NOTE 12/1/15: The makerspace has been approved and will be opened sometime in spring 2016.
I recommend you read the two links below for a more organized and formatted experience;
A formatted DOC of this can be found here
Supporting materials can be found here - updated 10/2/15
Architectural Makerspace Proposal
Table of Contents
Mission Statement 3
Layout and Physical Space 5
Contingency Plans and Alternative Rooms
Management of Assets6
Areas of Relevance to the College of Architecture7
Computers and Electronics
Areas of Relevance to Education in General8
Computers and Electronics
BOM/Additional Materials Needed
Public Speaking Opporutunies
Bryan-College Stations Hubs
Other University Labs
Lack of Interest
Room and Space Concerns
Upkeep and Sustainability
The notion of a makerspace is not a new one. Back in the 70s when Steve Jobs and the Woz, and Paul Allen and Bill Gates built computers out of a small garage or workshop, they were embodying the spirit of the makerspace. They spent time in these small areas, building and hacking together various components in the hopes of creating sometime innovative and new, all while exercising their creative juices.
Funnily enough, Amazon, Disney, Google, Harley Davidson, HP and many other now-large companies started in garages. Their academic, entrepreneurial and creative forces have joined in humble areas to grow to become major influences in the world. What does this mean for the College of Architecture at Texas A&M? I believe if we want to become an even greater influence among each other and the world, we should follow in the giant footsteps of the immense successes before us and create our own Architecture Makerspace.
The Architectural Makerspace: Providing the foundation for academic minds to build their tremendous talents.
All over the world makerspaces, hacker labs, fabrication labs and the alike are appearing. They cater to the curious, to the creative, and to the hardworking academic minds. In Downtown Bryan, we actually have a meeting-makerspace of sorts. Dubbed Binaryspace, this business offers customers a place to study and work with high speed Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, a handful of small 3d printers, poster plotter and most importantly, countless cups of Keurig coffee. Texas A&M actually has one on campus too, minus the unlimited coffee. The Engineering Innovation Center, or EIC, boasts plenty of working space for engineers on their class projects or Startup Aggieland ideas. They have the more industrial kind of printers like we do, as well as a few other emerging technologies. Why then, should the College of Architecture open up a makerspace when there are already competing sources?
Well, why not? We have had a goal for a while now, to be the best college of architecture in the United States. Pursuant to that end, we must continue to be the leaders of our fields and the ones at the forefront of spreading educational possibilities. The Architecture Makerspace would be open to all departments of the College of Architecture, in contrast to the EIC which is primarily focused on mechanical engineers, and ideally it would be open to students and visitors from any college, in contrast to the EIC which is open to engineer majors only, or Binaryspace which is a for-profit business. If the College of Architecture can enter into the zone of makerspaces we will foster interest in COA activities, emerging technologies and our areas of expertise. The public relations benefits, recruiting benefits, and academic benefits for faculty and students will be immense.
Layout and Physical Space
Langford A107 is the most ideal spot for this makerspace project. The room has more than enough space for everything in my current office space with printers, (it would fit my whole office six times over.) More information on the feasibility of this room is located in the supporting documents.
Langford C110 would be a possible room choice as well. It is currently being occupied by the HRRC, but they are moving into Scoates Hall. It is currently difficult to gather extra data since the room as a whole is being moved but once that phase is complete, further analysis should show that it is very tangible for our needs.
Contingency Plans and Alternative Rooms
In the event that neither of these spaces are available, I have a few contingency plans. The first is that with any space at least 2-4 times the size of my office, a smaller scale makerspace can be made. At this scale, it would become more a consultation than a hanging-out and working space. The second contingency plan is that I can use my current office as a means of education, and do the vast majority of lessons in Geren Auditorium or another open classroom. Lastly, should no space be allocated to this endeavor beyond my current office, we will scrap the makerspace concept and primarily be a consultation print lab; essentially our poster printing service but with a one-to-one consulting service prior to every print job.
Management of Assets
Ideally, I would act as proctor for the students. I will educate each into anything they are interested in, also maintaining a keen eye on the equipment and gadgets on hand. The main focus here, is stimulating the growth of their ideas as well as teaching them things relevant to their interests. I have an IT and technology background so these stimulators and tools I will add will have a technological relevant and usable position in their education.
Following the Woodshop’s safety practices, in order to operate or handle 3D printers or their post processing within the makerspace, visitors will have to complete a safety contract and training session.
As with any space on campus, there will be a certain amount of risk with the loss of assets or damage thereof. I propose at least one, if not two cameras to be placed in the room, by the entry way and watching the storage location of any assets in the room (a broad overlooking camera). Kensington locks will be placed on all assets worth more than $25, additionally, post processing supplies will be placed in a closet.
