“If someone was making those, I’d buy a bunch of ‘em.” Ever had that thought? You might have been working out in the garage or on your house, maybe at work, when you come up short because you can’t find what you need for sale anywhere. I know I’ve run into the situation over the years and I’m betting you have, too. The difference is, now it’s possible to do something about it.
Lots of guys tinkering in their shop have had dreams of coming up with that one big idea, creating a product, putting it into production and raking in royalties as smiling people everywhere rush to place their order. Hitting the big time, life would be good, … except, it isn’t quite that easy. Filing patent paperwork, coming up with the money to build a prototype, finding a manufacturer who will produce it, negotiating contracts and if you clear those hurdles, hoping people will somehow find it and buy it. The all too common outcome in years past was money lost and dashed dreams. Fast forward to today, though, and you’ll find times have changed, a lot, and Makers: the New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson, takes you through the new and rapidly changing environment where small batch manufacturing is now possible.
In the same way online training is eliminating barriers to knowledge, access to high quality design software, automated tools and global markets have made manufacturing real, tangible products in small quantities a reality. It’s a revolution happening right now and many, maybe most, people haven’t noticed. Whether taking advantage of free software and tools or the increasing array of professional resources at ever lower cost, the creative and ambitious person today can become a global manufacturer and some even start right at home.
The change, as Anderson points out, is the maker movement is moving from bits to atoms, instead of using computers to create digital goods, computers are now helping us make physical goods and it’s this change that enables you and I to do what was almost impossible even as little as ten years ago.
Professional level CAD software, 3D scanners, laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC machines and factories around the world willing to bid on small jobs with fast turnaround times and low cost, mean all of those impossible hurdles from before become far more manageable and you keep control of the process instead of hoping the big company taking your idea will offer you a return that makes all of the trouble worthwhile. Many examples show crowdfunding can replace banks or venture capitalists, you can source the parts you need online for prices almost as low as the big guys, it really is a whole new world of opportunity.
Anderson tells the stories of our previous industrial revolutions and the new one now under way, giving the details of many companies going from nothing but an idea to millions of dollars in sales, including his own. It’s enlightening and motivating for anyone who has the itch to build. Some keep complaining about “big business” or “big banks” preventing the “little guy” from making it, while the opportunity to build a new business is right there in front of them. The barriers are gone yet they still act like it’s 1950.
But, … there’s always a but, none of this happens on its own. It takes effort, determination and persistence to be sure, but some folks will tell you it simply can’t be done and that’s really unfortunate, because they haven’t caught on yet that the world has dramatically changed. The old excuses no longer apply. In the same way that today, if you want to learn, you can learn, it also holds true that if you want to build, you can build. It certainly takes ambition and you need an idea, but no permission is necessary. You don’t have to humbly approach the gatekeepers who will decide if you’re worthy, but you do have to confidently face the world and show everyone what you’re capable of. Success is not guaranteed, but opportunities are everywhere. Maybe it’s time to grab one and go for it. This book shows how some have done it already, perhaps the next one to do it will be you.