Distributed Manufacturing – A Ray of Hope for Families

Last weekend I went out to Orlando Florida to visit a small company named Uberrime (Uber-ree-may). It’s a one man shop owned, worked, and managed by Marco Uberrime. I had gone down there to observe and understand the process of making silicone dildos by hand. If that strikes you as odd, welcome to the blog! You’ll get used to it. I got the additional education I wanted for sure, and I also got to chat a bit with Marco, quite the interesting fella himself. The shop itself is quite homey, but the production area is quite sterile for reasons that I hope are obvious. While I was there I observed, commented on, and was instructed more or less in how several models were made and the thought processes that go behind that and behind the business. Below are some pictures I took with Marco’s permission of several products curing in molds.

I’ll have more on Marco and Uberrime in the near future when we review one of his products. Those of you who’ve paid attention to the title and the content so far may be thinking I’ve got a screw loose. Henry what the hell do dildos and bringing hope to families possibly have to do with one another!?

Distributed manufacturing, that’s in the title too, and it’s become more popular over the last decade. It’s easy to forget, but the amount of time parents spend working outside of the modern home is anomalous from a historical perspective. For the vast bulk of human history, livings were made by the work done inside of the home. While we’re on that, I highly recommend reading about the history of marriage and getting familiar with it. We live in extraordinary and tumultuous times for families. While our divorce rate is not without precedent from a historical perspective, the severity of the economic burden watching and caring for a child brings is. The opportunity cost of not being productive in order to care for a child has hardly been higher since before we started farming and had to travel from food source to food source, and perhaps even before that.

Even as the industrial revolution raged on, for the most part, it was expected there would be someone home taking care of the kids, this usually was mom and it wasn’t uncommon for mom to have some live-in help. A common first job during the industrialization period was to work in someone’s home where you were also boarded. During the mid twentieth century single-family homes were all the rage, and floor plans picked up separate bed rooms for all occupants for the first time. Live-in help became less common, but someone still stayed home, still usually mom, and the other went to work, and the kids were watched. Only in the last 30 years or so has it become dead common for both parents to work outside of the home to make ends meet. The cost of child care has skyrocketed as a result, and even that is being held down by the veritable daycares our public schools have become with the help of a massive funding effort by uncle Sam. Between school provided meals and after school care programs, the school holiday has become one of the most dreaded days for families around the United States as the question of “who will take care of the kids” becomes a work interrupting emergency, among other things. A substantial part of the population has become so dependent on school meal assistance that many school districts keep offering the service over summer break.

But the tide may be turning on what is hopefully a historic flash in the pan when it comes to latch-key children. Advances in micro manufacturing like affordable 3d printing and CNC mills that fit on your desktop have provided a large facet of what is being called the ‘maker’ economy. As an aside, I think it says a lot about our culture that making things is a participle now. Websites like Etsy provide a place where common people can easily set up store fronts, supported by our expanded and super responsive logistics networks. Services like Amazon have caused our shipping capacity to expand like it never has before, and shipping across the country, and even around the world, has never been easier as a result. The convergence of all these conditions together threatens to bring meaningful production back into the average home, if we are keen enough to recognize the opportunity. More over, people are paying more attention now than ever to what they put in their bodies, how their products are made, where they come from, and are starting to reject goods made to be thrown away, and designed to be replaced rather than fixed. Made-In-[Your Nation-State Here] is no longer the domain of trade protectionists.

Evo-One desktop CNC Mill

Physical creation is actually late to the ‘creator’ party, which is the digital form of the ‘maker’. Blogs like this one, platforms like Wattpad, YouTube, Twitch, and other established and emerging platforms give more places than ever to ply a digital living from the home and that idea has been around for a while. Doing customer service as a call-center-from-home has been a thing for over a decade now. More and more technical work that you only need a computer to do has gone freelance and home-based as well. The emergence of the physical creator into the scene marks an important step forward in my estimation. If our logistics/distribution networks can take the strain, there may just be a real alternative for the working class to leaving their children to fend for themselves in daycares, schools, home alone, and otherwise without the direction and aid of their parents. A home business isn’t just an opportunity to spend more time with family, it’s a chance for youngsters to learn skills they can use to keep themselves independent and out of trouble. A more meaningful way to interact with the real world that sadly, our classrooms have failed to provide.

Formlabs Form 2 3d Printer

Naturally our society will be slow to acknowledge, much less come to parity with, the needs of this trend. While schools both public and private focus harder and harder on serving the interests of expensive diploma mills, our children will suffer from the lack of interest in providing everyday skill education such as balancing bank accounts, basic carpentry and machine work skills (how these fundamentally math based applications escape the ‘STEM’ push eludes me), basic finance, or even a basic set of social skills needed to navigate business. Learn to code? What about learn to operate a CNC mill? Or a 3-d printer? What about learn to take and process payments and avoid tax trouble while doing it? We’re still laser focused on creating middle management and cogs for large corporations. As I mentioned in an older post about the shortcoming of our education system, you as a parent bear the responsibility of teaching and passing on these skills to your children, even if you have yet to learn them yourself.

All those hurdles considered, the future is looking brighter every day for those of us who want to escape, and wish our children to escape, the expectation of the fluorescently lit cubicle farm. Self-determination and personal responsibility it turns out may still have a competitive place in today’s job market, and the future’s as well.

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