Makerspace Development 06/11/15


tech-episodeToday’s Question: Will Mini-Mills crash the 3D Printer Party?

As Moore’s law takes hold in the 3D Printer market, you have to be careful that you aren’t blindsided by some other technology looking to crash the party.

At, we caution against thinking of makerspace development as being just about 3D printing.

In fact, makerspace development is primarily about building strong strategic networks that will serve the needs of makerspace members 5-7 years out.

It’s also about conducting an on-going education process that builds a culture that values creative energy. One that will not put random obstacles in the way of self-directed projects.

Having said that, technology does play a significant role in resource allocation in the short and near-term. Long-term resource allocation depend on Metcalfe’s Law and Reed’s Law.

Understand that technologies come and go. However, the laws that govern the lifecycles of technologies stay the same.

The first stage of a process like makerspace development is governed by Moore’s law.The Second stage is govern by Metcalfe’s Law which deals with the potential each successful makerspace has to spur development of other makerspaces.

The third stage is governed by Reed’s law which deals with potential value created when makerspaces choose to bring away into smaller groups.

This brings us back to the question of mini-mills vs. desktop 3D printing.

For the record, this is an issue of additive manufacturing versus subtractive manufacturing. Additive which means building up a prototype layer by layer and subtractive which means trimming away unwanted pieces.

In general, 3D printers produce prototypes and short runs using plastic filaments. Whereas subtractive manufacturing produces prototypes and short runs out solid materials like wood or metal.

Obviously, this is further complicated by desktop machines that can do both additive and subtractive prototyping.

Desktop 3D printing makes sense for makerspaces that want to build a community of cutting edge creatives who want to push the boundaries of physical structures.

Desktop mini-mills, on the other hand, make a lot of sense for makerspaces that want to support members who want to create replacement parts. It also makes sense for makerspaces that serve members engaged in jewelry prototyping.

Zachary Alexander