posts tagged with the keyword ‘makerspace’

2017.12.26

five-dollars

Milwaukee Makerspace dues are currently $40 per month for a “full” membership, and we allow each member to “vote” for what areas they want to support with their dollars. In our membership software a member can choose up to five areas to fund, with a total of $5.00 per month. You can put all $5 towards one area, or split it up among multiple areas.

For instance, if you tend to use the laser cutters a lot, you can put your $5 towards the laser cutters. This compounds with the funds from other members, and creates a pool of money for the laser cutters that the Area Champion then gets as a budget. The Area Champion decides how to spend the money. They can purchase spare parts, materials, software, etc. Consumables tend to be at the top of the list for many areas. For the laser cutters that may be cleaning supplies and new lenses, and they may want to have enough cash reserve on hand to purchase something more expensive, like a new laser tube, if needed.

Other areas might stock up on tape, blades, glue, small tools, etc. Besides building up a fund for each area, the “vote with your dollars” method also allows the members (and Board of Directors) to see which areas are the most popular. (Assuming people put their money towards the areas they care about and use.)

Here’s an snapshot of the funding as of the writing of this post. (The raw data is available here.) Note that a low dollar amount doesn’t necessarily mean an area is unpopular, as they may have just spent all of their cash. It’s better to look at the monthly allocation to get an idea of the popularity of an area, listed as “Current Member Funding” on the page.

Area Dollars
3D Printing Area $830.03
Anodizing Area $0.00
Forge Area $1,198.82
Casting Area $635.25
Ceramics Area $356.04
CNC Area $496.36
Craft Lab $847.76
Electronics Lab $725.66
Metal Finishing Area $163.48
Jewelry Area $575.60
Laser Lab $2,642.60
Leatherworking Area $339.50
Maker Faire Funding $677.29
Metal Shop $1,134.20
206.76 $189.01
Power Racing $163.67
Print Area $189.80
Soda Fund $129.00
Vacuum Former $164.35
Welding Area $624.22
Wood Shop $1,482.69

Besides the $5.00 per month that members can allocate, they can also choose to donate directly to these areas using our member management software (which is built on Wild Apricot.) This is a good way to support an area that you might use infrequently. For instance, I used the Paint Room quite a lot for two weeks leading up to Maker Faire, so I just did a straight donation to that area rather than change my monthly allocation.

I mentioned “full” member above, and that’s because we also have “family” members, who are add-on members that only pay $10.00 per month for their membership. We scale down their $5.00 per month to just $1.25 per month, so they can choose up to five areas to support, but at only 25 cent per area.

Obviously not all spaces can operate in this fashion, but with close to 300 members and a good financial standing we’ve got what I think is a pretty good system.

So, how does your space do it?

(Note: I was told that the Anodizing Area was rolled into the Metal Finishing Area, so that’s why the number is $0.00. It’s still in the system due to legacy reasons.)

2017.12.09

space-work

With the recent news about TechShop closing and the more recent news of TechShop reopening, I’ve been following the discussions around what TechShop did right, what TechShop did wrong, and what it should do in the future. All of this is colored by my experience at Milwaukee Makerspace over the last 6 years, including being on the Board of Directors and helping to run the space. I should note that Milwaukee Makerspace is a community-oriented space for adults and focuses on providing a space and equipment for people to learn new skills and make things.

TechShop always came across to me as a more “commercial” space where people who wanted access to tools to create products could go to use the machines. While some spaces do cater to entrepreneurs and people making commercial products, other spaces are not equipped and not as friendly to commercial activity. At Milwaukee Makerspaces we’ve had a loose set of rules/guidelines for people producing commercial work. It’s basically follows the “Don’t be a Dick” rule: don’t hog machines, don’t blow through consumables, and make donations to help cover the cost and maintenance of machines.

There’s a common explanation of a makerspace as “It’s like a health club, except instead of treadmills and exercise bikes we have tables saws and laser cutters!” This falls apart when you think about the equipment in a health club versus the equipment in a makerspace. While someone might use an elliptical machine for 30 minutes, or maybe a treadmill for an hour, people can easily use a laser cutter for hours at a time, and can tie up a 3D printer for multiple hours very easily. While health clubs may have a dozen ellipticals and treadmills, most makerspaces may have only one or two laser cutters and 3D printers.

Besides the issue of how many machines and their availability, expectations are an issue. One of our members, in giving an orientation to new members said “Everyone is here to have fun, just remember that and you’ll have a good time”. While some do believe that to be true, there are definitely members who consider the space an extension of their business, and their “machine shop” to use as needed to create products. (This isn’t to suggest people running a business can’t also be awesome members, but there’s always a chance of some conflict due to expectations.)

So what are expectations? We’ve had members who make demands to the Board of Directors (who volunteer to help run the space) and typically we explain that “no, you are not a customer, you are a member like everyone else”. As a member of Milwaukee Makerspace you can expect being able to get into the building (if you paid your dues) and well, to some degree, not much else. There’s no guarantee the machine you want to use when you show up will be available, or working, or in some cases, still in the building! You have to be okay with that. It’s how we operate.