Areas of Relevance to the College of Architecture
The first and foremost choice for most of the students in the COA is to inquire about printing their projects. Ranging from houses for architecture students, to water distillation pumps for those in the house of environmental design to abstract 3D creations to the visualization students, in my nearly year of testing, I’ve done a countless number of workable test prints at a lower operating cost (over 5-10 times the savings) than the EIC and Woodshop, which use higher end, industrial style printers. Students enjoy the idea of budget printing as much as they enjoy the relatively speedy process it takes to print with filament printers. The wide variety of materials is also a large perk; students in design classes are practicing using our rubber like material for concrete molds as one example. We have folks testing our nylon material for its sanitization potential. Copper, brass, stainless steel, carbon fiber, temperature changing materials, FDA approved materials, magnetic filaments, durable polycarbonates and more are all available and have many unique properties.
With the advent of printing in another dimension, comes scanning as well! There are quite a few variants of 3D scanning, some merely capture meshes with lasers, and others essentially use rapid photography and stitching to produce a 3D model. I find that students are somewhat interested into scanning their hand-crafted models and objects into CAD files, into order to reverse engineer their objects. The most interesting function of 3D scanning takes place in the realm of visualization; it is possible to scan yourself or an object into a CAD file which you can then add a skeleton to and place in films, self-produced games or other projects.
Computers & Electronics
Ideally, in the makerspace, a number of computer work stations will be available for students that want to work on their 3D prints, scans or on an area related to the makerspace. Students can use it as a normal lab depending on the general amount of traffic. Light electronic equipment support will be available, for example, if a student brings in a mini learning computer, the Raspberry Pi, then soldering tools will be open for use pending a safety waiver. Spare parts for additional electronic resources (to be listed in detail below,) will also be available.
For each department within the College of Architecture I have a piece of educational technology that would be of interest. For Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, I will implement a topological sandbox, this sandbox simulates water and terrain of different heights using a projector, a distance-sensing Kinect and a literal box of sand. Students will be able to use their models, place them in the sand and replicate the landscape around their model. For Visualization, I am planning to implement a mini 3D scanning studio. Variants of this studio will exist depending on the number of partnerships available (discussed later in this document) and the budget allocated to this. An Oculus Rift headset will help the Department of Architecture students walk through their models in first person view, allow them to fully immense themselves in their designs. There are more planned projects as time, space, and budget permit.
Areas of Relevance to Education in General
Printing is extremely popular with other colleges within our university as well. I’ve met business students who print out prototype product models and marketing models with our printers. Some of the more enterprising ones have patent pending or confidential designs they need to test before contacting a larger or potentially unsecure manufacturer for expensive iterations and tests. We can and have printed these for their use. Various campus organizations are interested in printing out their logos or promotional items. Students in general are also interested in scanning and printing themselves or friends. All these things I have listed have been case studies within our year of operating these smaller filament printers, and I am confident more and more uniquely interesting cases will occur!
The initial reason we looked into 3D scanning in the first place was an as an exploratory use of a simple video game device. Sometime thereafter, a group of students approached the Woodshop about 3D scanning the statue of Sul Ross in the Academic plaza. While that is currently not an option with our limited technology set it remains a possibility if we expanded upon it. Currently we have been getting requests left and right to scan various random people and objects, with the right partners and technology we can do scans from full rooms and miniature palm sized objects.
Computers & Electronics
As mentioned before, students working with electronic parts or on electronic projects will be more than welcome to work in the makerspace. This calls back to the original hacker labs from computer giants Apple and Microsoft but also caters to the blank palette concept, wherein the makerspace is merely a canvas for students to express their creations.
Regardless of what department or college they belong to, visitors will be more than welcome to take classes and quick learning sessions proctored by myself or special guests. These lessons will range in complexity and skill required but the majority of them will be easy enough for any visitor of any background to pick up on. Light CAD design, fundamentals of 3d printing, 3D printing design theory and the application of 3D printing and other emergent technologies are just some courses I have begun working on.
Pricing is relative and adjustable, as well as negotiable. In order to not hurt similar, local businesses that have 3D printing as an aspect of their business, I will defer non-university related printing requests to the local businesses as possible. That being said, our potential price model is heavily discounted off of major cities with hubs and outlets for 3D printing. However, this does not mean we are operating over budget and will not make our money back or be self-sustaining. Contrary to the thought of a discount, filament printing is cost effective enough that if subtract much of the unnecessary overhead costs, educate the customer in designing printable files and provide other money generating services, then we can attain self-sustainability. End of semester reviews will be conducted on a regular basis to monitor the health of finances.
