[Book Review] The Maker Industrial Revolution As Seen By Chris Anderson

September 30, 2012

in books, future, maker stuff

The Latest book from bestseller author and Wired’s editor in chief Chris Anderson is dedicated to the Maker Movement, what has been dubbed as the [start of the] third industrial revolution.

Makers – The New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson on Amazon.com

If you never heard about  Makers, 3D-printing, digital fabrication, Arduino, Kickstarter, and the new DIY movement, then this book is a great start (also check out the article The third industrial revolution by The Economist).

As in his previous books (The Long Tail and Free), Anderson does a great job in explaining a nascent trend in an easy language and with plenty of examples. Much of what he writes about is backed by his personal experience and through his access to key actors of the maker movement.

The book tells the story of the maker movement and compares it to the previous industrial revolutions, presenting the thesis that this shift in manufacturing could offer a way for the USA (and the Western world in general) to fend off the predominance of China in the production of physical objects. Anderson explains how manufacturing (“the world of things”), or more appropriately, digital manufacturing, is following the same steps as the Web, which has democratized publishing, broadcasting and communications, into the world of atoms, allowing almost anybody with a smart idea and a little expertise to make those ideas into physical objects.

The Tools of the Maker Movement

Anderson describes the basic Maker tools -hardware and software- and their underlying technologies by dedicating a final chapter that describes such tools as:

  • 3D printers –  additive processes like Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) or Selective Laser Sintering (SLS)
  • CNC (computer numerical control) machines – a substractive technology
  • Laser Cutters (according to Anderson this is the “real workhorse of the Maker Movement [...] they’re the digital tool everyone uses first, in part because they’re so simple and foolproof.”)
  • G-Code (the machine language used by 3D printers, CNC machines and others)
  • Software like AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, Solid Works, Sketchup, TinkerCAD and many others.

A Makerbot Thing-O-Matic 3D-printer at the Fablab Torino

Anderson also discusses other key elements of the Maker Movement like crowfunding (e.g.: Kickstarter), Open Organizations (based on the rules of Open Source), Open Hardware and the killer ingredient: the communities that form around these initiatives.

Making & Marketing

As a marketer, I found interesting the author’s reflections on community building and marketing:
“When you’re creating a community from scratch, consider starting it as a social network rather than as a blog or a discussion group. [...] One of the key elements of a successful community is content with broad appeal [...] such rich, engaging content is marketing — marketing of the community itself, but also of the products that the community has created. Whether they thing of it this way or not, the most successful Makers are also the best marketers. They’re constantly blogging about their progress, and tweeting, too.
[...]
Of course, it’s not just marketing: the reason that it’s so effective is that it’s also providing something of value that people appreciate and pay attention to. But at the end of the day, everything you do, from the naming of your product to whose coattail you decide to ride (like we chose Arduino), is at least partly a marketing decision.”

Stop reading, make something

The natural step after reading Makers would be to, well, actually make something. I’ve been playing with Arduinos and have had access to laser cutters and 3D printers in the past, but never really engaged in a project. Now I’ve just joined the Fablab in Torino, Italy, for a practical introductory course to 3D printing and am working on a 2D design to run through a laser cutter, probably at the FabCafe (which as its name implies, is a coffee place with laser cutting machine and soon other maker tools) in Tokyo during my next visit (will report on that when it’s done).

Who is this book for?

If you’re a maker already, this book will add little or nothing to your knowledge but it could be a great gift to offer to those that think you’re kinda crazy and that you waste too much time tinkering at your workbench.

Further reading:

 

Disclaimer: the links to Amazon.com include a referral code.