MakeLocal… distributed local manufacturing at the NY Maker Faire

Opendesk marketplace side-by-side with the ShopBot fabrication station.

Opendesk marketplace side-by-side with the 100kGarages fabrication facility outfitted with a ShopBot Desktop MAX.

During the last weekend in Sept, 2015, 100kGarages and Opendesk collaborated on MakeLocal, a demonstration of local manufacturing at the World Maker Faire in New York. It evolved from a conversation at the Bay Area Maker Faire with Josh Worley of Opendesk about how we might present the concept of distributed and local manufacturing to attendees of events like Maker Faires…people who have come to think that everything has to be made in a big factory, far away! We wanted to make two main points: that these new digital tools make it practical to have the kinds of things that we all need for everyday life made locally again, and that for this to work there has to be a business model where both designer and fabricator are paid for their work.

We strongly feel that the combination of digital design and local digital fabrication enables opportunities for production that can help return manufacturing to our communities. Since it’s always better to show people something than to just tell them, we decided to create a small scale demo of how local fabrication works, with an Opendesk storefront and a 100kGarages fabrication facility right there at the New York Maker Faire. Shelter 2.0 supplied one of its new 8’x8′ shelters to use as the example workshop (“garage”), outfitted with a prototype ShopBot Desktop MAX. Opendesk set up their marketplace experience with computers to browse and purchase products. Assembled and flat-packed samples of each design were displayed to help attendees see what was available, with much of the booth fabricated by a local New York shop.

The weekend started on Thursday with both Josh and myself participating in a Makercon panel on Distributed Making. Hosted by Dale Dougherty, the father of the Maker Movement, the panel also included Andrew Grevstad from Tormach, David Ott from the International Red Cross, and Brian Garret from 3dHub. Lots of interesting perspectives on the future of manufacturing. Friday was a mad scramble to get set up and by the end of the day we had the “garage” up, the tools running, and the Opendesk showroom outfitted with the samples and display pieces. Josh had selected a subset of items from their catalog that both showed the range of designs possible and that all could be fabricated from the material we had selected…24″ x 30″ blanks of 5/8″ Baltic Birch. You can browse and download the 6 designs we fabricated, created by designers from around the world, at

Our plan was for visitors to start in the Opendesk marketplace, where Josh, Will, and Joanna would explain how digital technology has made local manufacturing possible again and let them browse the range of designs available for purchase. The hope was that they would find a design that they couldn’t live without and order it instantly through the Opendesk marketplace. The 100kGarages fabrication shop next door would cut it and “deliver” it to them, with the parts still tabbed in the sheet. Although local manufacturing has real environmental benefits from things like reduced shipping, this might have been the shortest shipping distance ever…about 10 feet!


In the Opendesk marketplace explaining the concept to a Maker Faire attendee.

We didn’t know for sure if Maker Faire attendees would grasp the concept behind MakeLocal and would actually purchase plywood furniture at an event like Maker Faire, but we were overwhelmed by the reception it got. Along with some great conversations, by the end of Sunday we had sold almost 40 pieces of furniture and had to stop sales because we had run out of fabrication time! It was great success and won us an Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon.


Bill Young with one of the satisfied customers of MakeLocal.

Bill Young with one of the satisfied customers of MakeLocal.

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