Monetizing A Hackerspace With A 3D Printer Store

Starting a hackerspace is easy, but maintaining it is a pain in the rear. Not only do you need to pay the gas, water, and electric bills, but you’ll also need to have enough members to keep the whole operation afloat. Deezmaker might have a solution to this problem: have a hackerspace double up as a 3D printing store.

Deezmaker is the creator of the Bukobot 3D printer seen at Maker Faire San Francisco and successfully funded on Kickstarter. The new store/hackerspace will sell Bukobot 3D printers (as well as other brands if another company wishes), filaments, Kapton tape, electronic parts, and other random electronic paraphernalia to people on the street.

Alongside the 3D printer store, Deezmaker will also be running a hackerspace for anyone who needs something printed, a work table, or even just the use of a few tools. The grand opening will be this Sunday, Sept 23, in Pasadena, CA.

We’re really liking the idea of a store/hackerspace, if only because Deezmaker’s store will provide a wonderful case study for anyone with a similar business plan. It would be very nice to have a an independent hackerstore in every city, selling everything from 3D printers to batteries and LEDs. Yes, it’s sounds like a throwback to the RadioShack of the 70s, but that doesn’t mean the idea couldn’t succeed today.

30 thoughts on “Monetizing A Hackerspace With A 3D Printer Store

  1. The problem is, sadly it probably wouldn’t succeed, simply because most people these days aren’t motivated! They would rather buy stuff than build it. Not very many people have the hacker mentality anymore, not in the US anyways.

      1. Well where I live I’m probably the only one who “Hacks” our local “Radio Shack/ mostly phone store” has a tiny projects section, and way overpriced components. I was looking at some leds and the clear plastic packaging was rotten, and was crumbling.

    1. This might work in Pasadena and other places with technology/hacking inclined people. Sadly I feel like in my area and other area’s of the US a hackerspace is not feasible. I talked with some friends about starting one and we found out that there wasn’t enough interest.

      1. Maybe not the selling of printers, but the use of them is a pretty big market. Anyone (read hobbyists, engineers, tinkerers [aka hackers], etc.) that needs a piece that can be made out of plastic would benefit, and be enthusiastic, from the access to a 3D printer.

        My only question is if the Bukobot can print pieces with moving parts; for example a crescent wrench. (Which I’m asking them about.)

  2. I think it all stands or falls with how honest your audience is if you want to offer workplaces with tools.
    All that “community” stuff is nice but there is a big chance that after a while the amount of money that will be needed to replace stolen/broken stuff will start to add up. Unless some rigid processes are in place to check /control things, who then lead to other problems…

    I volunteered in the past for years in a community thing (not a hackerspace) and we estimated about 15 to 20% of things/money/food went “missing” on a year basis.

    1. A lot of people getting into it don’t have a private workspace or even anything more than an apartment. For school age kids wanting to learn, this is a wonderful idea. Even outside my own lab and workspace I maintain for my personal use, I would expose my children to this an d hope group think would help ideas grow.

      1. North Street Labs doesn’t have more than an apartment, we keep thinking “we need a space” but each time we do the math we conclude we’d rather spend the “rent” of having a space on projects instead.

        Our local hacker space with an actual space, is cheap at $50/month, but when you are already trying to build stuff with all your spare money, $600/year quickly sounds too expensive – not to mention now you have to travel/relocate to work on your stuff.

        If money wasn’t an issue, we probably WOULD join a space, or create a space to share. For anyone who hates on hacker spaces, you are silly, they are full of natural resources such as free brainstorming with peers (invaluable engineering resource!), tools galore, space to actually work, etc.

        We need the US government to subsidize hacker spaces, allow us to live long and prosper.

      2. People can get into hacking at minuscule levels. I think one is better off not getting overwhelmed but rather easing into the process as hacking is primarily a mental activity. I’ve given some thought to the no space argument and the no resources argument too. Well hacking is about overcoming limitations and doing the unlikely. So these hackerspaces that are springing up are sort of the antithesis of the hacking ethos in a way. A large part of hacking is overcoming challenges in economical and elegant ways. Creating in a fully equipped shop isn’t hacking anymore, it is working.

    2. I for one, welcome our…

      Well, a 3-D printer store, could be “a good thing” (TM). I can’t afford a 3-D printer (now?) and I wonder if I could even afford the monthly membership charge to join a local hackerspace (should one ever be built). BUT, having access to such a printer (through a store) would allow me to build custom parts for projects or replacement parts for (anything).

