What Is a Maker Space?
Sometimes known as a fab lab and dubbed a hackerspace by tech-heads, a maker space is a collaborative place that connects creative individuals and entrepreneurs with the tools they need.
These small, community-led workshops are hubs of sharing knowledge and growing your skill set. Maker spaces aren’t reserved for engineers, however. People interested in woodworking, ceramics, sewing, crafts, robotics and fashion come together here, along with anyone else who has a passion for creating. For a fraction of the cost of mass production, passionate individuals can make their product or vision a reality.
It’s an awesome place to meet new affiliates and friends, in addition to providing the equipment inspired entrepreneurs need to make their vision a reality.
Get Access to Technology You’ve Only Dreamed of Before
One of the best aspects of a maker space is the broad variety of CNC tools, like mills, routers, 3D printers and laser cutting machines. These precise machines were traditionally used in large-scale manufacturing operations, but maker spaces give anyone access to them.
As the cost of these machines has plummeted over recent years, maker spaces are becoming popular, lucrative businesses that spread opportunity throughout the community.
Another astounding aspect of this type of space is the type of people it attracts. Everyone who makes an effort to come to a maker space is driven, is ambitious and has a vision of what they want to achieve.
Why Are These Workshops Gaining Popularity?
The trend is quickly moving away from mass production and towards small-batch artisanal products. As such, maker spaces offer small businesses and savvy individuals an opportunity to create well-made items at prices they can afford. Whether you make stuff using metal, glass, acrylic, wood, leather, plastic or paper, a maker space is a wonderland.
Of course, it’s not possible to mimic the production levels of a large company because of economies of scale. However, consumers are generally happy to pay a little more for something that has a personal touch. Additionally, young people seem to be moving away from traditional employment and into creative, more autonomous pursuits. As such, the demand for maker spaces is set to grow even more.
Why Use CNC Laser Cutting Machines?
Due to their futuristic nature, 3D printers tend to get a lot of press when it comes to the type of equipment in maker spaces. However, they’re more expensive and slower, and the user requires more extensive training than you would with laser engraving machines.
Laser cutters are usually the most popular machines in any fab lab. This is because SMBs can use them to create items that are currently experiencing high demand and growth. Read on to discover what makes them so well-loved by your fellow creatives.
Laser cutters are incredibly precise, as you can imagine. Provided you’re informed about which types of material to use, laser cutting is one of the cleanest and most accurate ways of making a variety of products. For example, acrylic cuts beautifully — but a small percentage of plastic isn’t compatible with this type of machine. Likewise, most wood has a perfect finish with a laser cutting machine, but some mixed materials such as cork won’t work.
Compatibility With Lots of Materials
That said, the vast majority of materials that people use to create products are compatible with lasers. Fab labs are amazing because they serve such a diverse range of clients — pretty much anyone with the drive to create. It’s not just hungry business owners and start-ups that can use these services, either. Any business or organization can make use of laser cutting machines to take its branding to the next level.
Easy to Use
A laser cutting and engraving machine is accessible to people of any skill level, and you don’t need to be a technical genius to learn it. You can work with affordable materials and it cuts super-fast, so it’s the most efficient machine of its type by a long shot. It’s a programmable device that uses a powerful laser to cut through or etch the surface of a wide range of materials.
Even the software you use to create designs for a laser cutting machine is relatively easy to use. AutoCAD, CorelDraw, Inkscape and Adobe Illustrator are popular programs. All you need to do to create 2D digital files is use the mouse to draw connecting arcs, lines and curves.
Rapid processing times are another critical reason that laser cutters are so popular at maker spaces. They’re so efficient that people who use them save money on labor and production costs.
Make Designs Come to Life
People who want to make a product starting from scratch find that laser cutting is an excellent discipline to start with. There’s a broad range of choices when it comes to what to make, so people can find something they’re passionate about.
It’s always better to make something that you’re passionate about — but it’s even more vital that you study the target audience rather than act solely based on your insights. Some of the products and industries that are popular with maker space aficionados include:
Textiles have always been a major, fundamental industry — and that is never going to change. However, we are currently experiencing a cultural shift as the public becomes increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability.
Mass-produced clothes, hats, bags, gloves and scarves are cheap, but they’re thought of as disposable. When people spend a little more on a hand-finished product, they’ll hold on to it longer. Budding clothes makers are blown away by the laser cutting machine’s capabilities with fabric.
In addition to making clothing, the global pandemic has brought about a hugely increased demand for PPE. Face shields, cloth masks and other protective equipment are easy to make at speed with a laser cutting machine at a fab lab. Makers might not be stocking Walmart with their products in the beginning. However, they can start with a small market and increase production once they’ve established themselves.
Laptop stands are an excellent option for laser cutting machines. It’s an item that a large percentage of the population needs, and it’s a straightforward design. As awareness about posture increases and more people work from home and take responsibility for their ergonomics, demand for this product is only set to grow.
