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Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

“Makers: The New Industrial Revolution” by Wired’s magazine Editor in Chief Chris Anderson, is his recently published book about the things we are able to build by ourselves in current time, empowered by desktop digital fabrication tools, and how this technologies might change the world.

Proposing that a technology like 3D printing — which is becoming increasingly cheaper, better, faster and omnipresent — can change the world, and actually calling it a new industrial revolution might raise lot’s of neck hair stand on end.

But the author’s experience as an editor and writer (I also recommend his two other books: the Long Tail about the rise of niche products and services in a mass market global economy, and Free, a book about how pricing schemes of $0 and giving thing away can still be a profitable business model) plays to his favour, crafting a coherent and enthusiastic discourse with enough back up stories to make it sound not only believable, but desirable as well.

In his vision of the near future, or even more, our current present, home-brew manufacturing stands to revolutionise the American economy. Is he right about this?

In 1776 the (first) Industrial Revolution replaced human power with machine power, thus amplifying human potential. Machines could take a simple gesture, or small physical effort from a person first, a water, steam, diesel or electrical machine later, and obtain faster results with less effort. “Things” could be built, but more to that, industries were born, both in the sense of a place with building facilities, and also in the economical terms of marketplace and trade.

He proposes there’s a second Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution of the late seventies and early eighties, with Personal Computers. Interestingly enough, he sets the date to 1985, when Apple released the LaserWriter printer as a Desktop Publishing platform, and not the release of the Personal Computers a few years before that.

In that way, using the word Desktop (desktop computer, desktop publishing, desktop manufacturing) empowers industrial changes just presented democratising the tools of creation. Publishing quickly became the common thing on the web — and the web became the common thing before that, so we “posted, uploaded, and shared” our way into this decade. Desktop technologies gave people tools of digital creation. Once attached to the network, the tools of distribution were democratised. Now we can do the same that big corporations could previously do, at least still in the digital trade.

But does the same paradigm apply to 3D prints? And how?

From that on — he argues – it’s not hard to see that the past ten years have been about finding new social and innovation models on the web, and the following ten are about getting things on the real world; “Atoms are the new bits” he said at a recent conference.

Today, it may seem as a simplified version of reality to just say that with access to digital fabrication tools, wether our own or in a Maker Space or FabLab “everyone with an idea, will have the tools to realise it”, but it’s a provocative thought, in the same line as in one of it chapter’s title “we are all designers now, me might as well get good at it”. But no that provocative actually, rather a real trait made clear last weekend on Maker Fair: a 4 year old draws a flower on an iPad, and nobody tells her how to use that. That same flower, five minutes later, was 3D printed ring on her finger. The former strange, far and spectacular becomes vernacular. That’s the power ok make.

It’s not difficult to agree that many of us ITP’ers are (or came here to become) makers. What does it take to get all those ideas into the “real” world is what makes the difference, and “maker tools” make that process easy, however there is still a big leap to be made, and that is the gene of need finding and creation.

Tools are just tools. It’s how we use them that makes the difference.

238 comments to Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

  • Sergio "quote" Majluf "end quote"

    I’m sorry I used a book that was not on the reading list, but I just find it interesting and relevant to all of us at ITP right now.

  • Harry (Chiu-Hao) Chen

    No matter what Makers’ have made, to see gorgeous smile from kids that is the pleasure moment for the makers!
    see ITP makers’ nerdy derby in Maker Faire.

  • Ilwon Yoon

    First of all, I am glad that I am able to find the summary of the book, “the makers: the new industrial revolution” since I was planning to read it. I couldn’t agree more the content of the book that the 2nd Industrial Revolution will be coming in the future with accessible 3D printer machine since I am the one driven by the desire of creating my own things. 3D printer is definitely something that could bring significant changes to the industry as this technology is fully compatible with 3D modeling software that is out in the world for long time. Now our dream of making 3d objects comes true, which was almost impossible, or cost too much effort and time in the past. But I insist that 3D printer is not the sole technology that brings the 2nd industrial revolution to the world for the first time.
    Like Dale said in the Reynold conference in last September at Stern school of Business, creative makers and enthusiastic amateurs scientists have been existed in past years. Some of them were ended up with being a great scientist, and others had stayed in the level of what they were capable of, and yet technologies in the past were able to access although it was hard to reach and on the way of developing it. So, what made a distinct deviation that could be called as 2nd industrial revolution is not only advance and accessible technologies, but also the way we share with others. I believe that the sudden emergence of the World Make Faire is caused by the fact that we can share easily what we love and that makes the fun part. Paring with accessible technologies and the desire to share what you love with people in the world, this dream of everybody is designer is becoming true.

  • William Lindmeier

    I think you’re spot on about 3D printing. It really feels like a burgeoning tech with a ton of potential, like the personal printer was 20 years ago. If you need convincing, I’d recommend the latest Wired cover story about the Replicator 2:

    Since reading that article I’ve been thinking a lot about how the printer could be used. It could be really useful for Pcomp projects for custom fittings, or modding objects in the junk box. I love that it opens up avenues for makers that we haven’t really considered yet.

  • Sergio "Majluf"

    Thanks for your comments!

    What about taking it to the next step? I’ve talked about this with one of the scientist involved, and it’s creating, at least, an interesting debate.

    Why do we have to 3D Print small objects? Why can’t we 3D Print a house? A full size car? A Human Kidney?

  • Sergio, can I borrow the book? I also wanted to read it and after going to Maker Fair and seeing all those 3D printers as the new maker’s popstars, it became a must read.

    The other Chris Anderson books seem to point already on the direction that there is a clear change in how the economy organizes and how the society is facing how it consumes things.

    I have just read Natalie Tschechaniuk’s post on hi tech trash “High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health”, a book by Elizabeth Grossman.

    As laser printers raised the issue on preserving trees, the 3D printers already start taking that philosophy into consideration. I saw a model at maker fair that printed using organic compost as raw material and another one that made the 3D prints with old pieces of soap.

  • By the way, the video about printing organs is amazing! Thanks!

  • Sergio "Majluf"

    Of course! I’ll bring it to the floor.

    It’s funny though that we keep legacy limitations on new creations. Did it catch your attention that almost all 3D printers today, disregarding the technology they work with, share the same form factor?

    I only remember seeing one of them being different at the fair, basically taking the same width and length, but with much greater height.

  • Nancy

    Just jumping in to say this is an interesting discussion. Maybe Making is the 3rd industrial revolution. Computers/electronics definitely the 2nd. And something retro about it too…going back to making stuff yourself.
    Sergio… interesting about the form factor of printers..all based on desktop publishing… can you imagine different, more flexible kinds?
    Bill.. the idea of new avenues of making…that would be a great SIG at ITP
    and if you do.. include NAtalie.. great post on High Tech Trash..

  • Sergio "Majluf"

    I mentioned large form factor printing in one of my comments. That was linear thinking: just make the “printer” bigger.

    But I just stumbled upon this article on Fastcodesign website. It’s not only about printing large structures, rather than printing growing structures; mind-blowing if ou ask me: