Help! Makerspace people: what is the most valuable equipment

Hey Glowfolk,
I have been running a makerspace/prototyping shop for nearly a decade now and I’ve just been given an opportunity to create a separate, smaller, “less dangerous” makerspace for all different skill levels.
I have been pouring through my wishlists, researching new tech, and scouring websites. but I thought “I already know a bunch of knowledgeable and helpful people who I can ask for advice”…YOU!
What is the best thing in your makerspace, or what can’t you live without, or what do the people that use the space use the most.
Note: this has to be available for purchase/shipping immediately.
Thanks for any help you can lend!!!


laser cutters are always the most popular, and a real money maker (i mean for the lab, not objectively really) in terms of charging hourly to rent it. i’d skip any 3d printer that isn’t reasonably high end.

is there a good woodworking shop in your area that allows public use? that might be a really good angle to take.


That would be a Glowforge. :glowforge:

Well, I don’t have it quite yet, still.

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I’d recommend a good vinyl cutter. Excellent intro to basic cnc and two dimensional design. Safe for all.


While 3D printers can be invaluable, the problem is prints take forever and always seemed impractical at a maker space.


True. We have 8 of them in our space. They’re also finicky and if they’re not all the same make & model, it’s almost a full time job keeping them all working.

A CNC router is a good Makerspace tool but requires 3D design ability so it’s a barrier to entry for a lot of folks. But for people who know how to use one it’s a big draw for the space (they also can be slow and that impacts overall utilization).

Lasers are the big draw for most spaces. They’re approachable from a new skills needed perspective and can be used for a huge variety of projects. One with an adjustable Z-axis is probably necessary - and a rotary attachment is a big step up.


What’s the definition of “less dangerous”? For example, is it worthwhile to get a bunch of quality soldering irons?

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For a 3d printer I would recommend the Zortrax, it’s incredibly reliable. The controls are very limited but it’s one of those trade offs between versatility and consistency. ( quick background: I designed 3d printers for two years and the zortrax was one of the best printers I ever tested and tried to get my printers working as well as them).

Other than a laser and possible CNC I would actually suggest just getting smaller tools like soldering irons, dremmel tools, air brush sprayers, and the like. Also some computers with solid works are a must

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Soldering iron, scroll saw, band saw, router table, drill press, welder


Easel makes it pretty easy for newbies to get started with 2d designs in cnc routing. They’re going to be integrating a carvey and xcarve at our libraries small creative space. The laser cutter (epilog mini) gets a lot of work as well. They have a few dremel ideamakers, and they do require maintenance with the amount of people who go through. I’m part of a larger makerspace but am at the library a lot due to distance and free filament

Consider the fiber arts. Have sewing machines, fabric shears. Hell, even a loom people can collaborate on.


Agreed, the basics are really important. Even if you don’t have a single CNC-type machine, people can do a great deal with the basics and many people just don’t have access to them.


Some people can be dangerous with wet tissue paper.

For safety, see if you can’t wrangle up funds for the Sawstop. Your makerspace folk should be able to manufacture just about anything with that, including other machines made from wood.



Or pull a Dave Gingery and start it all with a corded hand held drill.

I agree with @zaplocked that textile (or PVA foam) arts might be a less risky way to start.


Besides a vinyl cutter, a wide-format printer would be a good option.


To go along with the band saw comment don’t forget table saw, compound miter saw, and maybe the radial arm saw (although not known as the safest) does have some very useful features not found in some of the other saws out there. For the individuals who decide to spend a whole day in the shop don’t forget your basic hand tools or the smaller powered tools such as files, planers, drills hand routers, laminate trim routers, and of course you screwdrivers and hammers. then if you really think it might get some notice vacuum molding or plastic injection molding just a few thoughts.


If these are your key requirements, fibers, clay & paper would seem to be good fits. @zaplocked already mentioned the fiber basics, though spinning and dyeing your own yarn could be added. The vinyl cutter has already been mentioned for paper, but there is also bookbinding as well as all the painting. Add a kiln for pottery.


hmmm less dangerous, but not necessarily NO danger…

What is your “more dangerous” set up so we can see what level of danger we are talking about?

building electronic things (robots, rubber band gatling guns ;-), arduino controlled…anything, raspberry pi controlled things).
Enclosed Laser would also be low danger.
Screen printing

All are fairly low on the danger scale. My judgement is based on what happens if a part of you momentarily comes in contact with the business end of whatever you are working on. i.e. a handsaw can give a nasty, but fairly easily to be healed cut (low danger). A tablesaw will take an entire finger or hand without hesitation (high danger).


Thanks everyone!
more details:
This is at a university, for the students
This is a smaller, shared/multipurpose space.
looking mostly for “safe” self contained CNC machines.
yes, we will have all the standard hand tools.
I currently run a prototyping shop for the engineering students, we have industrial millls, lathes, table saws (sawstop), verticle and horizontal bandsaws, welding machines, CNC plasma cutter, vacuum forming table, etc. etc.
This is more of a space for the rest of the university to come and invent/build stuff with little to no prior experience and oversight.
I’m looking at the Carvey, and a 3D printer, laser cutter, and vinyl cutter.
actually, I should just show the list I’ve been refining over the last month…will post that shortly.



I may have missed these but I did look for them. Glue gun, craft foam- various colours and thickness, Eva foam- floor tiles are good and cheap.

I love clamp - on the hand tool list, should be plural and 200 or so should be enough. Maybe. :+1: