‘Maker space’ gets a boost
The buzz is growing around “maker spaces” as incubators of manufactured products, and a three-year-old nonprofit that provides a home to tinkerers and inventers in Sparks has been given an expensive piece of gear to help its members make things.
Bridgewire, a loosely organized group of about 40 folks who use the tools in a 5,000-square-foot space at back of a nondescript industrial building, won the donation of a CNC — that’s short for “computer numeric controlled” — milling machine from Inventables.
The desktop machine might better be described as a “3D carver,” says Zach Kaplan, the chief executive officer of Chicago-based Inventables. His company, which is giving CNC milling devices to maker spaces in all 50 states, learned about Bridgewire during a San Francisco event.
The CNC milling technology creates precision parts and designs in wood and materials, and its applications range from wood furniture to aluminum machine parts to electronic circuit boards.
Members of Bridgewire, who pay $50 a month for access to the space and its equipment, have all sorts of ideas that will be put the new machine to work, says Nick Williams, one of its members.
Some members of the three-year-old maker space are focused on development of prototypes for inventions they hope to patent. Others are making things simply for their own enjoyment. Others are there to learn the use of metalworking, woodworking and electronics tools that range from simple handsaws to a complex CNC plasma cutter.
They’re tested on their skills with the complex equipment before they’re set loose on their own.
Just as important as the equipment is the opportunity to collaborate and learn from other members, says Eric Bradford, an engineer and president of the Nevada Inventors Association who’s a member of Bridgewire.
The space is open to members 24/7. It’s open to the public from 6-9 p.m. Thursdays.
Bridgewire also provides scheduled sessions at which members share their expertise on subjects such as microprocessors.
The nonprofit was created by a group that joined forces to purchase a 3D printer and slowly expanded their focus to include other tools for inventers and makers.
From a national standpoint, research shows the embrace of digital commerce is a whole decade ahead of schedule thanks to the pandemic. We spoke with the Retail Association of Nevada, Downtown Reno Partnership and the Reno+Sparks Chamber of Commerce to give local context to the growth of online retail.