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Mobile Makerspace

November 2, 2015

I would like to invite  bit of discussion on the concept of a mobile makerspace, as a portable educational portal for various skills of interest to the patriot community.  There are two areas for discussion, the missions, and therefore needs and equipment of the space, and the fundraising and programs to set it up and keep it running and providing service to the communities it supports.

There are three basic missions I see:

Middle to advanced manufacturing–basic techniques like welding and machining, and more adadvanced ones like showing what a 3D printer or cnc machine is like and how it works.

Electronics–from radios to drones to cracking cell phones, it’s a good idea when playing with very expensive gear to have someone around who knows what they’re doing, and help keep you from letting the magic smoke out.  Aside from basic soldering, this is a place I’d be looking at providing some facilities and equipment, and having someone else provide expertise.

Firearms-again, something where it’s nice to have an experienced hand looking over your shoulder to keep you from making expensive mistakes.  Most of gunsmithing just needs a bench and some jigs, but advanced work, like manufacturing, can be taught since the other equipment is available.  Reloading would also potentially be on the list of skills to be taught.  Again, something where most teaching would be done by others.

Some comment on the above would be appreciated.  Trailers would provide more space, but due to weight issues would be more space than machine.

The other side of this coin is funding.  I’d want at least a 20 foot truck, preferably 24 or more, I’d need a welder, a generator, probably a compressor, computers, machine tools, etc.  The truck would need some modifications to support the machine tools, and probably other work since it’d be a used truck.  A fifth wheel trailer and truck could work too, but would probably be just as expensive, though probably easier to get and set up.

All that will top a hundred grand.  With some work togeneralize the missions, groups other than patriots could hire it out, but it will also cost a few hundred to park it (still need to keep it registered and insured etc.) When not on tour, and a few thousand a month to drive it around.

Western RiflesRifleshooter’s Association promotes a lot of training events this could be good for, but moving something like this around would be rather pricey and harder to justify.  Getting some ideas on that though would be good.  80% receivers and printed doodads are nice, but I’m not thinking of much past that.

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21 Comments
  1. Talk to those doing. Specifically the trades. There are a lot of professionals whose entire operation is in a 24′ box van. For example — http://www.core77.com/posts/25377/woodshop-on-wheels-ron-paulk-on-the-design-of-his-mobile-woodshop-part-1-25377 Barring the density issue between wood and metals it would be a great place to start.

    Myself I might consider two possibilities.

    1) a stock 40′ semi trailer. Its already DoT rated for the weight loads anticipated. Least around the DFW area lot rentals are not that bad rate wise. And a tractor can be hired out by the day when you need to move it.

    2) Pods. The folks on TV that offer moveable storage. One could possibly buy a few as cells. You would probably have to have a custom one built for metals machinery. Move only the cells needed to support a particular mission. Use the Pods people as the transport method.

    Mere suggestions.

    • A trailer would grant more space, I’ll keep that in mind. The main goals were to keep under CDL requirements (though those would not be a deal breaker) and immediate mobility.

      With a trailer, I can probably get a a rig same day, and can probably find someone to haul it all the way during touring season.

      With pods or containers it can take a couple days before they are on their way. If a surprise opportunity comes up, or if it’s decided to move it for security reasons, it will be a lot harder to get things moved. My thought was to get a 24 foot or so truck and set that up as a core. It would have primary abilities with trailers as needed to supplement as needed–heavy machinery, class or lab space, etc.

  2. Matt permalink

    Check out what some libraries are doing in this field. While we aren’t doing the firearms part of your idea, we are doing a lot of the rest. Make magazine has a few articles I found quickly: http://makezine.com/2014/12/08/techshop-and-fujitsu-launch-mobile-makerspace-for-student-education/ and http://makezine.com/2015/06/12/geekbus-moves-educate-young-makers/

    If I had the budget I wanted and CDL, I’d go the multiple shipping container route along with trailers that could haul them correctly (This idea is on the fly BTW). A container with small to light weight versions of all equipment, then a container with the heavy duty versions, i.e. one for joining metal, one for CNC and 3D printing, one for gunsmithing, etc.

    That’s my two cents.

    (While I’m wishing I’d also like a winged unicorn that poops gold coins.)

