“Maker-Tech” Crosses Lines of Industrial, Office & Retail Uses
The following article was originally printed in AreaDevelopment Q2 2018.
An emerging type of advanced manufacturers, or “maker-tech” firms, is blurring the lines between design, fabrication, and small-batch production facilities to quickly turn ideas into finished products. Sharing many characteristics of the hacker or maker culture, these companies may employ engineers, scientists, and skilled trade workers as well as production line operators to fuel innovation.
These highly flexible, technologically advanced shops are small by industrial real estate standards, seldom occupying more than 10,000 square feet. Nonetheless, their presence is partially responsible for the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing output over the past decade, providing a necessary link in the development of electric sports cars, military-grade drones, consumer electronics, and other cutting-edge products.
To understand maker-tech companies and the real estate that best serves them, it helps to have an appreciation for the way high-speed data connectivity and additive manufacturing or 3-D printing have slashed time-to-market expectations and disrupted traditional product-development practices.
Manufacturing incubators provide space and equipment to help entrepreneurs develop new products, including software labs, machine shops, computer-aided design systems, and other features that are also commonly included in advanced manufacturing facilities. The number and distribution of these incubators throughout the United States underscores the strengthening foothold of maker-tech in driving innovation in manufacturing.