3D printers and 3D scanners, microcontrollers, drones, DIY electronics like littleBits, and Makey Makey are just some of the tools that are helping grow the movement. They’re growing less expensive — in some cases, they’re already very reasonable — and getting smaller. But this combined with the cloud and the openness in hardware and software give the biggest advance to the maker culture.
The cloud itself is a basic tool in service of the maker movement, enabling increased collaboration, digital workflow, distributed manufacturing (i.e., the download of files that translate directly into objects via a digitized manufacturing process) and collaborative economy. This, combined with the Open source movement, initially focused on software, has been expanding into open-source hardware, assisted by easy access to online plans (in the cloud) and licensing agreements.
Programmable microcontrollers and microcomputers like the Arduino, Raspberry Pi, BeagleBone Black, and Intel’s Galileo and Edison controllers, are easy to program and enable connected devices, and some open source. Combined with the cloud, they’re helping create the Internet of Things.
A very important tool for the Maker culture, additive manufacturing, like 3D printing (including machining, like CNC milling and routing) has moved to the desktop. This combines with the open hardware in the cloud for open-source 3D printing. It also combines with DIY open-source microelectronics to create autoreplicant 3d printers, such as RepRap.