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DIY, maker community carve new paths in electronics

12 May 2015  | Hailey Lynne McKeefry

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Necessity is the mother of invention they say. However, I credit it to creativity for making the world exciting and fun. Why do I say this? For most people, the realm of semiconductors and engineering is being considered or portrayed as rigid and tough, at times even unmerciful. But beyond this facade or impression is a whole different world where creativity is encouraged, imagination is unbounded and freedom is the cohesive force among its members. Welcome to the domain of DIY/maker community.

Enthusiasts who want to build the products they want, from shortwave radios to personal computers, and to tweak products they've bought to make them even better, have long been a part of the electronics industry. By all measures, garage-style innovation remains alive and well today, as "makers" as they are called continue to turn out contemporary gadgets, including 3D printers, drones, and embedded electronics devices.

The Maker Faire, which launched in the Bay Area in California in 2006, underlined the popularity of the movement by drawing a record 215,000 people combined in the Bay Area and New York events in 2014, with 44 per cent of attendees first timers at the Bay Area event, and 61 per cent in New York. It proved popular across generations, with 50 per cent attending the event with children. The show will have its 10th year in the Bay Area shortly, running May 16 and 17.

Meanwhile, these do-it-yourself electronics are proving to be hot sellers on eBay, as fans bid on the products they want, a recent study from Terapeak. In the past year, unit sales for 3D printing related products; Arduino units, parts and supplies; Raspberry Pi boards; drones and quadcopters; and robotics goods are all on a growth curve in terms of eBay sales, said Aron Hsiao, Terapeak's marketing manager.

"The types of products being sold reminded us of the computer tinkering that used to be happening in the 1970s to 1990s," said Hsiao. "It's similar in terms of demographics, tending to be young people, and low budget. We found that all categories are growing relatively rapidly and that the market is relatively big."

At least some of the products being created have potential to become items that are sold and manufacture in a more formal way. "The path between garage and a manufactured product is a lot clearer and smoother than in the past," said Hsiao. "We know there is crossover from the garage to the start-up ecosystem."

Today, 135 million adults in the U.S. alone are involved in the maker movement, although makers can be found everywhere in the world. Of course, electronics is just one small piece, with others making jewellery and other kinds of products. However, whether making a new electronics creation or using 3D printers and other high-tech tools to make something else, the do-it-yourself category is deeply intertwined with the electronics industry.

The infographic below outlines the growth of the maker movement.

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement

Maker movement




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