Self-help group leads the way

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - 3D TECHNOLOGY -

Joel Leonard dis­cov­ers how one per­son is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to man­u­fac­tur­ing in New Zealand, build­ing a small move­ment of in­no­va­tors who help oth­ers.

New Zealand has a long his­tory of peo­ple mak­ing amaz­ing things in their sheds, garages and work­places. How­ever, it has been dif­fi­cult to find the peo­ple do­ing the mak­ing, un­less you were di­rectly in­volved you might not know what is go­ing on in your own neigh­bour­hood – not to men­tion the next town or city down the track.

In 2010, Richard For­tune set about learn­ing more about 3D fab­ri­ca­tion. Af­ter set­ting up Mak­ers.org.nz (MoNZ), he started a group in Wellington to meet like-minded peo­ple with whom he could share bat­tle sto­ries.

As it turned out, there were quite a few peo­ple who were keen on dis­cussing 3D projects with each other – the Wellington Mak­ers Meet-up was borne (via http://meetup.com).

Projects be­gan with the crowd-sourc­ing of funds for a Mak­erbot MK6 3D printer, and with that the maker meet-ups took on a new di­men­sion. Mem­bers shared 3D print­ing tips and mem­bers of the pub­lic got to use the ma­chine at no cost.

In the first year alone, 90 peo­ple got to use the printer and learn more about the tech­nol­ogy.

In 2011 MoNZ fo­cused on set­ting up a Mak­erspace, so that mem­bers had a ded­i­cated place to meet. Since then, Wellington has seen the es­tab­lish­ment of the Wellington Mak­erspace, a de­sign stu­dio/mak­erspace fo­cus­ing on teach­ing younger mak­ers how to cre­ate.

In par­al­lel with this, MoNZ es­tab­lished links with maker-spa­ces in other parts of New Zealand.

Uni­ver­si­ties were the next ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion, with stu­dents in two fac­ul­ties study­ing prod­uct de­sign in Wellington, mak­ing con­nec­tions with area spe­cial­ists made per­fect sense.

Be­com­ing part of New Zealand’s first univer­sity-based maker so­ci­ety, the League of Mak­ers, the Co­lab181 group, be­gan work­ing on projects to­gether.

It wasn’t long be­fore they were build­ing 3D prin­ters them­selves, mainly of the open-source RepRap va­ri­ety, from there the sky was the limit; DIY laser cut­ters, desk­top CNC ma­chines, 3D printed lathes, roto-mold­ers and all sorts of fun con­trap­tions.

Such is the strength of the maker move­ment in New Zealand that in 2012 Massey Univer­sity in­vested in set­ting up the first Fablab in Aus­trala­sia. And that same year hosted the world FAB8 event, with par­tic­i­pants trav­el­ling from all over the world to share dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion tech­niques and projects.

Also in 2012, MoNZ spon­sored the de­vel­op­ment of the Mak­erCrate, a Mak­erspace in a ship­ping con­tainer, that could be re­pro­duced any­where in the globe for un­der US$15,000, which could serve to es­tab­lish a vi­able maker com­mu­nity any­where.

The Mak­erCrate is cur­rently de­ployed in Christchurch, act­ing as a hub for Maker ac­tiv­ity.

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