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The New Industrial Revolution

By Chris Anderson
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Makers by Chris Anderson

Makers (2012) outlines the radical changes that are taking place in the manufacturing world, made possible by the internet and digital manufacturing technologies, and explores its implications for business and society.

Key idea 1 of 6

The Maker Movement is about people manufacturing things and sharing ideas.

People have always made things. Today, however, Makers are designing things on computers and manufacturing them at home without physical resources, using digital tools. What’s more, they share their ideas in online communities.

The DIY spirit of the punk and web era has arrived in the form of manufacturing, where instead of relying on large corporations for goods, people can create them themselves.

For example, when the author’s daughters wanted new furniture for their dollhouse, they found the selection available from classic toymakers to be very limited. While they did find the Victorian sofas and chairs they wanted, they couldn’t find the right size.

So, the author searched the web, and found a website offering online design files for dollhouse furniture. There, he found designs for Victorian furniture and modified the files so that they fit the size of his daughters’ dollhouse.

But having the designs isn’t the same as having the furniture. So, he simply printed the files on his 3D printer – for free.

The Makers are empowered by the web’s culture of sharing and collaborating. Open source software, for example, enables people to write and modify software to fit their own needs for free instead of getting mass-produced, one-size-fits-all programs that don’t always meet the needs of the user.

Just like the chair and sofa designs that the author found online, people actively design things that were previously unavailable and make them available for others. Then anybody with the know-how can modify the files and improve them.  

We see this exemplified by the micro-culture and community that has arisen around creating weapons for toy manufacturer LEGO.

LEGO itself doesn’t make toys that resemble contemporary weapons, like assault rifles or grenade launchers. So, hobbyists design them online, where they can be shared and modified. These toys are then manufactured using 3D printers at home or by sending the files to online manufacturing services.

Some people even turned this hobby into a legitimate business, such as the LEGO weapon manufacturer BrickArms.

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