  3. Former Sapper permalink

    Would it be something that could be broken down in to different units, maybe as drdog09 suggests as pods or different vehicles for different roles. For example an electronics/RF/Infosec related vehicle whilst one focusing on metal work/mechanics/machining for another. I like the thought of not having all my eggs in 1 basket.

    I do wonder how much of the equipment could be homebrewed as well (if you were so inclined to do so) and maybe reducing the purchasing bill down a bit or allowing extra money to be shoved towards high quality tools.

    • Setting up different trailers for some things is planned on, but there are a few abilities I see as being needed to really call something a makerspace, so putting them in a truck that can be a prime mover under my own control is optimal.

      Having seen some home brewed machines, and having a half done cnc router myself, most of the big expensive equipment that makes up the bulk of the bill are machines I would NOT want to make myself.

      • Former Sapper permalink

        Ah I see where you’re coming from now and agree on not wanting low quality or homebrew for the machining operations. Which machines do you have in mind? Just out of curiosity, leaving aside the home brew discussion.

      • Vaguely looking at Tormach, since I know I can’t get a lathe and a mill. If you have any ideas about a small cnc lathe I’m open to suggestions. Mounting them will be harder than finding them.

      • Former Sapper permalink

        Within the constraints of the brief a Tormach is perfect, I think Axminster have small CNC offerings too and although I haven’t really looked into it too seriously Othermill looks quite interesting although as you say it’s not a lathe. Watching this project with interest though, quite an interesting thread.

  4. lineman permalink

    You would have to have a region you were operating in because more than a days drive would eat up your savings… Then you would have to have enough going on in that region to justify having it mobile…I think you would be better off just setting up a stationary shop and let people come to you…Also I don’t think you would be able to pull in the funding you would need to get it all set up…Look at the food trailer that tried to get funding it was dismal…By the way what region were you thinking of running it in…

    • I’m in Seattle, so It’d be the northwest. Probably Montana and Wyoming would be in range to the east. Part of the discussion is if I’m doing a tour type thing, one single trip would be multiple stops so a stop out in Wyoming would not be the only one paying for gas.

      Part of the problem I saw with the food trailer was how they were doing their funding. The better way I would have done that is to set up a “tour” hitting several gun shows and other events and selling meal tickets. The cost to the donor is low and they are incentivized by getting something for their money. There’s also little limit on how many you can sell.

      A makerspace sells time on the machines, and finished product, so the two big incentives are machine time (can be bought a little or a lot) and product, for example for this crowd would be unfinished receivers and doodads they can’t get elsewhere.

      • lineman permalink

        So when you go to fund it are you going to have rewards as hrs on the machines or hrs of being taught by you…

      • Hours on machines. Classes I think would mostly be set up by other people. I would be trying to set up a tour and class schedule for a year or two so part of the initial funding.

  5. Mayorquixote permalink

    What about a surplus ambulance? They typically already have lots of shelving and storage inside and outside along with electrical outlets.

    A quick google revealed this.

    http://www.publicsurplus.com/sms/browse/cataucs?catid=413

    • It could work, depending on the machine tools I get. A pair of Sherlines would do just fine, but if I do as I’d like and get something more like a Tormach I’d run out of weight allowance real fast.

  6. Anonymous permalink

  7. M944 military mobile machine shop. The last one sold for $6800 at govplanet.com. 250hp Diesel, 20kw gen, lathe, drill press etc. — The downside they are not great on the highway. In fact they are no fun at all. A 50 mile radius is most that I would care to drive.

    http://www.govplanet.com/for-sale/Trucks-5-Ton-Cargo-1986-AM-General-M944A1-5-Ton-6×6-Equipment-Repair-Truck-Arizona/590760?h=5000%2Csm%7C1%2Ck%7CM944%2Cmf%7C1&rr=1&hitprm=k%3DM944,mf%3D1,sm%3D1&pnLink=yes

    • Highway performance is important. Other issue is they are very good manual shops, but don’t have the room to properly modernize. Since one of the tasks is to show off some of those abilities, it won’t work to have something that can’t hold them.

    • Skiballa permalink

      Damn, I think that is my old one! it has my squad leader’s name on the TC window, yeah, that truck was in rough shape.

  8. Greg B permalink

    Word of warning, if you’re thinking of renting time on machines for people to finish machine recievers.
    I can’t think of a more effective way to get a visit from F-troop.

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