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Wednesday April 23, 2014
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Craftsperson's Paradise

 

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The partners have since invested $500,000 and two years of hard work into the space, and the results are impressive. Maker Works is divided into four major "domains": electronics, wood, craft, and metal. Each domain is equipped with at least one digital fabrication machine, a device that automatically creates a finished product from a computer-generated design. For example, the craft domain features a 3D printer, which "prints" plastic designs (like Lego bricks, or a small model of a human hand) from digital models by extruding melted filament onto a moving baseplate. Digital fabrication machines in the other domains include a circuit-board printer, a giant router that can create detailed designs and textures in wood, and a plasma-powered metal cutter. Although members are required to take an introductory class before using these high-tech devices, each machine is equipped with an instructional binder. The domains also include more pedestrian tools like soldering guns and sewing machines.

Response to the facility so far has been enthusiastic, with more than 300 memberships issued since it opened. The makers' interests are diverse, with current members including a cabinetmaker, a company that designs small-engine fuel injectors, and one member whom Root describes as a "biologist-cum-game designer." Root says Maker Works creates a valuable exchange of knowledge between hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and students. Students, for example, have shared computer savvy with industrial veterans, who have in turn bestowed their mechanical expertise upon the younger set. Root is adamant that finances shouldn't be a barrier to prospective members young or old. Six members currently pay off their membership dues by doing nine hours of basic maintenance work per month.

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