Thanks for your input Chris, I appreciate it. As I said, I’d like to figure out a way to share what I have but some of your concerns certainly are concerns of mine as well.
I’ve noticed when looking for places with hackerspaces/makerspaces that the hackerspaces are gradually growing more towards being a makerspace. I consider a hackerspace more software/electronics/small project oriented, perhaps with a laser cutter as their main making tool/equipment, vs a makerspace that is much more tool/equipment oriented in a wood/metal shop way, also has electronics/software people As you said, a lot of places are smaller, and I get this, especially when they tend to be located more towards the centre of a city where rents are higher. The Vancouver hackerspace here in Canada is very similar to the majority of UK hackerspaces, they want to be central to the city and therefore don’t have the funds for a larger space. There was the opportunity a few years ago to move outside the city and get more space, but the membership preferred to be central - I have no problem with that, and that’s what the membership was looking for so good for them
I was really hoping to find something like Protospace which I could instead donate a few thousand pounds of equipment to and work out of, but haven’t found anything quite like that. As I mentioned London has a pretty nicely setup space, but very expensive and we’re not too keen on city living. So it’s looking like I’m going to be spending 8-15 thousand on tools (as well as shipping my cnc router, as its the main tool I can’t sell here and re-buy without losing many thousands of dollars) and renting a place. I’d love to find a way to share this space with the community, but there are certainly concerns as you’ve pointed out.
Unfortunately I need pretty specific equipment for my work, the main tools being:
- Laser engraver
- 3-5hp table saw, cast iron base rather than the job site style, 12"/305mm blade (lots of rough lumber cut down)
- Thickness planer, or thickness planer/jointer combo.
- Very high precision (ie: servo driven), very rigid cnc router (ie: not shopbot) - but only about 600x600 work area
- 6x89" belt sander (edge sander) - i need the long platten
- 14+" bandsaw
- Accurate mitre saw
- Decent sized compressor
- Spray booth, either automotive or just a temporary structure made of plastic drop sheet, furnace filters and box fans… ie: 200-250sq ft of floor space taken up
- HVLP or LVLP spray equipment
- 20"+ floor standing pillar drill.
- Router table
- All of that needs a pretty decent dust collector!
Just throwing ideas out as I go:
I think a shared google calendar for equipment could mitigate monopolisation of the equipment to a degree, with the understand that the expensive equipment can be booked out, combined with an understanding during signup/induction that it’s a commercial shop during business hours (ie: majority of members at their own jobs). That being said, as a community grows larger than this indeed would become more of an issue.
At Protospace with about 250 members, everyone knows who the long term members of the group are, their relationship to the space and the equipment they take care of/train. Ie: the laser cutter guy, the tormach guy, etc. The dangerous (machine to the user, and/or the user to the machine) equipment all requires training so people get the back story as they go. Some members have monopolised the space there during the day as they started a business, but that’s fine during a weekday - as part of the new member induction training it’s explained that if you’re heavily utilising certain equipment for-profit that is fine, however donations to the space of a % of the profit, or whatever you can is good practice to help cover the maintenance cost of the equipment.
Most of the products I’m building I make 20-100 of at a time, which usually involves using the tablesaw for 8-10hrs, then the planer, then the cnc router, router table, belt sander, spray booth… so basically 1-2days of monopolising each machine then not touching it for 2 weeks. At least that’s how I’ve been working so far this year. The spray booth is the thing that gets used for the longest period of time as urethane cures, i’ve been using my spray booth at home for the past 2 weeks straight - when i was using the automotive booth in the composites lab at work, it was a similar story. That would be the main piece of equipment that gets hogged, and it’s not really a tool that gets shared easily unless sprayed parts can be moved to a separate, dust free drying area.
I honestly don’t have a problem doing all the maintenance on “my” machines - I can be somewhat picky about the way things are done, so in order to keep the machines at peak operating accuracy I’d be doing the maintenance anyway. This goes back to the monopolising the machines for commercial use and therefore pitching in to maintain it. As to cleaning, every hackerspace/makerspace I’ve been to in Australia and Canada has had the requirement that you leave the machine and area around it cleaner than when you started… obviously there are members who don’t follow this, but they generally don’t tend to stick around too long in my experience for whatever reason.
One advantage of this being a business that opens its doors to the community rather than a hackerspace that is trying to get dues to pay the rent would be that I don’t need to be putting in quite as much effort to start with to community build. That being said, having just 1-2members and no effort put in to grow the community is slightly pointless haha.
My key concern with opening the space up would certainly be equipment abuse. I’ve had equipment on permanent loan to makerspaces before which have been trashed, either through negligence or just not knowing how to use it. If we’re looking at £15000 of equipment then that definitely is a scary thought. Protospace has had issues with this, even with equipment that requires training/computer login to use (trotec lenses popped, at over $500 each). Unfortunately they’ve had to resort to cameras to stop theft and damage. I know other spaces have lockouts on equipment that require a code or RFID to turn the equipment on, and that usage is tracked. Certainly as a community gets larger that concern grows exponentially - ie: there’s a table saw, it requires training before you can use it, but if its 3am and nobody is around… whats to stop you?? For consumables such as blades and belts, some members at Protospace will keep their own on their shelf and just swap them out as they go to use the equipment, so they are only consuming their own belts/blades. At protospace there are no community metal lathe tools and endmills - everyone must bring their own… but then if you just need to make one cut with a tablesaw and you have to buy a £50 blade for the saw to do that, its’ not going to be very attractive for you is it?
The health and safety rules, and insurance impact/requirements in the UK are something I’m really not up to speed on. I know the OHS rules are some of the most stringent in the world, but not what that would require of a makerspace (ie: working alone).
Again, thanks for your input - I’d love to see if we could figure out a way to have some way to open our shop up… it’s still quite a ways off though so there’s no rush to figure it out