Maker Works wants to be more than just a space for hobbyists to work on projects and socialize. The club, located in Ann Arbor, Mich., aims to help give a boost to the local economy by encouraging members who want to start craft-related businesses, adding what the club calls “micro-manufacturing” to the area.
Club organizers say the mission is especially important in the Ann Arbor and Detroit area, hit hard in past decades by the departure of automakers and manufacturing plants. The club sponsors a series called Crafting the Small Business that teaches the logistics of running a craft-based business. Participants can work with experts from around southeastern Michigan, including consultants, instructors and sellers.
Maker Works has workshops for metal, circuits, wood and crafts, each with benches and tables along with plenty of electrical outlets. Each area in the club’s open floorplan has top-of-the-line tools, like a Clausing Colchester Engine Lathe and Tormach CNC Mill in the metalworking area. The craft section has a MakerBot 3-D Printer and an Epilog 50W Laser Cutter, one of the club’s most popular tools. The club helps make work easier and more efficient for members, providing an online calendar where there can sign in and reserve tools for certain times. It even has a conference room with a whiteboard and digital projector where local maker groups can hold meetings.
Maker Works also offers different classes and camps to members, including Brain Monkeys camp, which encourages young students to learn robotics. In the summer Maker Works hosts three resident artists from the area to work in studios, giving them a chance to use the tools they might not otherwise afford. The club trains them on tools they are not familiar with and offers storage space and access to computer software. At the end of the summer the residents showcase their work to the public during an evening lecture.