In this area, incentives will be proposed and possibly implemented for those who attend the lessons – this will curb improper designs or requests for poor printing, depending on the demand of services provided, a rewards program can be implemented to increase interest and retention of visitors.
Pricing for scanning will be just as variable and flexible as printing prices. Currently, I’ve discovered through a potential partner, Twindom, that “selfie scans” printed in a Projet printer are priced starting at $39. For a comparable scan and print in our Projet printer, we priced it roughly at $20, which gives a discount but still allows plenty of room for overhead or price adjustments. Depending on partnerships, demand and the scan files themselves, prices will more than likely be $20 minimum. If prints are done in a filament based printer, the cost can be reduced heavily while making a profit. We will also offer rental of the mobile scanners (the Kinect, Structure IO, and Carmine) at a per hour and per day cost.
BOM/Additional Materials Needed
Pricing for supplies and materials upkeep will be kept at a minimal level, all while allowing room for experimental purposes. Rolls of PLA (normal, compostable) filament range from $15-$50. Exotic materials run the gambit from $15-$100 for a long lasting roll, realistically however, we won’t go through many of those, and when they are needed for a job, the job price will increase accordingly. As many partnerships will be attained as possible, with inspiration coming from the funding and recreation of Francis Hall; thus the cost of scanners and other technologies are estimated but TBA.
A comprehensive website under the arch.tamu.edu will be created and designed by our in-house PR and web design teams. Here will visitors find safety waiver forms, times for different classes or lessons, general information about our services or the technologies in general (the latter is already available at https://wikis.arch.tamu.edu/display/HELPDESK/3D+Printing+and+Scanning )
A Facebook page and Twitter account will be created with emboldening the TAMU COA and makerspace presence in mind. It will be updated by myself or any interested COA persons.
An in-person, hands-on experience with printers and printed products (as well as a few live scans) would garner an immense amount of attention. I can typically keep visitors to the current printing areas for 15-30 minutes minimum without their interest wavering, this is primarily due to the amount of questions first time visitors have about the processes and possibilities. While this would clog up the large atrium in the MSC, this would also generate even more interest. Upon researching, advertisement there would be free for us as a staff organization so the only thing required are X amount of man hours per building toured.
Public Speaking Opportunities, Conventions and Conferences
After presenting a session and workshop for the Texas A&M Technology Summit, I believe I have a good foothold on my presentation abilities in a conference style context. Adding on to this, I also spoke at the Spring session of Downtown Bryan's Pecha Kucha, wherein speakers discuss artistic forms and speeches over creative realms. After both these events, I received an immense amount of questions, interested consumers of our services and requests for future meetings related to 3D printing and scanning.
As the 2014 Horizon Report notes, 3D printing is an emergent technology and is within 4 years of widespread adoption. As a graduate studying educational technologies, I believe that speaking is the best way of dissemination of information and so public appearances, speeches, workshops and so forth, and to ensure 3D printing grows and prospers, we should look more into such opportunities. For example, a potential partner I am in talks with, Twindom, had a 3D scanning booth at the animation and video game based convention, Anime Matsuri. I personally visited their booth and the interest was absolutely overwhelming. Costumed and non-costumed visitors were purchasing selfie scans left and right, using similar technology we already have at the College of Architecture. Another potential partner I am talking to, Dimensional Manufacturing in Tomball, brought a hacked together 3D printer and were receiving visitors and questions practically non-stop. If the College of Architecture's Makerspace brings a booth with scanners, printers, any of the other gadgets or gizmos already used or even student projects, the public relations and recruiting potential is extremely high .A final point of consideration; other booths were vendors that sold merchandise and had traffic coming and going but these two printing booths were consistently full of visitors and spectators the entire time.
We already have a working relationship with Stratasys products through one of our major on campus suppliers, Techlabs of Katy, TX. It is possible to receive support and educational discounts through the parent company themselves, so we will explore both of these vendors. With providing services to A&M, they work on a departmental basis so a different contract will have to be proposed and drafted out.
We manage our relations with 3D Systems through one of their resellers in Houston, Interactive Unlimited. Just like Stratasys, it is possible to receive discounts and more from either the partner or the parent company so we can investigate both options.
Smaller providers of printers and printing services, “hubs”, are also open to us. Companies like Twindom or Dimensional Manufacturing provide angles that the larger corporations do not necessarily give. We are currently in talks about quotes, partnerships, discounts and freebies with some of these companies. More will be disclosed as the information becomes available.
The Houston Public Library System has deployed a small handful of 3D printers as a part of it’s Innovation Labs initiative. They understand that not every family or visitor will be able to afford or understand how to operate these pieces of equipment so they are setting up classes to educate those interested and to allow people to test it out. We have the possibility of working with hubs like these to donate or mutually exchange information and some form of operating assistance, such a cause could allow us to have “sponsored by” banners in a major recruiting zone, expand our influence and help use work cooperatively with our communities.
