posts tagged with the keyword ‘maker’

2013.01.11

CHC Hip-Hop

I don’t know if the Maker Movement has any hip-hop artists in its ranks, but at some point someone is going to want to write a rap mentioning CNC machines, so I’ve compiled a list of suitable rhymes for “CNC” and I present them here.

Note that some of these words/phrases are serious, and some of them are just for fun. It takes all kinds.

  • Jamboree (fun word)
  • Wait and see (should be in reference to the time it takes to finish a job)
  • Filigree (should be in reference to detailed artwork.)
  • My man Adrian B (should be in reference to Adrian Bowyer of the RepRap movement.)
  • Look good to me! (should be in reference to how a job turned out.)
  • Jubilee (fun word)
  • My main man Bre (should be in reference to Bre Pettis of MakerBot)
  • Bumblebee (fun word)
  • Bruce Lee (fun, but could also be in reference to strength/power.)
  • Guarantee (fun word, but could also be used in reference to how a job turns out.)
  • Tree (should be in reference to the consumable used for a job is wood, which comes from trees.)
  • Billy D[ee] (should be in reference to Billy Dee Williams or the other Billy D)
  • Whiskey (fun word, but you should think twice before combining alcohol with any power tools.)
  • Debris (should be in reference to the scraps/waste left after a cutting job is finished.)
  • Banshee (fun word)
  • Emcee [MC] (this one is obvious, I should hope.)
  • Waikiki (fun word, possibly only suitable for Jerry Isdale.)
  • Potpourri (fun word)

Alright! That should be enough to get started… can you think of any more?

2012.06.14

Plastic

In the spirit of my “Maker Business” posts (like The Real Costs and Lessons Learned) I’d like to point you at this post from I Heart Robotics titled Business Plan: 3D manufacturing. If you haven’t read it, go read it. Then come back here. I’ll wait.

Are you back? Good! Let’s go…

This is my favorite post of the week… and it’s only Thursday! For anyone wanting to get into a maker-related business, it’s a must-read.

The funny thing is, I’d seen one of these TriK Tripod Adapters for the Kinect before, because Mike printed it at Milwaukee Makerspace one day. (You could say I have an interest in various camera related mounting technology.) Yeah, that’s right, they guys who were selling this item also gave away the design for free to anyone who wanted it. Insane you say? The world I want to live in, I say…

This is an area I see open source hardware similar to open source software. Once a problem is solved, why not share the solution with everyone else, for free? You’re welcome to sell the software (or hardware) all you like, and letting other use it for their own use is a great side effect that costs you nothing. (Some could argue it costs you in potential revenue, but I won’t argue that right now.) It’s also worth noting that I Heart Robotics licenses the item with an Attribution – Non-Commercial – Share Alike license. For those unfamiliar with Creative Commons, a simple explanation would be that as long as you don’t make money by selling it, you can go nuts and make (and give away) as many of them as your 3D Printer can make.

This breakdown of costs is also worth studying.

TriK Tripod Adapter Costs

 $0.384     8 grams Raw ABS Plastic
 $0.0182    1/4-20 Nut
 $0.222     Qty 4 Plastic thread forming screws 
 $0.124     2 x 1 1⁄4 x 3" Kraft Reverse Tuck Carton
 $0.015     2 x 2" White Laser Label
 $0.044     3 x 5" 2 Mil White Block Reclosable Poly Bag
~$3.75      NRE - Non-Reoccuring Engineering Costs
~$0.50      Labor - Push button, remove part, repeat
~$8.34      Printer operating cost

Total Cost $13.40/part

What can we learn from these numbers? Plenty! Some of these items are things you don’t really think about, like labor or equipment operating costs. For instance, I use a drill press in my basement to manufacture things. I don’t really add in the cost to run it for a few minutes per unit, but maybe I should. I also run a fan in my spray booth, and that uses electricity. The numbers might be negligible, but they do exist. (Oh, we also learn that Uline is awesome.)

Since I’ve been dealing with numbers like these in the past few months I’ve become a little more aware of people who complain about such things. I can see someone who owns their own 3D Printer saying “They want $20 for that!? It’s like 5 cents worth of plastic!” and while it may be just 5 cents worth of plastic (or less) there’s a lot of other costs involved. If you have the power to make one on your own, go for it! Either design one and make it, or in this case, download it and print it. I’ve learned that even if you carefully outline exactly how to do something and publish it on the Internet, there are still people who will (gladly) just pay you to do it all for them and then ship it to them, and for that I am grateful.

2012.05.25

Maker Business - The Real Costs

You know me, I’ve always got more to say… I just wanted to touch on the real costs of making a thing.

