The Maker Revolution (Will Not Be Televised)

The Home Standard: MakerBot


Dear Former Pong and Atari Players, you thought you arrived with desktop computing and laser printers, handheld devices, apps, networking, and online over-sharing…but you’re still in a technology desert…lost in a dreamy mirage.  A revolution of Makers and the technologies supporting DIY manufacturing is about to change our economy, our lives – but nobody seems to know about it. 

It is possible that you already “get” maker culture because you’ve been to a Maker Faire or a Hackerspace, read between the lines of Matt Wald’s NY Times article Domestic Drones Stir Imaginations, and Concerns (March 17), or read Chris Anderson’s book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution?  Perhaps you are already are a Maker.


3D Business Card (March 2013)

What is a Maker?  Makers do not compete with the factories of China or India, or the large, old-fashioned U.S. factories. Rather, makers share equipment to engage in collaborative manufacturing projects at home or in shared spaces, often dubbed “hackerspaces”.  Makers have created companies like Shapeways and CloudFab, which will manufacture small runs of products that you design for a fee. Oh yes, our factories are now in The Cloud and we can make anything.

I endeavored on my first 3D project this past week (pictured above) using TINKERCAD – a design program that is very basic but user friendly. Rather than hitting a PRINT button on my screen, I hit ORDER 3D PRINT and am redirected to Shapeways. Then comes the real decisions – do I print my object in plastic, ceramic, bronze, stainless steel…silver? I opted for the more reasonable white plastic with a click and am notified that my cards will arrive at my home in a few days.  (Maybe I should have gone for the stainless steel for more of a Terminator effect…?)

“We are entering an era of unprecedented choice. And that’s a good thing.”

– Chris Anderson

Drones are the first products of the DIY/Maker revolution that are getting attention from Washington.  Wald points out that Patrick Leahy, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee is unleashing the hounds on drones and our new revolution of choice:

This fast-emerging technology is cheap and could pose a significant threat to the privacy and civil liberties of millions of Americans. It is another example of a fast-changing policy area on which we need to focus to make sure that modern technology is not used to erode Americans’ right to privacy.

Drones have many possible applications that do not necessarily involve the invasion of privacy. Let us take a breath and remember that there was a time when desktop and online publishing also posed a near-imminent “threat” to our existence:

Probably the most significant threat online publishing poses … is the invitation to think in new and creative ways…. There’s no reward from quaking in fear that our paper kingdom will crumple.         – Laura Fillmore, “Online Publishing: Threat or Menace”, Journal of Electronic Publishing (Feb. 1995)

Ms. Fillmore provides sage advice, for there is much good that could be garnered from the use of drones and DIY manufacturing in the wine industry alone.

So what do Makers have to do with wine and terroir? Wald notes in his article that one of the primary uses for drones is precision agriculture, “with tiny planes inspecting crops several times a week for the first sign of blight or insect invasion….”. Certainly, vineyard managers are very concerned about phylloxera, the glassy-winged sharpshooter, leaf roll virus, powdery mildew and other viticultural threats on a regular basis.

Precision Viticulture (PV) is precision farming applied to optimize vineyard performance, optimizing grape yield and quality while minimizing environmental impacts and risk. Several relevant data points are measured, including soils, topography, climate, vine health, etc. in order to determine trellis design, pruning, fertilizer type and application, irrigation, proper harvest timing, etc. PV also focuses on the microclimate and supports the customization of in situ management practices, recognizing that nature is uneven, and there is variation in fields. Global Positioning Systems (GPS), Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and corresponding equipment such as remote sensors, yield monitors, high resolution soil surveys and satellites are utilized to assess variability in the field. Ostensibly, PV yields better information, and better decision-making. While there is a significant cost to using PV, there is a primary benefit of increasing yield and productivity, while ensuring the long-term welfare of the vines.

Do we need GPS and expensive technologies to practice PV? Need there be significant cost to monitor climate and make farming decisions based on efficiency? Let us again consider Matt Wald’s article:

Chris Anderson … said that later this year, his company DIY Drones would introduce a helicopter for agricultural surveillance that would sell for less than $1,000. “That’s not per hour, that’s for the helicopter,” he said.

Oh yes – it looks like I’ll be clearing some space under my Christmas tree for a drone-sized box.

Santa, please click here.


“The Revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.”

– Gil Scott Heron

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A discussion about wine, the environment, and climate change