      While the 3-D printer store may not be a cash cow for the hackerspace, it could subsidize part of it, and if the 3-D printers are rugged enough for constant use, a person could be hired to watch over operations (as well as inventory).

      1. And if one-off business is slow, they could print out a bunch of those interface modules that connect LEGO, Lincoln Logs, and everything else together and sell them to kids. Or artsy pieces by the local artsy co-op.

    3. I drag my projects to a hackerspace that is over 1/2 hour drive away about once a month or so just because I like the idea of working around other makers.

      I easily could and often do the very same things at home. Eventually I will use the space’s reprap and/or laser cutter which I do not have at home but until then…

      My projects are a big part of who I am. It is awesome to be around people who are both the same in that they have their own projects and they are a big part of who they are and different.. they aren’t necessarily all the same kind of projects I would work on so I am exposed to something new. Outside of hackerspaces where do you get that?

      As I type this I am getting little spell checking squiggles under the word hackerspace. The word squiggles however comes through fine. See! That is why I and probably many of you just about need a hackerspace in order to remain sane.

      Oh… and to the store side of it. I hate waiting for my stuff to come from Taiwan or China. They could ship it today and yet I might easily not see it for a month! By then I probably just want to build something else anyway!

      I can rarely justify paying Rat Shack prices for anything but I think there is an awful lot of room between that and the cheap online stuff where I would gladly pay to have my part right now.

      I hear that back in the day electronic stores were great places for project advice too although that is pretty much impossible to imagine for someone who has only experienced the Rat Shack from the 90s on.

      1. I’ve been into electronics since the 70s so I can remember when there were local electronics stores. I went to them, they sucked! Limited stock, high prices, goofy sales clerks, forget about it!

        For me the enjoyment of hacking is being in my own space, with my own tools, doing my own thing. If I want to be social I’ll go hit a bar.

      2. Not sure how far back in the day they where going, but keep in mind old farts can be lying SOB if there’s any entertainment value in it for them & there is no one to challenge them on the error of their recollections if they aren’t purposefully story telling. Of course it’s all relative. But you had to be prepared to tell them exactly what you needed when you first start going to the store. In time when they figure out that you aren’t going to be some pain in the ass they may start engaging in conversation where it allows you to inquire more about electronics beyond the parts you came to get. The parts certainly weren’t cheap. Those who now crying the blues over prices at RS would really be pissed if RS was charging comparable prices today. While it’s probably no sanity saving substitute for you like a visit to the hackerspace, right click on hackerspace and add it to the dictionary already :)

  3. Actually I am in the process of doing the exact opposite. I am trying to secure a building that will be used for 3D printing Services (not supply first hand). I will also open my doors to the local hackerspace

  4. I hope he will also offer 3D printing as a service. A local one-off order shop would be great in the community, and useful for those who don’t want to buy a printer (or need printed parts to build one!)

  5. I’d really like to see a real 3d printing store.
    sending a model over email and have the parts printed for pick-up the next day. (just like you order photo prints).
    this guy can also start manufacturing little things to sell like toys, tourists souvenirs and other nonsense items for the public. those are always on demand and it it might serve as a side income for the business/hackerspace.

  6. Might as well go whole hog and make it a rapid prototyping shop as well. 3D printing is great but one can only go so far on plastics, a 5 or 6 axis router/lathe for wood and metal take it that much further.

  7. Not really sure about the intended operation of the hackerspace, but in general I’d have reservations about having a hackerspace very closely associate with business I intend to operate to as my livelihood. Perhaps the liability concerns could be addressed, I don’t know. Yes it would be nice to see It would be very nice to have a an independent hackerstore in every city, selling everything from 3D printers to batteries and LEDs. Even if you removed expensive 3D printers from the inventory it’s not likely to happen. Business sense challenged hobbyists still expect a brick & mortar with enough staff to serve enough customers when things get the busiest will expect the store to meet or be less than what they can purchase online. In the event the store does do the impossible by offering spot on service %100 of the time such potential customers will create any weak excuse to justify to themselves their online purchases on a basis other than cost. I do hope it works out well for Deezmaker but any success they may have may not travel well

  8. well after reading the comments i dont see why the water condensed by the ac for such a large space cant be turned into hho gass and reused to power an gas powered generator to supply power combined with a few inverted 12v solar panels in paralleled aray
    3 would be plenty as long as there 1-2 feet in diameter.? tools can all be made with the makerrbots
    im sure you get the point off grid ideas or the only way to go me if you want help.. im moving to san fran in 1 week from this post

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