Small Streams


Maker Remaketh
October 31, 2013, 4:06 am
Filed under: business, eutechnics, technology | Tags:

This article in Technology Review, “The Difference Between Making and Manufacturing” takes Chris Anderson to task for his enthusiasms but can also be seen as the play book for the coming years.

First I’d like to say that the author sets up a false dichotomy between making and manufacturing. Large manufacturers have always brought techniques from the kitchen or barnyard, and makers have always hacked ready mades. We’re only talking about a matter of scale. Leaving aside the Marxian perspective that quantity begets quality, the cat is already out of the bag.

David Rotman says makers, or let’s say, those people without standing in the manufacturing community, the unannointed, the macroeconomic non-entities, can do a lot, but they’re not making a revolution.

Many types of manufacturing require a sophisticated series of steps and processes to be done in precise sequence. Selecting the right materials and technologies is key to high-quality, low-cost results. If designers don’t understand the manufacturing processes and materials that are practical, they will never come up with the most advanced and compelling new products. It’s a lesson that has been repeatedly learned over the last decade in the development of new clean-energy technologies. Innovators may create smart designs for technologies such as solar panels, but ignoring the costs and practical details of manufacturing the new products is a sure path to failure.

Things need to be sophisticated, precise, and probably require the capital that hackers like you don’t have. Shift your perspective a bit, though, and you can see that Rotman provides the rubric for makers subverting manufacturers. Get sophisticated enough, get precise enough, and learn materials and processes, but do it cheaply and do it in such a way that encourages continuous practice.

Rotman is right, though, ignoring the cost and practical details of manufacturing is a sure path to failure. It’s just that I don’t believe the failure to be perpetual.

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[…] previously written about the influences craft has on industry and vice versa. This New York Times article, “Etsy’s Industrial Revolution” concentrates on […]

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