I’ve read a few accounts of TechShop members (customers?) making demands, and having expectations that since they are paying X amount per month, it entitles them to Y amount of Z. Some of these people do indeed run businesses, and TechShop should provide them with what is promised. Maybe? I mean, I don’t know what exactly is promised by TechShop when you are a member/customer.

I’m not going to say that one way is right and one way is wrong, because there’s room for all sorts of models. A friend of mine joined Milwaukee Makerspace and was hoping to use the CNC router for a project. When he joined the CNC router was down for repairs, and then he wasn’t able to attend the training class, and then months had passed and he didn’t get to do his project. (He told me he totally understands that everyone is a volunteer and he wasn’t upset it didn’t work out. All good.) I do hear this quite a bit. Someone joins and gets really excited, but then has to get trained on the equipment they want to use, and that takes time, and then they get frustrated with the process. To be fair, I’m sure other spaces have this figured out, and maybe we don’t… I don’t know.

Occasionally I wish we had a TechShop-type place in Milwaukee I could send people to when all they want to do is get access to a machine to make something, and maybe be able to take a class fairly quickly to learn a new skill. My friend who failed to use the CNC router said he called a few places about having the job done and it was way over his budget. This is where I see the TechShop-style place fitting in. I have no delusion that Milwaukee Makerspace (with nearly 300 members) is for everyone. There are some people who will want something different in their “makerspace experience”, and I respect that.

At this point I should mention Hammerspace in Kansas City. Dave Dalton is always quick to point out that a space can be both things, a community makerspace and a commercial entity with staff and the ability to do jobs for hire. So yes, there are many models, and some work better than others in various ways.

I’ve talked to others about how their spaces run, and there are so many variables that it may be difficult to replicate something that works in one place to other places. Cities and people and culture are so different depending on where you go, as are… expectations.

2017.11.22

MMS

I recently heard the word “potluck” applied to a makerspace. So what exactly is a potlock and how does it work?

A potluck is a gathering where each guest contributes a different and unique dish of food, often homemade, to be shared.

(Okay, ignore that bit about food.) Many spaces are started by groups of people who come together to form a community around making. Making usually requires tools. They may be traditional tools like saws, and drills, and sewing machines, and may include laser cutters, 3D printers, and CNC machines. While you may own a few tools, chances are you don’t own all the tools. Typically there’s two reasons you don’t own all the tools. You probably don’t have space for them all, and you probably can’t afford them all. This is where makerspaces come in.

The “potluck” style makerspace encourages everyone to bring the tools they have, together, in one space, and share that space, and share the tools. No one owns everything there, but everyone owns something. Now, there are spaces where a single person or small group provides all (or a majority of) the tools, or where the space itself (as an organization) owns all the tools. It can certainly work in many different ways.

Milwaukee Makerspace operates to a great deal like a potluck. When we started, everyone brought in whatever tools they had. We tried to avoid duplicates in most cases. If we had a table saw, but someone else said they had a better table saw, we’d evaluate and discuss and see if we wanted to “upgrade” by bringing in the new tool. Now, the question comes up “What if Bob decides to take his chop saw home? Then we have no chop saw!” and yes, this is true, and it does happen. I’m pretty sure within the last year the chop saw disappeared because the owner moved away, or took it home, or some other weird reason. Typically we’re without a tool for a short time until someone else brings one in, or we find another way to replace it.

One of those “other ways” is a group buy. Sometimes a member (or more likely a number of members) want a new tool. They basically “crowdfund” the money needed to purchase the tool and the tool the stays at the space. Occasionally there is a majority stakeholder who might have paid for a large percentage of a tool. If, in this case, the member who is a majority stakeholder wants to remove the tool, they would have to buy out all the other members who pitched in for it. This is a rare occurrence, in fact, I’m not sure it’s happened more than once or twice.

Occasionally a member who owns a tool wants (or needs) to sell it, perhaps due to financial strain or needing money more than they need the tool. Often members have bought tools from other members so that they can remain at the space. And yes, we’ve also seen group buys so that tools could remain at the space. (This was the case with one of our laser cutters.)

The largest example we have is the Tormach. Larry wanted a vertical milling machine, and was looking at a Haas, or another larger used machine. Since we didn’t have luck with the previous used machine we had, many members were in favor of something a bit newer, and easier to use. The Tormach purchase was funded by over 30 members. Some contributing as little as $10, and a few contributing close to or more than $1000. Larry covered $5000, which was close to half the cost. I personally pitched in $50 and I still haven’t even used the machine! I’m okay with that, because I’ve seen other members make awesome things, and I know that if I have the need, it’s there and I can use it.

What about when things break? Well, each area has a budget for purchases and maintenance (I’ll cover that more in another post) but we also follow the “crowdfunding” method in this case. When the laser tube died pretty much everyone who ever used the laser cutter was willing to pitch in some money. Occasionally someone orders a spare lens, or new saw blades, or whatever other consumable there is because we don’t charge for machine time, but if you’ve used a machine a lot, we expect you to be awesome and contribute in some way. (And yes, there are other ways to contribute, again, that’s a future post.)