Other University Labs
Admittedly we are behind the game some. The University of Texas created one of the major and original types of 3D printing within their own walls. Their engineering school also has an Innovation Station wherein mechanical engineers can work on 3D printing related actitvities. Not only this, they have actually created a vending machine of sorts where students can print our something and have it automatically dispensed to them (http://kxan.com/2014/09/04/3d-printer-access-available-for-ut-students/) The University of Houston and Rice University are just a handful of college that also have areas where students, faculty and staff can print items.
While the EIC has been doing this for a while, it caters primarily to MEEN majors or departmental clientele, the Woodshop has as well, but it is bottle necked by the high demand and low supply of printers and 3D scanning tools. I have already talked with many other universities about the feasibility, risks, pros and cons of labs and providing these services. We can continue creating an information network with them, exchanging what works, what doesn’t and what we are anticipating for the future for example.
Lack of Interest
Although based on the survey of 150+ students tells me that students within the COA would be interested in a makerspace, a lack of interest or visitors is always a possibility. In order for this to work out, the trial period would be 1-2 continuous semesters. If by the end of this trial period, X amount of visitors (TBD) do not enter the space on a daily basis, then the project will be scrapped. In order to increase PR for the space, at the halfway period of the trial period, an intense and strong PR campaign with be deployed, consisting of all the possible marketing solutions previously listed. If this does not improve attendance, the project will be scrapped or downsized to a consulting service, operating out of the IT office.
Printing generates a small amount of waste, but no detail should be spared. To defray litter, waste and excess unusable material, three primary solutions are in place. First, users will be educated on proper design for 3D printing. As the process literally adds a whole ‘nother dimension, users will be asked and taught to consider efficiency. Secondly, we will obtain a filament recycler. The recycler will melt down unused plastics into recycled filament that will be cheaper to use and cheaper for users to request, to encourage the use of recycled goods. Lastly, for materials that cannot be recycled or reclaimed, they will be available for use in student projects or for anyone that would like to use them.
Room and Space Concerns
Fire extinguishers will be available in the room for use in case of emergency, as well as additional smoke detectors. Two air ports have already been punched into the wall of A107 (if that is the designated room) so airflow should be good enough already, as the printers do not generate much if any fumes on a normal basis. Maximum capacity will be determined by the fire marshal and careful consideration will go into the placement of each asset in the space. A first aid station will be available and kept unlocked.
Since the beginning of this experimentation with 3D printers, I have been very mindful of cost and the maintenance costs of these products and services. To date, we have spent less than $10,000 on this project. If we had charged for the tests and services we’ve provided for students and faculty thus far, we would have easily made $1,000-$2,000 with our proposed price model. Keep in mind this is with the service officially announced as TBA and so we have been operating more or less on an undercover case-by-case testing mode basis. I’ve discussed pricing with every client I have worked with and they have all consented and admitted they would pay the actual cost under the proposed model pricing and would be repeat customers for other projects. Beyond the College of Architecture, the students of the College of Business have reached out the most to me, showing that just on a word of mouth basis, we’ve already hit West Campus!
Experiences now however, do not always translate to actual experiences later on, so I am prepared to offer discounts, increase profit margins, and cost of services as necessary to increase our margins. With that in mind, we are also extremely efficient with our materials; over the course of one year, only two or so $30 dollar spools have been used up completely. We still have plenty of materials, and each spool can last up to hundreds of prints and over a hundred hours of printing. For a visualization, a normal 1kg spool of PLA (compostable polylactic acid) filament can last long enough to make 12 full chess sets. That is 392 chess pieces. For another visualization, the EIC provides 1 cubic inch free to all of it’s engineers, which costs up to $26 in material costs, the same cubic inch for us would be $1 in materials, if even then.
Upkeep and Sustainability
I understand that this cannot be a one-man show forever, so I have been working with interested volunteers, primarily students and fellow ITS workers, educating them on the processes involved, repairs, management of prints and so forth in case I require back up or assistance. I am prepared to hand over the reins if ever needed as well, and hire or find volunteer workers as well. The latter solution has been deployed in a few university 3D print labs already and appears to be successful.
This is a huge endeavor; there are no two ways about that. To defray the possibility of scope creep, again, I’m willing to delay or decommit from any portion of the plans as necessary. I will work will all relevant parties in determining the different lengths of time required for each section of the project as a whole to be implemented. This information will be complied in a GANT chart and distributed to all relevant parties.
Lastly, the name is something up for suggestions or votes. I personally was thinking we dub the makerspace, “The Jungle”. Why? Because we got fun and games!