3D printing and making is a relatively new phenomena; a few years ago if you wanted to make something you would have needed some skills in working with electronics, woodwork, metalwork, or other materials. If that wasn’t an option, you got somebody else to make it for you or you bought something off-the-shelf.
However, the ‘maker’ movement has been gaining pace of the last ten years, or so. Maker groups, such as the local Quantum Technology Club, have sprung up all around the world which see experienced folk share their skills in a friendly environment with those just starting out.
In fact, the current maker community is responsible for some quite amazing products. Two examples of this are the Raspberry Pi and 3D printers.
Making with the Raspberry Pi
We’ve documented the rise of the small and inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer elsewhere on this web site, but it is not an understatement to say that this device has made a significant contribution to the growing maker community that involves itself with computer programming and electronics.
The Raspberry Pi has probably spawned more new devices, many invented by folk who knew nothing about programming and electronics a few years ago, than anything else in this country.
Imagine being able to make a new knob for a kitchen draw, a case for your Raspberry Pi, or producing a replacement control for a Tornado jet fighter all without any manufacturing or materials knowledge at all.
A few years ago this would have been a pipe dream. However, 3D printing is becoming more commonplace and for less than £200 you can purchase a 3D printer and download pre-designed 3D printable objects from the Internet and produce your own parts.
In fact, companies like British Aerospace now print non-critical parts in Titanium to maintain the fleet of ageing Tornado jet fighters and bombers as economies of scale prevent the production of the small quantities of small parts required. 3D printing has probably helped keep this, still very capable, plane flying past what might have been possible had the cost of purchasing parts from external companies been required.
Hobbyists can now produce their own parts and products and take those designs and tweak them to suit their own particular requirements, all without having to undertake long and costly manufacturing courses.
Making electronic circuits
Our electronics workshop will show you how easy it is to ‘make’ electronics products and save yourself large amounts of money. People have been doing this for many years, but costs have dropped significantly recently and there are now plenty of software packages that enable you to test circuits to see if they actually work before you go to the expense of making them.
The maker community is growing at a fast pace and is supported by a vast network of clubs and societies, not-for-profit organisations and small businesses.
Don’t forget the Quantum Technology Club right on your doorstep here in Ormskirk; why not come along and see what you can start making tomorrow.
Useful Maker links
Raspberry Pi Foundation and community
Thingiverse for downloadable 3D printing objects