In the olden days, when I primarily worked with software, there was an old saying “Linux is only free if your time has no value” and while it’s a slightly amusing phrase, there maybe some truth to it. Maybe. If you’re a Linux fan, the saying may come across as an insult. Sure, sometimes working with Linux feels a lot like yak shaving. When you need to install this library to install that library to install some other library to install the software you really wanted to install… you get the idea. (Linux has gotten much better at this in the last few years though, so much of these issues have gone away.)

With software, it’s (almost) all about the time you spend on it. If you’ve got a computer, you can develop software. Most of the tools are free, or low-cost (depending on the platform) and if you got access to the Internet, or a library, you can learn, learn, learn and become a software developer. (I’ll answer the question of if you should in another post!)

So you’ve got a computer, you’ve got time, you’ve got a desire to learn… those can be the basic building blocks to make software. Go for it. Now, keep in mind that many developers (especially in the open source world) are doing what they do because they want to solve their own problems. I really wanted DokuWiki to be able to present a random page, and when I found a plugin that didn’t work, it was worth a few hours to fix it. I didn’t go as far as adopting the plugin, since it appears to have been orphaned, but I did drop it on GitHub so if someone really wants my work, they can have it. The sharing and collaboration is part of what I love about open source.

So let’s talk about hardware…

Hardware consists of real bits, not just zeros and ones, but actual physical things that are created. When I turned one of my projects into a product I did my best to make sure the final price was such that I would actually make money. Making money is important. Note that I didn’t say making LOTS and LOTS of money is important. I mean, it is to some people, but… whatever.

So you’ve got your maker business, and you want to treat customers (and potential customers) right, and this will cause you to make certain decisions. I remember talking to someone 9 months ago who ran a successful Kickstarter campaign, and he pointed out to me that the first thing you need to do once you think you determine your costs, is to pad it. Remember that Kickstarter and Amazon each take a cut. The campaigner also said that he got one backer who had some terrible thing happen in his personal life, and asked if he could be refunded his pledge. If you do refund someone’s pledge, do you do the full amount or do you withhold what Kickstarter and Amazon take out of it?

Once you’re shipping actual products, if you’re not charging enough, how many returns does it take to make you start losing money? Things break during shipping, or get lost, or stolen, or just plain don’t work. It’s your job to determine how far you’ll go (and how much you’ll spend) to have satisfied customers.

And yeah, as I mentioned, physical things cost money, and when you are not big (as in, a small company, or someone just starting out) you probably have zero leverage to get any sort of discounts. This is where a lot of Kickstarter campaigns come in, as they involve raising enough money to do bulk purchases to drive down costs. It’s a good idea in some cases, but not all.

Even after you have all the physical things you need to assemble a product, there are at least two more thing you may need. Time (just like with software) and tools (which compare to a computer in the software example above.) In my case, to build my products I had some of the tools I needed, but I also had to buy some of them. If you don’t want to buy your own tools you can consider a makerspace or something like TechShop if you have one near you. As you continue to create your product you may end up spending more on tools, to do things better, faster, etc. This is another cost you may not think about. There’s also repairing and replacing tools, and consumables like blades, bits, paint, shipping materials, etc. and each one of those also takes some time. If you’re driving to a store, or even just ordering online, that’s time, and if your time is worth anything, you need to be compensated in some way.

I’m all about DIY, when it makes sense, and sometimes even when it doesn’t make sense, and that’s the key here. Sure, time is money, and yak shaving isn’t always the best thing to do, but sometimes you do it anyway. The good thing is, everyone has a different scale of what they are willing to do (or what they can do) and what they are willing to pay someone else to do.

I’ve gone off the rails a bit, and I guess I’ll need to do a 12.5 post to continue this. If it’s a bit rambling, forgive me, I’m still thinking through a lot of this.

(See all the posts in this series: Begin, Stock, Buy Smart, Basic Rules, No Leeway, Be Open, Community, Manufacturability, Marketing, Shipping, Lessons Learned.)

2012.04.26

Maker Business - Lessons Learned

This one goes to 11! While there are Ten Rules for Maker Businesses, and I covered them all, what I didn’t do was a full-on follow-up post. So here it is.

Just as a reference, my first post was on February 20th, 2012, and today is April 26th, 2012. So that’s just about two months.

And here are the 10 rules, which I’ll address individually below. (Each one links to the original post on the subject.)

1. Make a profit.
I’m happy to say I did this. It took about a month and a half to sell 10 units, and after all was said and done, I believe I hit the 2.3x rule. There were some miscellaneous costs in there, but even with those, I did alright. This is important because if you don’t make a profit, it’s difficult to consider continuing. As far as how much my time was worth, I think I did OK. Not great, but OK. I’m convinced that with increased efficiencies things will improve.