Laser cutting machines are particularly good for making children’s jewelry, including necklaces, bracelets, rings and even little handbags and backpacks.
Dog collars, cat collars and even human collars are excellent options for laser cutters. Whether you make the collar or just create personalized tags, people love their pets and will be happy to buy cute, customized accessories for their fur babies.
Trinket boxes, music boxes, jewelry boxes and general storage cases all present awesome opportunities for creatives armed with a laser cutting machine. Personalized gifting is probably the industry that uses this technology the most, and the potential to make a lot of money is high. Not many people like giving out mass-produced gifts, so it’s easy for bright entrepreneurs to sneak into this market.
People need to use various trinkets, and they like to update them fairly regularly, too. As such, there’s no shortage of demand for items such as key chain holders, coasters, bottle openers, mobiles for babies and all those sorts of things.
Greetings Cards and Invitations
Weddings, birthdays and a whole load of celebrations take place throughout the year. During these special occasions, people treat themselves and each other. This often involves elaborate invitations and greeting cards. You can easily tap into this market using just a laser cutting machine in a maker space.
Creating signage can be a lucrative business that lets you flex your creative muscles within a specific niche. Signs are required in more situations than it’s possible to list on this page, so it’s a fantastic starting point for a new business looking to start small and grow.
Puzzles never go out of fashion. They’re a fantastic way for children to develop their fine motor skills, and even lots of adults are into the more intricate ones.
Use a Maker Space to Cut Production Costs
Businesses that outsource small-batch production might want to take a serious look at how a maker space could cut costs and improve productivity. Manufacturing all or some of your product in-house gives you complete control over quality, design and speed of production. Outsourcing is usually expensive because you pay for shipping and tariffs and have to meet the minimum spend criteria.
Once you rein control back into your team, creativity will spike because you’re working directly with the product. This puts you in a better position for expansion and growth.
Any Small Business Can Market With a Laser Cutting Machine
Creativity doesn’t need to be your driving force to make use of laser cutting machines in maker spaces. They let you tap into the buyer’s emotions by offering elevated opportunities for customization. We’re realizing with increasing certainty that emotions drive buyers’ decisions, and laser cutters are affordable, highly effective ways of appealing to customers’ feelings.
Here are some of the ways you can harness the power of laser cutting and engraving to grow your business:
Add Finishing Touches to Any Product
Whether it’s adding the flourish of a signature, logo or any simple personalization of your product, anyone can come to a maker space and quickly do it themselves. Why outsource something so simple when you can get it done yourself for a fraction of the cost?
Yearbooks and Brochures
If you’re a corporate entity or an institution like a school or university, you’ll need to produce brochures regularly. If you currently pay a marketing agency and printing company a considerable sum to create them, you should look into the practicalities of creating them yourself.
Coasters are an excellent way of getting your brand’s logo and name out into the world. Make coasters cheap and give them away as part of a promotion to spread the word.
Key Chains and Trinkets
Key chains are great items for merchandise because they can sit on someone’s keys for years. There are various little trinkets like this, such as personalized erasers, herb grinders, sex toys — you name it!
Branded mugs are another great way of getting into people’s homes and in front of their eyes on a regular basis. You can make cheeky designs, chic designs or funky designs — whatever suits your brand’s message the best.
Glassware is a classy and effective method of using a laser cutter to market your business. Choose elegant glasses, emboss them with your logo and sell them as gifts. For extra kudos, offer personalization and add names using the laser etching machine. This is particularly effective if you’re a brand in the food and drink industry that people would like for a wedding, anniversary or birthday gift.
Small businesses can create bespoke packaging for their products. Going the extra mile for your customers and making sure your product stands out for all the right reasons is the best way to inspire growth.
Making your own signage is not only cost-effective, but it sets the tone for the type of business you are. Instead of outsourcing, you take the time to learn the necessary skills and make your own signs. This hands-on approach means you’re less likely to become complacent. Relying on overpaid outsourced companies for everything is a recipe for overspending and inefficiency.
Apparel is one of the biggest industries there is right now. People don’t just want fashion that expresses their personality; they want to share their message with the world. Branded clothing is a way of affiliating yourself with a tribe. You might be surprised by how high the demand is for items such as hats, face masks and hoodies with your logo on it.
Can Individuals Use Laser Cutting Machines?
Individuals are encouraged to use maker spaces. Even though it’s a collaborative environment, there are plenty of people who go in with little more than a vague idea of the vision they have and big ambition. This type of space is so valuable because you can learn from other people and develop your skills until you get really good.
Maker spaces are excellent for personal growth as well as growing a business. Hobbyists might use them to bring passion projects to life. Lots of people who start side hustles in little community workshops end up starting businesses. Once a creative spark has been lit under someone, they tend to propel themselves in an upward trajectory. What begins as a passion project often becomes a lucrative business because of the care, thought and dedication that goes into it.
