The Open World series of articles documents Liam Grace-Flood’s year of traveling all over the world exploring maker culture and spaces.
Many of our workshops aren’t quite as large as we’d like. South London Makerspace’s 250 members squeeze a wood shop, a laser cutter, a metal lathe, several 3D printers, an electronics lab, a textile space, and a general meeting room all under a single railway arch.
They’ve addressed their space problems most elegantly with DIY air casters. There’s a step by step on their discourse page of how they outfitted their thicknesser planer. They’ve made it easy to pull the planer out whenever they’re using it, and push it back against the wall whenever they’re not.
The planer weighs about 600 kg, so getting traditional casters on something that heavy could be expensive and difficult. Plus, they’d probably tear up the floor. A rail system could solve the problem, but it would be expensive and stuff would caught up in it. On the other hand, the air casters were extremely cheap, and only required some pneumatic fittings, small pieces of laser-cut sheet plywood, and acrylic before being rubber sandwiched together. And they work incredibly well. When the compressor is on, anyone can move the machine effortlessly.
It is possible to buy such systems. Hovair, for example, makes all kinds of air sleds, casters, and pallets. But when it’s so easy to do it yourself, why not?!
Of course, the system does require a compressor and a relatively smooth floor – both things that not every workshop has. That being said, the floor doesn’t have to be immaculate, and an air compressor could actually be cheaper than the kind of wheeled casters that heavy equipment would require. So air casters seem to have the most potential when it comes to a one-size fits all kind of solution.
Air casters aren’t the only thing that SLMS does well, though. Take a look at their crowdsourced history for more insight into how they do what they do, as well as how they got to where they are. As a space, and as a community, they work really well. In a lot of ways, they’re exactly what a makerspace should be – so check them out!
The main banner image is of the “Hovair”
An artist, engineer, and researcher, Liam makes all kinds of things, including public policy, fine art, electric motorcycles, and computational models. His passion for making is rivaled only by his dedication to ensuring other people have the resources they need to make, too. In that vein, as a 2017 Watson Fellow he's exploring how open workshops democratize and decentralize education, innovation, and industry to make better things, people, and communities.View more articles by Liam Grace-Flood