Talk at the Falmouth Polytechnic

On the 26th of October Louis Turner from 3DK, Shawn Brown, and Sam Lanyon from the Concept Shed and I were the panel of a discussion group at the Falmouth Polytechnic on the Makerspace Movement.  Below is the text of the talk I gave


My Name is Aaron Moore. I am a Furniture maker, with a small workshop near st Agnes and for the last year I have been running the Transition St Agnes Makerspace. A small open access workshop with some computer controlled or digital tools. Over the last 10 years I have become increasingly interested in digital manufacturing processes Particularly in the idea that design and manufacturing should be accessible to everyone. Rather than the centralized system we have today were most things we buy come from distant lands. Perhaps things could or should be made closer to home.

The Makerspace

In 2012 as part of an MA I built a CNC router which is a machine for automatically cutting out parts from plywood and timber. And recently I built a laser cutter which is a similar machine but used for cutting thinner materials like card leather paper and textiles. I did this partly because I really like making tools. And partly because I wanted to show that this technology is accessible to almost anybody and that localized distributive manufacturing could be a more environmentally friendly alternative. I now use these machines for making components for my own furniture and doing contract jobs for other designers and artisans. As well as in the makerspace. The advantage of this equipment is that once you have made one you can make as many as you like, or the design can be easily changed to make them more personal or fit particular situations.

Late in 2015 I started running open access workshops one day a month where, for a minimal fee, anyone could come for a three hour session and I would teach them the basics of the software and how to set up and use the machines. Perhaps 30 people have come over the last year and many have come more that once. Everyone makes a name tag and most people go away with something they have designed and made themselves. These are some of the things that have been made……

The Dolls caravan is a design that has been developed from scratch by Jane as a present for a relative over a period of several months. Similarly the scythe guard is an on going project that has the potential of becoming a marketable product. The design for the Lounge Chair is slightly different in that it was downloaded from the internet and then processed and cut on the router. Some people have used the Makerspace to promote their own businesses making by making illuminated signs like these.

Why am I doing this?

As a member of the Transition group in St.Agnes we aim to raise awareness of the fact that fossil fuels are running out and we are going to have to transition towards a low carbon economy. I believe that small scale digital manufacturing could have a role to play in making communities more self reliant, This can be done by making products locally, from locally available materials, for local markets, generating local employment and reducing energy spent on transport. Up till now the type of equipment that can make this possible has been beyond the reach of small businesses both technologically and financially, but this is changing, and I hope in some small way the Makerspace facilitates this change.

It allows people to learn new skills, and to make things for themselves.

It allows people to develop prototypes cheaply and fail cheaply. Usually it cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds to make a prototype before it can be put into production, but Makerspaces allow this to happen at a fraction of the cost. For example the Scythe guard

I do it because it give people the opportunity to be creative, and to make things they would never normally be able to. And these things are less likely to end up as land fill because the maker has a personal attachment to the object that he or she has made. And I think people really enjoy it.

I also enjoy doing it. Normally I spend my days on my own in a very noisy workshop. While facebook, twitter and the like build virtual communities. Using digital technology in a Makerspace environment brings people together and forges new ‘real time’ communities. It merges the digital, the physical and the personal.

The future

At the moment I do this on a purely voluntary basis with the fees just about covering insurance and power only. My workshop is limited to timber based projects and is too small for any sort of expansion.But I think it has shown that in a small community there is a fair amount of interest in this kind of project. The question is, is there potential for a commercially viable Makerspace that serves businesses and individuals throughout west Cornwall with a bigger range of activities? Much like the disbanded Makernow project

In order to generate Income it would have to be a much more complex animal; Would there be an advantage if the project could cope with more people? If so   More equipment would be needed.  There would have to be group training sessions.  Plus membership fees or machine rental fees.  There would have to be staff for technical and admin tasks.  Perhaps links with local schools and colleges could generate income

There are many unknowns.

So there you have it. I hope that some form of expansion is possible, but would really like to know what you think?

And if anyone wants to sign up for a session please go to my website.

Thank you for listening

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