From American Garage to Maker Space in Asia

Maker | Maker Space

In the past, garage was always the first place for American who began to take off for their dream. This type of subculture, self-motivated from the heart, not-for-profit, and often in the field of art, life and industrial entity, etc., is the starting point of “Maker movement” which was also called as the third wave of the Industrial Revolution.

From American garage to Asian Maker Space, fostering the third wave of Industrial Revolution.


The “garage” was the starting point of the Maker movement. However, a garage thorough with tools, electronic and mechanical equipment is not feasible for general folks. When someone wants to turn an idea into action, he or she may be hindered by limited tools and resources at hand. Even they might face bottleneck in professional know-how and manpower, which invariably terminated ingenious ideas. Therefore, Self-Maker Space (also known as Maker Space) came into being.

Makerspace is like an internship factory open to the public, with a variety of machines, work spaces, workshops and events. More importantly, it brings together the Maker community, allowing them to share creativity and collaborate. Makerspace not only reduces the obstacles for people to use manufacturing equipment, but also allows cross-disciplinary and like-minded people to meet each other through sharing the physical space, and gathering people to implement the blueprint of dreams that couldn’t be accomplished individually.

In recent years, the Maker movement has spread from the United States to the rest of the world, and blossoming all over Asia. Research from the University of Michigan of the United States shows that the Maker cultures around the world all have different origins and evolutions. In the United States, for example, people mainly engage in maker activities because of their own interest and hands-on garage culture, the process of which emphasizes excelling on personal level as well as meshing with subculture.

When Maker movement first burst onto Asia, countries such as Taiwan, China and Japan, were primarily driven by contemporary technology and the Internet, and consequently catching up with the emerging trends on research and development associated with startup entrepreneurship through combination of software and hardware.

In Asia, the Maker space not only fosters the third wave Industrial Revolution, but also spurs the democratization of the traditional manufacturing industry, which used to have higher technical barriers and to be separated from the general public. The Asian Makerspace has such features of combining engineering, manufacturing and education along with bonding power for gathering related communities, thus enabling the manufacturing sector to set out bottom-up diverse development driven by innovation.

Anyone who has got a great idea and wants to test the water only has to pay the affordable membership fee for entering the Makerspace, and then to complete a product with entire procedure which consists of design, verification and production, even to the extent of connecting with prospective partners, resources and all visions one needs for his own business.

Japan’s “FabCafe” builds a bridge between people or Makers through the aroma of coffee.

The doors of Makerspace do not open just for technology enthusiasts or entrepreneurs. Successfully in Tokyo, Japan, FabCafe, a Makerspace, is operated in the form of a coffee shop. It reduces the distance between professionally fabricated equipment and beginners with coffee aroma and delicious light food. And It invites the general public who are eager to try however unfamiliar with tool manufacturing, to enter for experiencing the fun of making.

The name of FabCafe has a double meaning. “Fab” stands for both “Fabulous” and “Fabrication”. Customers, who visit FabCafe, while enjoying nice food and coffee, could attend and experience a variety of workshops in the store, such as laser engraving jeans, laser cutting macarons or 3D printing Valentine’s Day chocolate. Through everyday hand-made activities, visitors get chance to touch and learn the high-tech equipment commonly used by Makers.

In addition to embracing people who come and enjoy coffee aroma, FabCafe is more of a “co-working space” that many freelancers like to visit, luring workers from different disciplines to step out of the office, and gather here to work together. This space offers a myriad of equipments in the store to create prototypes as well as getting inspiration through sharing and discussion with others. Moreover, FabCafe also holds a Fab Meetup (maker-sharing gathering) on a regular basis, inviting speakers from different domains such as technology, design and crafts, to learn from one another and engage in business exchange with participants.

Now, FabCafe is expanding rapidly in major cities around the world. It is operated by partners who agree with their ideas, and developing FabCafe in line with local characteristics. For example, FabCafe in Bangkok, Thailand has an outdoor area where large works can be created; FabCafe in Barcelona is opened with jointed working space; Taipei’s FabCafe is located in Huashan Cultural and Creative Park, complementing with local cultural elements and creative sectors. For those international FabCafes in worldwide also got connect through the Internet and become a multinational creative platform. Through exchange, local innovative design can be spread out to the world.

China’s “Match Stick Makerspace” creates a complete entrepreneurial ecosystem for Maker.

For China, she has bigger ambition no just for Makers but for star up entrepreneurs. If any maker wants to go beyond nine yards from product idea, design, development, mass production to officially entering the market. He can get the resources required which exceed that of fundamental equipment and community of general maker space, he even got support from major manufacturers and investors.
China’s most influential maker space “Match Stick Maker Space” (hereinafter referred to as Chaihuo) was born under this demand.

