Back when I was making a handsome six figures, if I wanted a 3D printer I would have gone out and bought one. If I wanted to build one (just for the fun of it) I would have gone out and bought a Laser cutter to cut the parts. Those days are over and that’s okay, now I have the Makerspace.
Ever since I retired, I no longer have the discretionary income to buy whatever my heart desires. So instead of buying a 3D printer I’m building one. Total estimated cost for this 3D printer: $230. The designer on instructibles.com tells us it can be done for $200 but I’ve already past that mark.
The irony of building a $200 dollar 3D printer is that you need a 3D printer and laser cutter to make the parts. I don’t have those but I know who does: our local Milwaukee Makerspace.
What is a Makerspace? Well you may have also heard it called Hackerspace, techshop or Fablab (Fabrication Lab) and it is a community-operated physical place, where people can meet and work on their projects. These places tend to be equipped with any tool imaginable needed for your project(s) and the skilled people to help you get started on those.
How does it work? Well, each local chapter may have its own procedures but basically you get a membership, which for me is $40 per month. For that I get some storage and access 24/7/365 a year. Yes, if I get an itch to build, I can walk into our Makerspace at 1:30 am on a Tuesday morning.
- Any tool that is plugged into the wall requires you to be checked off first. This means that when I wanted to use the Laser Cutter someone proficient had to walk me through the process. Once checked off you can use it whenever you need it.
- Since this is a community driven effort, you can’t be a Dick! An asshole from time to time is fine but don’t be a dick (that is verbatim what I heard when someone applied). As you are helped by others, you are expected to help others when you can.
- Some creativity is welcome but if that is missing sites like instructables.com will provide plenty of that.
You might say $40 per month is a lot of money and to be honest it is for me. What you get in return however is access to knowledge and equipment that is worth thousands. Need a lathe? They have it. Need a forge, they have it. Need someone to explain how to calibrate a 3D printer extrusion head? They have someone that’s done it. Did I mention it is a community?
I think for many members it is not just the tools and equipment but the sense of community that draws them to a place like the Makerspace. I know that after spending almost 2 years blogging from my basement office, this aspect was a welcome one for me. It’s good to be around people.
So, if you’re in need of some specialized tools, some knowledgeable individuals or simply be part of an awesome community, find your local Makerspace.
The following link has over 2000 of them, worldwide. Find yours at : https://wiki.hackerspaces.org/List_of_Hacker_Spaces
Oh and if there is none near you, check out your local library. You won’t find a plasma cutter there but more and more libraries are starting mini makerspaces that have items such as laser cutters and 3D printers.
Have fun building and good luck reaching your financial goals.