To celebrate my 10,842 subscriber milestone. I thought I’d interview a YouTube legend in the electrical engineering industry. Part 3 we discuss the Maker Movement and it’s potential impact on industry.
Part 3: Makers & introverts
Part 3 we discuss the Maker Movement and it’s potential impact on industry.
- The rebirth of Hobby Electronics and the Maker Movement.
- His opinion on China’s “Just In Time Manufacturing” philosphy vs desktop fabrication.
- The differences between Makerspaces and “Men’s sheds”.
- Do we need to go to Makerspaces?
- Social introverts and hobbies.
The future of electronics Makers
So, there's been a lot of talk in recent years about the maker movement. When you look at things like the Antikythera mechanism, which is something that's-
I love that, yeah.
... it's been around since-
2,000 BC, or something. It's ancient.
And it keeps track of not just the planetary movements, but also the whole gravitational wobble of the planets.
So, in light of that, where do you see the maker movement as such going in years to come?
Oh, I hate these questions. How can you predict? I thought hobby electronics was dead. If you asked me this 10 years ago hobby electronics ... the final nail in the coffin almost. Then Make Magazine started up, and it became popular on the web and stuff like that. Then hacking and making. It started out with hacking, you know hackerspaces, and then it kind of turned more friendly into the making scene and stuff like that. Nobody could actually predict that, and I'm not going to try and predict the future. It's just going to get easier and easier to do stuff.
That's been a big part of this, that it's been easier to manufacture stuff. Like, 15 years ago you could not buy a PCB, have it delivered, for 20 bucks, right? You couldn't do your own stuff. It was 500 bucks for the tooling, you know? It's just a different game these days, and that's not going to suddenly vanish, The ease and low cost of doing things. Also, the social aspect is not going to vanish. So, it's only going to get cheaper and easier to do stuff and to do higher level stuff as well.
“Just In Time” manufacturing
You'll be very familiar with the concept of just-in-time manufacturing over in China?
Just-in-time manufacturing, yeah.
China's just managed to completely own that whole philosophy. We've seen things like 3D printers, desktop PCB, even desktop pick and place machines. Do you see some of those desktop fabrication technologies disrupting that whole just-in-time manufacturing?
I don't. I don't, actually. That's going to be a very unpopular opinion. There's a lot of people against me on that, but I think the evidence has brought this out. 3D printers have been around for a long time, and they did not become the Christmas gift of choice that everyone thought they would, right? It's now kind of, people are going ... They just never made it. They're still very important, very valuable. You can't just buy a 1,000 dollar 3D printer and produce some magic widget. It's still messy, and you've got to massage them, and the output's okay for a lot of stuff, but it's not manufacturing quality, and I don't see that changing.
Desktop pick and place machines, we've debated this endlessly on The Amp Hour, for example, and it's not going to happen. It's a very narrow niche window where it's actually viable because it's, as I said before, it's so cheap and easy now to outsource your manufacturing, why would you do it yourself? Why would you dick around? You would have to be in a niche position where you've got to manufacture maybe a couple of hundred boards every couple of months, and then maybe there's a narrow window where you can make your own pick and place machine. But no, they're too much dicking around.
There's a big step, like 3D printers, there's a big step between the low-cost do-it-yourself ones and the professional ones which give you professional results. You can say, "Oh well, just give it time." We've given it time, and they're not getting ... They're getting little steps better but it needs order of magnitude to step up, and I don't see that happening. And manufacturing your own PCBs at home, people are ... I think you mentioned, didn't you, the PCB printers?
One company I interviewed who was making those, they've folded because they realized it just wasn't viable, right? It's just ... No, not when you can get, for five, ten bucks, you can get a professional double-sided silkscreen soldermask plated thru board, tested, which is ... You can't possibly compete with that on your own.
So, it's only this niche window where you need it within the next couple of hours.
Yeah, like prototyping. Okay, make your own board. Mill your own board with the milling machines. They never took off because they're dirty, they're messy, they're noisy, they're slow. They only produce ... They won't plate the holes for you, they won't soldermask, everything else. No, they're not the revolution people are making it out to be.
There's also things like maker spaces turning up which have been very popular. The way that I sort of see it is they're just a rebranding of men's sheds. Do you see that as a transition or is it just another niche that it's sort of filling?
I think it's another niche because once again, it's like with the desktop pick and place and 3D printing, it's so easy and cheap to get professional stuff made that why do it yourself? It's also so cheap and easy now to buy your own professional gear, right? So, why do you need to go to a maker space to borrow an oscilloscope? You can just buy one cheap as chips rather than buy your own 3D printer.
USB based oscilloscope ...
USB based test gear or this test gear ... Maybe if you needed a big lathe or something like that, like a big, huge laser cutter, but you can get desktop laser cutter that are the cost of a new iPhone, aren't they?
People have no problem buying new iPhones every nine months but they, you know ...
I guess they sort of ... It accommodates people who don't have the space, you know?
It accommodates people who don't have the space, that's the one thing. So, I don't see them being successful in terms of tools; once again, that's niche. The other thing is, you need the people to talk to as well, and not everyone is that social.
Especially electronics people, I think.
Yeah, they tend to be an introvert, yeah. I am, you know?
I think we all are. I think we're all introverts.
I spent my entire childhood in my shed alone, right? I had no-one to talk to before I started work. Even when I started work no-one had the hobby interests that I did. So, I spent 15 years or something just alone in my shed working on my stuff. Also, the other thing is ... Yes, so you have to be a certain type to want to go there, you also have to be physically close and have the lifestyle freedom to go there. I'm in Sydney, we have a couple of hacker spaces here, sadly I've never been to any of them. I've been to the Melbourne hackerspace twice because I was visiting, but I've never been to the Sydney ones. Why? Because I've got all my own gear, I don't need that. I don't really need the social interaction; it's good, but I'm not going to go out of my way, it's not like I'm going to go and visit every weekend. I've got a wife and kids and a family. I can't just hang out at the hacker scene-
... hang out all Saturday, my one day a week I get off to spend with my family, I can't say, "See you, I'm going to hang out at the hacker space." It's good if you're young. The ones that are popular are the big university campus ones, like in the U.S. They're very popular. Where you live on campus, where else are you going to hang out? Either the pub, you're going to hang out at the pub, or you're going to hang out in the maker space. Sydney is not that good a city for something like this, as well. It's a spread out diverse population. We don't have the density of high-tech here. It's niche. It's not going to become mainstream, unfortunately.
Check out other videos in this series…