Makespace: a unique resource in the Cambridge Community

What is Makespace

Makespace CambridgeLimited is a community workshop. It is volunteer run, open 24/7, a hackspace, a makerspace, a meeting place, and educational venue.Makespace was created by enthusiasts as an accessible workspace filled with tools to make and play in an environment that encourages learning. Since its launch in 2013 Makespace has attracted 1,000members drawn from all sectors of the Cambridge community to its4,000 sq.ft. workshops for metal, wood, textiles, printing, glass,electronics and digital tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC mills. Local business and artists use Makespace as a resource;creating fashion, testing software and prototyping new designs for applications as diverse as transportation, health, entertainment,gaming, science and technology for sustainability.

Why Makespace is Unique 

 Commercially focused and successful makerspaces are difficult. Makerspaces are often informal associations set up by for a particular project.Inherently physical, they require space, equipment and resources. Thus, most makerspace are short lived and close after the initial enthusiasm or project’s motivation has faded. Likewise hackevents (‘hackathons’) tend to be one-off weekend activities resulting in concept demonstrators without follow-on support or opportunities for institutional learning.

There have been several attempts at commercial makerspace models, but the models hav eeach met challenges. Established businesses that could benefit from ready access to flexible prototyping facilities only need them during certain parts of the product design cycle. SME and microenterprises that might benefit from a low cost DIY approach often lack broad in-house prototyping skills. Businesses have good understandings of end user requirements, but not necessarily the tools or skills to prototype without external support. From the makerspace perspective it is difficult to provide a wide selection of tools and trained operators at an affordable blanket subscription. Per use fee structures discourage experimentation as each iteration has an incremental cost. Service by trained operators drives up the cost and can get in the way of learning from doing that is often fundamental to gaining insight and capturing innovations.

Makespace Cambridge has avoided these problems in several ways, first it was founded by a broad collection of individuals and groups with industry experience. The initial focus of the groups was the space itself, not their individual projects. The result was club-like and had as its purpose infrastructure supporting innovation. They appreciated a social atmosphere and ready access to tools which supported new projects and explorations. The space, and the club, remained active after any particular project completed and in time attracted new makers and projects. The new makers saw that the engineering infrastructure, and workshops were ideal for prototyping early products. The existing members were sources of experience and insight.

The idea thatMakespace existed in its own right outside of any particular project requirement led to activities that were infrastructure focused;making the space became a project focus in of it self. The ever improving infrastructure and available tools were as attractive for early stage commercial users as they were for the advanced hobbyist so the membership was maintained, and indeed grew.

New members and new equipment mean not everyone is familiar with all the new tools. Members training other members is important for safety and more. Training is a common experience of all Makespace members. Even though they are at Makespace for different reasons they have a common experience in the training classes. The members doing the training also benefit from access to better equipment in exchange for teaching others how to use it.

The Makespace community is a deep and useful resource for companies interacting with and working out of Makespace. Not only do members of the community have experience in running a wide range of equipment theyare also members of the Cambridge engineering community with extensive experience in design, productisation and manufacture. They also appreciate the values of community, sustainability and continued learning. In this way Makespace also serves the function of a business incubator or accelerator.

Makespace is the largest makerspace organisation in the region offering 24/7 direct access to equipped workshops with trained and experienced members to offering assistance on a volunteer basis.

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