Is it possible to be a brilliant innovator and to "make" your own ideas? Can a craftsman become an entrepreneur? The answer is yes, now you can.

This led me, for my thesis, to analyze the Makers Movement, born in the United States but quickly revolutionizing the whole world. It's not just an American movement: it is rapidly expanding also in Italy, although what is missing in our country is a culture of storytelling and sharing: two basic elements of open source "spirit". Today in Italy there are some realities around which this movement is growing. Such as FabLabs, spaces where anyone can design and create his/her own objects. A FabLab is not only a great resource for who is a designer by profession, but it's also an opportunity for those who want to be inventors just for one day.

My "journey" in this world began reading two books, Makers by Chris Anderson and Futuro artigiano by Stefano Micelli. Readings I would recommend to everyone, not just for personal culture, but in particular because they let us understand how anyone's ideas and projects are assets that can, and should, be shared.

New manufacturing techniques: 3D printing

The first book emphasizes that anyone with an invention or a good project can send his/her files to a service that will manufacture the actual object, or he/she can make it himself/herself using some Digital Fabrication tool like a 3D printer. Makers are part of the Internet generation, so they can merge Web culture and cooperation with production processes, creating something entirely new in the do-it-yourself field. It is a virtuous circle: more people together create greater value, which in turn attracts more people, and so on. What the Makers are doing is to bring DIY movement online, so would-be entrepreneurs and inventors are no longer at the mercy of the big companies to see their products made.

The second book is by Stefano Micelli, who teaches Economics and Business Management at Cà Foscari University. It's a reflection on how the artisan role in Italy should change, as it was critical in developing our local industrial districts but now must come to terms with globalization. Craftsmanship is an essential ingredient in how large luxury companies, as well as small precision mechanics businesses, operate. There will be a new generation of small businesses between high technology and craftsmanship, able to provide innovative, highly personalized and limited scale products.

New manufacturing techniques: laser cutting

Reading from the books, it sounds easy. But craftsmans and designers know already very well product design and Digital Fabrication techniques: the real issue is that when they have to promote and sell their products all over the world, they show little experience in web and e-commerce dynamics.

Here come to play what I called "Made in Italy e-commerce communities". These platforms (that helped me in writing my thesis, with special thanks to MakeTan) care about the combination of the Italian and european tradition in craftsmanship and design with the new technologies, thus creating useful and aesthetically beautiful objects, at a reasonable price. In the long Skype chats I had with Laura De Benedetto, one of MakeTank founders, I found a cool, sparkling environment where ideas take form in extraordinary objects and Makers become independent, creating their own personal shops within the platform, building a direct relationship with the end customer.

Here a craftsman, a designer or a maker are no longer isolated in their laboratories, but become - thanks to these platforms -entrepreneurs and, through their creativity, make "Made in Italy" known all over the world.

New production techniques: water jet cutting

To non-professionals, Makers Movement may seem like a fad, something born in the United States but that can hardly be successful in our country, still anchored to the traditional fordist company. Things are not this way.

Writing my thesis and exchanging views with MakeTank and other platforms such as Slowd, Buru-Buru, Zanoby and Ulaola, I realized that this "third industrial revolution" can have a strong impact on manufacturing and trade, because Digital Fabrication allows to have no inventory, to save in handling costs and to manufacture objects on demand. Contamination between Digital Fabrication techniques and traditional craftsmanship allows anyone to draw or download a template on a PC, send it to a commercial 3D printing or laser cutting service, choose the manufacturing material and receive at home a personalized object, such as a pendant, for just a few euros.

It's all about thinking differently, then, and looking at the craftsman role as a resource and not an obsolete job to be put away, exploiting those Made in Italy features the whole world envies us.

(opening photo credit: Lumifold)

Sofia Pretto got her Master of Science in International Economics at the University of Padua with the thesis she describes in this article, entitled: The Makers Movement:  promoting Made in Italy craft and design on the web. She is a longtime volleyball player, for regional and national leagues, and loves all team sports. She has a great passion for food and the desire to discover new dishes, Italian or not, that she can then cook at home.




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