2. It takes lots of cash to stay in stock.
I kept my stock low, which kept costs down, and helped ensure I didn’t have overstock just sitting there. Sales were slow at first, and when that happens you get a bit worried. You start to think about sales, or discounts, or something. I stuck with it and didn’t do any of those things, which turned out fine. Actually, I got lucky in that I had 4 orders in a two day period, right after I wondered if I’d ever sell another unit.

3. Buy smart.
I bought just the right amount of components to build 10 units with no real leftover. This worked out well, except in the case where I got really picky about quality. Buying larger quantities can help lower the shipping costs, but that doesn’t always work, and sometimes buying in bulk is just too costly.

4. Basic business rules still apply.
No problem here… I felt confident on this one, and there were only very minor things I had to deal with business-wise.

5. You get no leeway for being a maker.
I’ve not needed any leeway yet (fingers crossed) as all of the customers have been awesome, and I’ve done my best to be awesome to them. You know, there’s only been 10 customers so far, but it’s been close to 100% pleasant. The only issue I had was with people who are interested in the product, exchange a number of emails with me, and then I never hear from them or receive an order. It’s not extremely disappointing or anything, but just a little bothersome.

6. Be as open as you can.
I’ve been pretty open, maybe not as open as I could have been, but since this whole adventure was based on a pretty open blog post, I think we’re good with this one. I did re-write the code a little bit mainly to make debugging a little easier, and I should probably push that code out, but honestly that’s probably not a huge deal as there’s code out there that works fine right now. I’ve also been sure not to bet the farm on this one product, which is why I’m keeping the production run small. If the opportunity disappears, it won’t affect the business much.

7. Create a community to support and enhance your products.
With a small user base and a simple product, there hasn’t been much need for a community. If one magically appeared I’d support it, but I probably don’t need to run out and force one into existence.

8. Design for manufacturability.
As mentioned in my post, I didn’t design for manufacturability, but now that I’ve done some “manufacturing” I’ve come up with ways to make things easier. This is really just applying better manufacturing techniques next time. I managed to get a properly sized hole saw, which means no more filing, which will speed things up. Win-win!

9. Marketing is your job.
Doing the marketing was fairly easy and I didn’t need to get too aggressive. I’ve got a lot of experience with branding, marketing, writing, photography, and building web sites… and that’s what I did. I first built the store, and then shortly after that I got my Etsy store. The Etsy store was definitely a good idea, as it accounted for almost half of the sales.

10. Your second most important relationship is with your package carrier.
While I learned a lot about shipping, not all of it was fun, but hey, I’ve got shipping down pretty well now. I’m sure there are ways I could improve things, but so far I’ve not been annoyed enough to investigate them. I was disappointed to discover Etsy doesn’t allow you to require a phone number for orders, since FedEx seems to require a phone number for shipping. (Yes, I could enter my own number, but I’d prefer to have the customer notified if there are delivery issues.)

Branching out.
I did make a modification to the product… I decided to offer The (Bare) Button for sale, based on a number of people asking for it. I ended up getting an email from a guy who wanted the bare button, we agreed on a price, I got one ready to ship, added the order page… and never heard from him again. Luckily I didn’t really invest much (besides a little bit of time) into this diversion, because I’ve yet to make a sale of The (Bare) Button. Still, it’s an easy thing to offer in the store, as it’s just the button without the case, so I can easily keep it in there for the DIY folks.

In conclusion, the experiment went well, I learned quite a bit, and I made a profit! I’ll keep this going in small manageable quantities and see how far it goes. I’m trying to be realistic in this endeavor and I know that it’ll probably not be any sort of huge money-maker, but if it keeps going as it has been, I’ll be pleased.

Oh, and if you know anyone who needs a button… :)

2012.03.16

One Tool
Mark Lindquist, Dowel Bowl, Hardwood Dowels, Glue, 5 1/2″ H x 36″ D, 2011. Copyright © 2011 Lindquist Studios – All Rights Reserved

If I haven’t bugged you about it yet, I’ll be at The Tool at Hand Milwaukee Challenge with a piece I created using just one tool.

There’s a little background on it here, and a post about it here, and you can RSVP on Facebook.

But besides all that, it’s at Sweet Water Organics, 2151 S. Robinson Avenue in Milwaukee, from 1pm to 5pm on March 17th, 2012. I hope to see you there.

And here’s a sneak peek at my piece:

...

Update: Enough waiting… you can see it here: rasterweb.net/raster/projects/plasticsun/

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