products, services and systems which were human centered. Advancement in HCI and HCD lead to the infiltration of digital devices in our lives. Alongside came the next big revolution, The Internet.

Internet connected the entire world; it shortened the physical dimensions of
our world. It changed the very core of communication and sharing. Internet provided new tools for creation of knowledge, information, technology and skill sharing. For the first time in human history any creative person could become a creator. Internet empowered people to give form to their ideas and then disseminate them across the world. Design is becoming more democratic, a more bottom-up approach.

Any new tool comes with its pros and cons. Technology and design has shrunk the physical dimension of our world, but at the same time it has broadened the physical disconnect among humans and nature. We’ll have to find a middle ground before one side over weighs the other. Technology and design has to transform into a platform for bringing the entire planet together.

Some of the iconic Industrial Design products of the 20th and 21st Century.

 

 

How will design, technology and designers evolve?

16

3D printed prosthetic hand. Is this the way design evolves? Making use of design, technology into providing solution to solve problems which are not affecting the masses or will it be continuation of thoughtless mass production or an hybrid human centric democratic open design which aims to improve the quality of life of masses.

This is one of the question I have been trying to explore for the past one years. There is no right or wrong approach to it. One has to look deep within themselves and ask what sort of world do they want to part of?

To the Hills of Meghalaya

In the month of September I took a few days off after finishing with my jury. I was headed for Ziro Music Festival in Arunachal Pradesh but ended up going to Shillong. I had been to Shillong some 13 years back when my dad was posted there. So, it was really fascinating for me to go to a place where I lived once and see what changes had the past 13 years brought to the beautiful city of Shillong.

I took a early morning flight from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad and took a halt in the Delhi. I reached the lush green tree surrounded Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport, Guwahati around 2 pm in the afternoon.

National Highway 40, an all-weather road, connects Shillong with Guwahati and the distance between them is roughly 120km. I had found out earlier that Shillong Municipal Board runs shuttle service (4 times a day, a TATA Winger 10 seater minibus) between Guwahati and Shillong. Booking can be done on phone ((0364) 2222731/ 2224933) or on the spot at the Airport at Meghalaya Tourism Counter near the luggage collection area. The moment I reached I got to know that there was a shuttle which was leaving at 3.30 pm. I got myself a ticket for Rs.400.

There is no railway line to Meghalaya. The closest railway station is Guwahati. There are a lot other transportation options between Guwahati and Shillong. One can take a helicopter, a taxi, a shared taxi or a bus.

I had to wait a bit for my co-passengers and around 3.40 p.m we left Guwahati Airport. My co-passenger Mr.& Mrs. Banker (yes my friends surname was Banker!) were a very interesting couple in there early 30’s. We just started chatting about where we are headed, what we do and where are we from. And we started talking about the local food, music scene, culture, religion etc. Banker told me a lot about the local food and what all to try and a few places where I could go. He also told me the entire history of how majority of people in Meghalaya converted to Christianity and also that in the remote areas there are a lot of communities which still worship the old Nature Gods (like mountains, wind; something similar to the Japanese culture). And once we were talking about this I asked Banker what has he studied and what he told me was quiet interesting. Banker had done a Master in Divinity from Pune and after that he started working with the church. I had no clue that there was a course like this taught in India. And while we were talking about all this on our way to Shillong, it started raining and the view started to get better. Mountains started to reveal themselves after 45 mins of ride and the roads started to turn and twist.

We took a halt in Nongpoh, where my friends took me to a tiny road side shop (Ja Cha). It was super clean and they very serving traditional Khasi food. Banker order Dohjem (which is a dish made from pork liver and intestines cooked with green leafy vegetable), Pu-tharo (an idly like small rice cakes) and some Red Tea. The food I ate was amazing, Dohjem was full of flavor and it was balanced perfectly with the plain Pu-tharo. Red Tea (with or without lemon) was something which I ended up having a lot during my nine day stay in Shillong, it’s really refreshing.

We resumed our journey after a halt of 20 minutes and then the gig of clouds started in the sky. Clouds were coming and going like crazy, going up, going down the mountains. On route we crossed a lot of fields growing rice, pineapples, vegetables etc. 120km might seem a small distance but in hills, it takes a considerable amount of time. The traffic started become a bit dense a bit before Barapani (Umiam Lake) which is about 15-20km from Shillong. It took us considerable amount of time to cover this distance. Banker got down from the shuttle some 5km before Shillong. The shuttle dropped me at Police Bazaar (which is an economic centre and major commercial hub of Shillong) around 7 p.m. My uncle came and picked me and dropped me at the guest house (Aiban Guest House) in Laitumkhrah (a center for a lot of things in Shillong).

When my dad was posted in Shillong, we used to stay in Laitumkhrah. Being back in the place brought a lot of memories. I was merely 13-14 year old when I was last in that place. Things still seem to be similar expect the number of vehicles on the road, their number had increased considerably. I kept my things in the room and went out for for a walk, the weather was really pleasant and a bit chilly. I came back and had my dinner in the guest house and slept.

It was good to be back! More about the places, people and food in the coming posts.