Anyway, I hope this helped explained the “potluck” method we’ve used over the last seven years or so. It’s not perfect, but it’s worked fairly well. When we orient new members, we let them know that every tool in the space belongs to someone, and that someone is another members, so respecting and taking care of the tools is just one more way to be excellent to each other.

2015.01.11

Baltimore Node

It’s been a while (two years) since I’ve been to Baltimore, and since I got to visit Baltimore Hackerspace last time, I really wanted to visit Baltimore Node, which I originally tried to visit in 2011! This time I succeeded.

Maze was kind enough to show up and give us a quick tour. He said that they have about 35 members now, and oddly enough Michael D. who was one of the original members of Milwaukee Makerspace is/was a member. I was hoping he could give me a tour but oddly enough he was back in Milwaukee when I was in Baltimore. Missed Maker Connection!

Han in Carbonite

In the front room is our old pal Han Solo… in carbonite! We’ve discussed making one of these at Milwaukee Makerspace but it hasn’t happened yet. Supposedly this one was made from a mold that was made for the film, but wasn’t the one that was used in the actual film. It still looks good, though! There’s also some fine furniture, a box fan, and an old-timey lamp on the wall.

OK, I’m just gonna get this out of the way. Baltimore Node has a blue box. It’s not a TARDIS. It’s a bathroom, which they affectionately call the “Baff-Frume”.

Baff-Frume

I didn’t get a photo of the inside, but it’s pretty much a toilet and a roll and not much else, surrounded by thin plywood walls. I mean, it works, and luckily, it’s small so it should be easy to clean!

Baff-Frume

And hey, how many spaces can claim then have a rocket almost as large as their bathroom? (It appears there is also a ventilation fan. Good call!)

German Scary Death

The side of the “Baff-Frume” features a wonderful poster showing all of the best ways to get electrocuted or otherwise killed in Germany. Dr. Prodoehl points out her favorite.

German Scary Death

As we all know, everything is more terrifying in German. Especially operating a forklift. Unheimlich!

3D Printing

3D printing, with a MakerBot Replicator (1st gen) and an old MakerBot Thing-O-Matic. There’s also an inkjet printer, but I think it just prints ink on paper in two dimensions. There’s also a video game cabinet in the back. We started talking about MAME cabinets, so I can’t remember if this was a MAME cabinet or a specific game.

Electronics

Electronics area, soldering irons, components, oscilloscopes and all that jazz…

LED LED

There was a big big LED thingy that was moved to the new space probably didn’t get installed and up and running yet. I asked Maze how many LEDs there were and he said “A lot!”

Shop

The shop area is in the back. The space was previously used by the current landlord who does wood working on another floor of the building. Having a maker as a landlord is probably an ideal situation.

Tools

Plenty of tools for making, and it’s even fairly organized… Screwdrivers, wrenches, hammers. Come on down to Cunningham’s Hardware!

Laser Cutter

Here’s the big-ass Chinese laser cutter. Also, someone likes trains, or is planning to maker a laser-cut train, or something. Say it with me “Motion card SoftDog no same!”

Crafty

The craft area, where at least two people can get crafty at the same time. Maze said every now and then someone comes in and wants to do some sort of crafty thing.

(I always appreciate that spaces will have some small collection of things for a specific making discipline. I think it was i3Detroit that also had a really small craft area. The effort is worth recognizing.)

The Last Thread

I’m going to call this one “One Thread to Rule Them All” or maybe “The Last Thread” or something. It’s not even conductive thread! :)

Thanks again to Maze for the quick tour. I love seeing other spaces and checking out the equipment and projects, and just seeing how they are laid out and function.

Sadly, I did not get to Hive76 in Philadelphia during this trip, which was my second (failed) attempt. I’m hoping to visit other spaces this year if possible. I keep a list of spaces I’ve visited here.

2014.07.06

The Bodgery

There’s a new makerspace in Madison, Wisconsin. The Bodgery is the new home of the Mad City Makers, a group that’s been around for a while, but didn’t have a physical space. Now they do. :)

Of course Madison already has Sector67, so why would it need another space? I had my own ideas about this, but inevitably people started asking me before I got the inside scoop, so I got in touch with Karen and John at The Bodgery and discussed the need for another Madison space. It was pretty much as I assumed; different spaces cater to different audiences. A space (just like a company or any organization) will have a specific culture, a vibe, and a way of doing things that might not work for everyone. I don’t think anyone involved with Sector67 or The Bodgery is concerned, in fact, I think that everyone involved is pleased to see the Maker Movement growing, and the need for another space in Madison.

Right now Milwaukee Makerspace has approximately 170 members, and there’s a projection that we may hit 200 later this year. That may or may not happen, but my own prediction is that there will be a second space, completely separate from Milwaukee Makerspace, within the next 18 months. (I could be totally wrong on this, time will tell.)

In the meantime, I’ve been tracking other Wisconsin spaces on the wiki, and while a new one gets added now and then, we’ve also seen a few disappear in the last 12 months.

Back to The Bodgery… I’ve not yet had the chance to visit, but I do keep up with their antics on Facebook. If you’re in Madison, go check it out! I know for a fact that there are some awesome and friendly people there who are excited about sharing the love of making.

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