If you haven’t deduced it by now, Ultra-Make.com is likely the main deliverable nearing the end of my next book “The 100-Year Toaster.”  The book is a critical view of the wrong-headed globalist resource squandering of the past 150-years and what we can do about it.

Spoiler alert:  We need to  redenominate.  Because everything together has a “price” and “profit” attached to it.  We don’t need to reinvent everything, but that which is worthy of our time making needs to last 10-years, or more.

One Answer:  Is to “defang” globalism by seizing the “means of production” and taking them back to the local level.

As you may be aware, in addition to “traditional shop tools”  (like a table or band saw, planer, jointer, drill press, etc.) a new class of computer-directed tools have not only sprung-forth from dedicated open source people, but they have recently come down in price to the “magic price point” where mass adoption becomes not only  possible but ion our view,  increasingly likely.

We’re discussing it here because  dispersed manufacturing may be an important continuity of humans element should either resources (oil and energy) or manufacturing (China, S.W. Asia) be impacted by “Global Events.”

We I younger, say my son’s age, it would be a hard call as to whether to buy a high-end table saw (a good hybrid or cabinet saw with a few accessories is in the $1,200 range by the time you get freight costs in), or whether the money wouldn’t be better-spent building a small “Ultra-Making” shop consisting of three computer-driven tools and a small drill press.  Two out of three are here.  A 3D resin printer is still in our future.

The tools – a plastic filament printer along with a resin printer, and a material CNC router –  when married-up to open-source design software offer an almost infinite number of design possibilities across much more media than dimension lumber, and sheet goods (such as plywood of particleboard).

Since a lot of this operates with platforms as simple as a smartphone, which call do you make?

The Age of E-Mailed Products

The key vision over at Ultra-Make is that we have entered an age where almost anything can be emailed.  Yes, that’s right:  Products.

A complex product might have four email attachments:

  • One would be a stereo lithography (.STL) file to print something out on a 3D filament printer.  Build space on ours is approximately a cube of 8-1/2 inches on a side.
  • The second .STL file might be a number of small parts in the harder resin printer category.  Your dentists uses a similar UV sensitive resin for some fillings…  Smaller build space, about 2-1/2 inches each dimention of the cube.
  • The third file is G-Code (for us, GBRL).  This is what can “router” a printed circuit board (PCB) out of inexpensive single, or double-sided PC stock.  Easily scooped up from Amazon.
  • And the fourth file to “email a product?”  That would be written instructions with notes on printing (specifying which plastic, for example – since there are many choices) along with assembly instructions.  Or, a simple link to a Youtube video…

What’s come into view is that this is “bare parts” only.  There’s more needed, and toward this end many solutions are obvious.

One is to encourage designers to “kit up” the Balance of Build (BoB) and sell the kits on Amazon.  Small pieces of special metal parts or screws, washers, O-rings, and adhensives, for example.

And what of electronics?  Well, I’ve sent the outline of this “combined making technology” to one of the largest electronics kitting companies in the country.  Their New Products group will look and consider.  We’ll see where that goes.

We still need other parts, though, and some of these are faily obscure.

Mass Kudo’s to Ray

Recently, one of our readers (Ray) was kind enough to send me a list of “Maker Sources” that he’s been collecting.  This list is independent of the 3D Printers and CNC Routers, though.  This list is just good ‘ol Making materials.

I wouldn’t even BEGIN to attempt to visit all of these in a week, let alone in a day on the web.  There’s just too damn much that stimulates designs, which run on the “Goodness Scale” anywhere from “red-necking” a quick solution to a “graceful commercial product.”  All depends on whether it’s a one-off, or whether you plan to kit and sell the products on Amazon, or elsewhere.

Here’s Ray’s dizzying list:

(Have your spousal unit impound credit cards before clicking on any of these links!)

My Own Picks

I’ve had most of these in my bookmarks, though leave it to Ray to spot the obvxious:   Compile the Link List!

Two of the best are eBay.com and Amazon for small parts.

Hayseedhamfest.com  is the go-to source for custom (and kitted) round electrolytic capacitor work-alikes.  This is critical if part of your “old school” resto projects includes things like classic tube-type hi-fi’s.  Yet, you can re-cap most things.

Speaking of capacitors, you can bring about half of TV’s and monitors back to life with a capacitor kit (eBay, shop by monitor brand and size) OR, if a television, maybe a board swap.  For this?  ShopJimmy.com.

Sometimes, you’ll want to resurect something (and it’s not Sunday, lol).  For this, if the ressurection involves 2 or 4-cycle power equipment, Jack’s Small Engines can’t be beat. One of the best parts is they have .PDF’s of most manuals on line.  So, in my case, when I was too dumb to intuitively “see” where a Hausy Yt-4345 lawn tractor belt was routed, a reference to the .PDF is why I’m a customer for life of Jack’s.

More than anything, what matters is how you use the resource.  Before you hit any of this sites, jot down a few points about your particular “Make.”  Is it a one-off, or are you going to make enough to share with friends?  Are you going to sell this as an Ultra-Make kit?  One where there are files and small parts?

Order Slower – Match Lazy to Lead-Time

A personal problem I have is  buying too far ahead of making.  The result will be a shop like mine, chock-a-block full of wire, insulations, boxes of filament unsorted as to color or type, and so forth.  Some of these projects can’t possibly be “gotten to” for a year, or longer.  (Which ensures I have to live a long time past 72!)

A key mental discipline of effective Making is to ONLY ORDER WHEN YOU’RE OUT OF SUPPLIES.

You have no idea how many kits and upgrades are sitting in boxes in my office just waiting to be built.  There’s a solid couple of year’s worth.

And metal out in the machine area of the shop?  Lord love a duck!  Insane.

When you have your machines set up, it’s as though a little voice in your head may begin screaming:

You have the machines, so where are the sheet goods?  You really ought to order a few sheets each of 1/4″, 1/2″,  and 3/4″ Birc h plywood and have it on hand to avoid materials delays when you want to build something.  Then, since you’ve got that, get a couple of dozen 2-by-4’s so you can rip them down to size on the  table saw and then run ’em through the planer for precise dimensioning…”

Next thing you know, the brain is awash in idea, the shop is so full of supplies nothing is getting done, and right about here a new crisis will arise (plumbing problems or roof leaks seem to happen when a big build is ready…)

Last, but not least: Look for materials in unusual places..

l recently got a wild hare to build a new antenna idea.  Needed some 1/2″ (or thicker) plastic to do it.  Looked on eBay but the size I needed would be about $30 bucks.

Hmmm…what will work  instead?

A trip to Amazon revealed a 12″ X 18″ plastic cutting board that would to the trick at half the price.  A slow pass through a 10-inch table saw with a carbide blade and I have exactly what I needed for a fractioin of the price.

Oh, and that gets me to one last idea:  Get familiar with what’s in your local “dollar stores.”  For some things, cheap spray paints, or plastic dishes, or….(insert creativity here) can be found.

Go for it!  Gatting hammered, you see, doesn’t mean the same thing to all people.  Especially people who have shops.  (And write when you get rich!)