The maker movement has truly gone global. There are few places where makerspaces and the maker ethos of collaboration, sharing, creativity, and technologically-driven progress haven’t reached.
While the Southeast Asian nation of Thailand has an ingrained culture of art, creativity, and technical improvisation, the maker movement in its current form used to be a relatively new concept here.
By the end of 2014, Thailand’s capital of Bangkok had its first handful of makerspaces up and running. Since then, many more have opened their doors.
The first of these makerspaces included Gravitech’s Home of Maker, FabCafe, and Maker Zoo. While each had different focuses, they collectively introduced a wide range of maker-oriented events, collaborations, and concepts that would draw many to Thailand who were waiting for just such a movement to come along.
Home of Maker
Founded by Dr. Sharnon “Pan” Tulabadi, Home of Maker’s focus on hardware is central to a now monthly event called MakerHolic (hosted by the Thailand IoT Consortium), helping makers of all kinds network, show off their latest work for each other and the public, as well as give makers and startups an opportunity for greater exposure to potential customers and investors.
In addition to Home of Maker, Gravitech has a Bangkok-based manufacturing facility called RICH (Research and Development Electronic Creative Hub) that prototypes, mass produces, tests, and ships electronic boards including Gravitech’s own Arduino-based microcontroller, the Lambda. Far from just an electronics factory, the facility has a variety of options aimed specifically at the maker community to help foster successful products and small businesses.
Founded by Kalaya Kovidvisith along with co-founders Samustpon Tanapant and Chuta Sinthuphan, FabCafe helps make many of the fabrication technologies found in MIT’s FabLabs more accessible to the general public through a more relaxed cafe-style format. Since opening, they have also been organizing workshops, hackathons, and show-and-tells, bringing together makers and tech entreprenuers not only from across Thailand, but from across the rest of Southeast Asia.
An example of how FabCafe draws together people from across multiple disciplines is its FARM HACK event, a two-day hackathon held every few months connecting farmers with designers, makers, and engineers to create prototypes for agricultural solutions ranging from IoT weather stations to solar powered automated irrigation systems.
Maker Zoo began serving startups with prototyping services and a public makerspace for innovators and entrepreneurs to come and tinker. Like many makerspaces around the world, the team of talented staff ended up doing some tinkering of their own, and eventually moved on to a successful startup called Event Pop, selling event tickets online.
Another Maker Zoo team member, Chonticha Lermtong, would go on to start an ongoing collaboration with a local children’s hospital to use 3D design and 3D printing to prototype and produce solutions for nurses, doctors, and technicians. Her media platform, ProgressTH, has many of these designs available online via Thingiverse.
There is also PINN Creative Space, which originally focused on sewing-related arts and crafts but now incorporates personal fabrication technology like 3D printing and laser cutting into their products, services, and workshops.
And while Chiang Mai Maker Club is not located in Bangkok, its members including its founder, Dr. Panutat “Jimmy” Tejasen, are active leaders in the Bangkok maker movement, organizing workshops, contributing to opensource hardware projects, and proving themselves to be skilled ambassadors for the entire Thai maker movement.
In addition to the maker community itself, there is a growing collection of SMEs serving it. This includes 3D printer manufacturers and suppliers like In2Real3D, SiamRepRap, and ThaiRobo3D and electronic companies like ThaiEasyElec and INEX.
And the list of makerspaces and the companies springing up around them continues to grow, including far too many individuals, groups, and companies to name in a single list.
The best way to get an idea of just how big Bangkok’s maker movement is getting is the annual Bangkok Mini Maker Faire. Organized two years consecutively, Bangkok’s maker community gets together, inviting many of their friends from across Asia, and showcases their projects, products, and ideas to each other and the public.
With support from the public and private sector, and creativity from thousands of individuals, Bangkok’s maker community will continue to grow. And as the maker movement works its way into Thai education, this pool of creativity and innovation will only expand further, awakening many more makers in the near future.
What the growing maker community in Bangkok means to people elsewhere around the world is that what people do at their makerspaces may seem very “local” and “personal,” but its impact and influence can literally reach around the world, inspiring people we’ve never even met. Of course, makers springing up in Bangkok also means a larger pool of ideas and creativity everyone everywhere else can all collectively draw from. And that is the beauty of the maker movement. The more who join, the better it is for everyone.