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Future Makespaces in Redistributed Manufacturing

Future Makespaces in Redistributed Manufacturing is a two-yearThe Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded research project run from the Royal College of Art, London, exploring the role of makespaces in redistributed manufacturing (RdM). 

RdM can be understood to be: technology, systems and strategies that change the economics and organisation of manufacturing, particularly with regard to location and scale. There is a drive towards smaller-scale local manufacturing caused by changes in transport and labour costs, the availability of materials and energy, the need for sustainability, the availability and cost of small-scale equipment, and access to information.

The potential for smaller-scale manufacture has been made possible by a combination of new technologies, small-scale flexible manufacturing equipment, and new manufacturing processes. In turn, these changes are driving the development of new business models and supply chains, changing dynamics of work and communities, and have immediate implications for industrial and social policy

We use ‘makespace’ as a catch-all term for an open access community fabrication workshop. It encompasses Fab Labs, Hackerspaces, Makerspaces and other facilities that can broadly be described as spaces with a suite of fabrication tools and technologies openly accessible for use by a community.

The network will run symposiums, workshops and funded feasibility projects that will investigate the role makespaces can have with respect to RdM now and in the future. Through a multidisciplinary network bringing multiple perspectives it will define the challenges involved in interfacing and integrating makespaces with existing manufacturing businesses, and put forward a pathway and research agenda that contributes to sustainable redistributed manufacturing in the UK.

The investigation looks at four main levels:

Level 1) Makespace - Identification of the key technologies, people and skills, tools, materials, resources, cultures and methods that are needed in makespaces for them to support redistributed manufacturing and in order to move from linear economy practice to circular economy practice.

Level 2) Local – Identification of how makespaces can help their local area with respect to manufacturing and manufacturing business development, and to successfully respond to economic (business generation), social (employment, training and skills), environmental (local manufacturing, supply and waste management), and technological changes.

Level 3) Digital Networks – Identification of the requirements of a digital network, resources, and tools to network makespaces and others (manufacturers, retailers, suppliers, support networks, investors, educational institutions, research centres, material resources, waste management, communities) in relation to small-scale manufacturing within an online community of business, social and marketplace networks.

Level 4) National and International - Identification of a vision for how government policies and support, national institutions and networks, EU directives, and regional and national businesses and supply chains, can support and enable the ‘makespaces in redistributed manufacturing’ model.