This post was co-authored by Ted Hall and Bill Young.
We aren’t sure anymore how we actually started 100kGarages – it goes back a ways. We do know it had a lot to do with a shared enthusiasm for digital fabrication and how it can help people get the things they need made. We also share optimism that those people who are putting digital tools to use making stuff can forge new kinds of productive and creative lives by leveraging today’s technologies.
The industrial revolution and its mass-produced goods made obsolete the blacksmiths and millwrights who once provided for community needs. They were the keepers of the technologies of their time. Now, in many ways, we have come full circle to an era of new opportunity in which creative, productive, immersive work using newly-available technology tools can once again be competitive on a small scale. Subtractive and additive tools for digital fabrication provide remarkable capabilities to precisely and efficiently produce highly complex items. The communications systems and cloud services of the internet make it possible for small custom production and micro-manufacturing operations to be widely distributed and community-based while still having many advantages once available only to large companies. It is a new world for small, entrepreneurial producers.
100kGarages is a web place for anyone who wants to get something made to find these new digital blacksmiths, the ones using the tools of digital design and digital fabrication to create great stuff. Using digital design allows very effective communication and collaboration about what is getting made — and using digital tools for fabrication means that practically anything can be produced from such designs with high fidelity. 100kGarages helps people find a digital “Fabber” nearby who can make what’s needed; or, it might help find a Fabber somewhere in the world with a highly specific expertise needed for a specialized project.
The way we see it, the 100kGarages website is a work in progress. This year, we’ve been making major updates to the site and its resources – making it easier to post jobs and find Fabbers. 100kGarages is about making connections. In the first two years, we tested our ideas by limiting the digital fabrication tools represented to ShopBots. The open format of the site for making connections and the open business model (transactions are managed by the individual participants not by 100kGarages) seemed to work well. It made us confident about opening the site to all digital fabrication equipment, laser cutters, CNC tools of any type and manufacturer, and 3d printers. In addition, to provide more creativity resources, we expanded the “connecting” to include digital “Designers” who can offer both designs ready for fabbing as well as consulting services for anyone needing design help (note that some Designers are also Fabbers offering design-build services).
We recognize that there will always be a few products which benefit from mass production in centralized facilities, but we believe that an increasing amount of the stuff we use in our everyday lives will be created by local custom producers and micro-manufacturers, done efficiently and sustainably, often with locally available materials and with minimal transportation, using the empowering technologies of subtractive and additive digital fabrication. We hope those coming to the site will increasingly turn to the shops represented here to get the stuff for life made. And we hope the number of productive Fabbers will grow until there is one in every neighborhood. We will stay hard at work making it easier, more straightforward, and more practical for everyone to engage the community and get things done here.