Chaihuo is located in Shenzhen, the center for China’s most intensive World Factory, and was founded in 2011 by Pan Wei, founder of Seeed Studio, the world’s third-largest open source hardware component manufacturer. Unlike large scale contract manufacturer such as Foxconn, Seeed Studio targets startup companies as clients who started from scratch as makers, with OEM order under 10,000 units. Furthermore, startups with commercialization potential would even have the opportunity to receive financial support from HAXLR8R, a venture capital outfit under Seeed Studio.

Under the empowerment of Seeed Studio and its venture capital outfits, Chaihuo not only provides members with all-inclusive manufacturing equipment and joint working space, but also builds a comprehensive entrepreneurial ecosystem ranging from research and development, initial volume production to full investment, thus helping makers upgrade their label of the product from “Made in China” to “Create in China.”

Take BeTwine, a bracelet that combines health management, gaming and social networking functions as an example. Its founder, Gao Lei, got his start in Chaihuo, followed by product development and subsequently connecting with co-founding partners. Its first small batch order of one thousand was produced with assistance from Seeed Studio. When the monthly production of BeTwine increased to tens of thousands, it was then transferred to Foxconn for production.

Chaihuo is known as the artillery of Chinamakers, and it has become a magnet for those who are interested in pilgrimage to Shenzhen’s maker culture. In addition to hosting the annual “Maker Faire Shenzhen”, Chaihuo has accumulated more than 120,000 domestic and foreign visitors and held more than 200 Maker events. In recent years, the Chaihuo Maker Space has gradually transformed into a promotion field of maker culture and educational arena.

In order to continue sponsor more makers, and to connect them with the traditional manufacturing industry in Shenzhen, which has abundant resources and urgent need to upgrade, the x.factory was thus born in June 2017. It became an upgraded version of the Chaihuo Maker Space. In terms of not merely with equipment and space, x.factory has a more comprehensive productivity platform. It has veteran experts from industry on-hand to accompany makers for production relevant optimization. It also cooperates extensively with corporate entities, matching up makers with a series of suppliers who can provide flexible mass production services. In the future, it will continue to be an important bridge connecting maker entrepreneurship with the upgrading of traditional industries, and copying the successful model to different industrial clusters across the country.

Hong Kong’s “Maker Bay” happily fosters makers who are willing to solve social problems.

As more and more makers do make for entrepreneurship and profitability, however Maker Bay, a maker space, located in Hong Kong tried to ask people to reflect on self-making:Does society today need all these items?

Hong Kong is one of the fastest growing regions in finance and economy of the world. Today’s prevailing consumerism and education that emphasizes competition have created many environmental and social problems. In 2015, Makers Bay with self-made culture was brought into Hong Kong. It was the first maker space with large scale in Hong Kong. Though Hong Kong’s maker movement started late as against to other Asian regions, Maker Bay has its unique and blessed geographical location to bring advantages and become the convergence of Asian high-tech and traditional crafts. It is only one river away from the manufacturing hubs, Shenzhen.

Maker Bay provides tools, spaces, and a variety of workshops for the makers who want to solve social and environmental problems with the needed facility and assistance. Furthermore, Maker Bay hopes that education can strength maker spirit of problem-solving skill into society, which liberates students from conventional education and facilitates their enthusiasm to get into a free, self-empowered environment. Therefore, Maker Bay actively engages with schools, offices, co-working spaces, community centers, and even refugee camps, to encourage the public to make by hands, and to improve the circumstances of human society and natural environment by using technology. For example, Maker Bay has co-organized the “Make It Wheel” with non-profit organizations in leading students to experience the difficulties of the disabled. It helps designing tools for wheelchair users to improve their social life. In addition, Maker Bay has also partnered with refugee camps in Hong Kong in developing the REFUTURE project by inviting Architecture students and refugees to make wood furniture together, to help local people understand the refugee problems while assisting refugees with integrating into the local community.

In recent years, Maker Bay has also actively carried out different projects with cross-disciplinary organizations, such as electric vehicle R&D and marine debris detection drones. This year, it has also cooperated with Hong Kong International School to exclusively create the “STEMinn Course” (in combination with STEM education and innovation), mastering technology through experiential learning and training students’ ability in critical thinking and problem solving.

Today, Hong Kong faces land justice, the gap between rich and poor, aging, and environmental pollution such social problems. Maker Bay believes that this self-made movement could help the whole society to break through the sense of helplessness of post-Industrialization era and the limitations of traditional production models, and cultivate the willingness of citizen scientists to solve problems by themselves as well as turning makers into social entrepreneurs.

From Japan, China, Hong Kong to Taiwan, private enterprises and governments have all invested plentiful resources for setting up more diversifying maker space, in the hope that the public could create more products in these fields to solve social problems.

People, having the maker spirit and social compassion for problem solving, can make a better design for life and society, even if they are in their home garage, a coffee shop, or any professional maker space, or no idea how to operate a high-end gadget such 3D printer.

Extended Reading

(Editor:PeiHsuan Lai)

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