Sunday, 15 May 2011

The role for DIY stores in the next industrial revolution

As the maker culture goes mainstream there is an opportunity for DIY/hardware and tool rental stores to expand their offering. In particular, by housing workshops that give consumers access to manufacturing equipment that they could not afford to buy, and would not have the home workshop space to house.

Obviously, due to the danger involved in operating equipment, access would need to be controlled (by membership) and training given. The hardware store would need to employ staff to supervise (and support customers). Some level of charging would probably have to apply in order to make it economic.

The kind of equipment that the workshop would house would range from standard workshop kit such as band saws, sanding machines, vacuum forming machines, welding kit, drill presses, lathes, etc to more exotic tools such as CNC routers and 3D printers.

The obvious benefit from the hardware store is that when their customers come in to use the workshop, they will likely buy materials and smaller equipment from the store.

DIY/hardware and tool rental stores also need to expand beyond their current offering, focused on home improvement and gardening, to being part of all home (and community, cottage industry and small business) hardware projects. Perhaps longterm there is even room for them in the software arena, as they support their customers with software for their hardware projects.

Note: whilst some commentators have suggested a future with 3D printers in every home, I doubt this model as the level of use will not justify the cost. Having 3D printers in every shop, however, might well happen.

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