Get the Skills to Start Your Own Business
Young people love maker spaces because they provide the opportunity to learn hands-on skills that they didn’t necessarily learn at school. If you’re a creative person, it’s easy to get a little left behind just after you finish school. Academic people have their path set, and people who are interested in a trade can get an apprenticeship. Starting your own company or becoming a creative freelancer might seem like more intimidating options, but there’s no reason they should be.
In a maker space, you can get advice from seasoned pros and have the space to learn and grow. In the beginning, your products may not look like the finished article. However, if you put the time, enthusiasm and effort in, you’ll get fantastic professional-looking results in no time.
Get Training on the Best Machines
Most homes, schools and universities don’t currently have laser cutting machines. As such, a maker space is an excellent place to go and learn. In most instances, they offer a basic level of training. Because of the simplicity of using the laser cutter, the initial learning process doesn’t take long at all.
The majority of your effort at the outset will be spent refining your digital drawing and laser cutting technique. A bonus of the community environment is that you can watch fellow creatives use the equipment and ask them for hints and tips about how to get the best finish.
Practice Makes Perfect
A vision for a business is an excellent driving force for picking up skills. Once a person has their heart set on an end goal, they take steps to reach it. A maker space is a highly creative and inspirational zone. Sometimes, we still fall into the trap of believing that our skill sets are fixed, and this can make us give up too quickly. Spending time in a maker space shows you that anyone of any age can develop talents and even make a career out of those new skills.
Often, when someone has finished learning one machine, they’ll be interested in perfecting their abilities at using another. The more tools you have, the more you’ll see this snowball effect in action.
Which Industries and Institutions Can Use Maker Spaces?
We think that pretty much everyone could use a laser cutting machine! They have lots of uses and are so easy to use; you can save a lot of money on outsourcing small jobs. It also gives you greater creative control and, crucially, strict control over lead times and budget. Some of the leading industries that can benefit from laser cutting tools are:
- Schools: Schools tend to have a wide variety of uses for laser cutting because of branding, uniforms, trophies and medals for sports events and achievements.
- Sports teams: Sports teams need branded clothing, trophies and medals, as well as materials to use during training. Laser cutting machines in a maker space are a great place to test whether you’d be able to do certain things in-house instead of outsourcing.
- Offices: Offices are realizing the power of branding more and more. Branded stationery is an excellent addition to any office, but it’s expensive to outsource.
- Restaurants: Restaurants have plenty of opportunities to customize crockery and glassware, but they often spend vast sums of money doing it.
- Breweries: Likewise, breweries can create coasters and schooners and etch bottle openers with their brand’s logo.
- Laboratories: There’s a significant directive to make science more accessible and fun to attract the next generation of big thinkers. Labs can create branded merch to promote the excellent work they do for people.
Why Maker Spaces Are Excellent for Kids
Crafting, creating, inventing — whatever you call it, kids absolutely love it. Tech workshops and coding classes are the next big fads for kids’ learning. However, making things is often an excellent catalyst for technical skills. This is true for adults as well, but particularly for children. Taking things apart, putting them back together and learning the joy of creating something firsthand is one of the joys of childhood.
Kids can learn to create the drawings for the laser cutter at a young age — just imagine the skills they’ll have when they’re an adult.
Children Need to Express Themselves (So Do Adults!)
Children are growing daily, and their brains are taking in more than we can even comprehend. Encouraging creativity as well as intelligence helps them make connections even faster. Often, children who struggle with schoolwork or aren’t interested in sports will find happiness in creative pursuits. Giving them access to a maker space could inspire them to become an entrepreneur, artist or hobbyist.
There aren’t many things in life better than creating something and feeling satisfaction once the project is complete. For children, this can be life-changing, and it’s always motivating and reinforces good behavior.
Maker spaces are particularly useful for children with low academic confidence. Often, these children feel disillusioned by school and leave feeling like they might not have as many chances as academic kids. Creative spaces show them that there’s much more to the world than passing exams.
Improve Problem-Solving Abilities
A creative child makes a resourceful adult. Making something forces you to think of a variety of different outcomes and seek answers for yourself. For kids, it can be hugely empowering. Learning that the process of succeeding at making something is littered with failures can help set them up for the reality of life.
Using the software to create 2D images is another skill that they can use in both the short term and the long term. That said, learning a new skill and achieving goals can help a person of any age build resilience and focus.
Creativity and Intelligence Feed Off Each Other
Young people need to express themselves and feel like they’re winning some of the time. The great thing about art is that there’s no right or wrong answer. It’s all about the process of getting better and creating something to feel proud of. Invention is the perfect way to learn that success is usually only the result of a series of mistakes and failures. We can learn lessons to improve instead of feeling ashamed and limiting our future learning.
Why Not Start Your Own Maker Space?
People who run maker spaces can make excellent money while providing a hub that helps their community to thrive. You can charge three different ways by offering memberships, open workshops and one-off day passes. Speak to local entrepreneurs and find out what the demand for machines in your community is using social media. Include digital and manual equipment to appeal to a broad audience and encourage diverse interactions between entrepreneurs, hobbyists and creators.