The Indie Hardware Revolution

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Imagine you are a teenager again, living 10 years from now in the future.
You are in your room, but it looks more like a disorganized workshop. Pieces of electronics litter the floor. Tabletops are scattered with tools and parts you've collected. You haven't left your room in hours, because you're building something incredible.
This project could be nearly anything. A humanoid robot. A new kind of bike suspension. Maybe something the world hasn't thought of yet. You have the resources and knowledge to learn how to make it. All from within your room.
This accessibility describes the current state of software. Nearly anyone can access the tools and knowledge needed to start coding. A project worth tens of millions can be coded by a single person with a laptop and an internet connection.
Hardware is different. Hardware is hard.
It's capital-intensive. Developing an MVP often requires custom parts and equipment. The human capital required is also expensive. Developing a new hardware product from start to finish requires numerous high-skilled individuals.
Then come the logistical challenges. Producing a physical product requires physical inputs. This usually means lower margins. Software infrastructure is widely available at negligible costs. Manufacturing relies on raw materials priced by the market. A production facility of some kind will also be needed. Machinery, even if able to be acquired, is quite large.
As a result, hardware startups almost always require venture funding. Crowdfunding is an option, but the hurdles of hardware make for a low success rate. Bootstrapping is nearly unheard of.
But this is changing. The barriers are falling dramatically.
Today, you can buy machines that craft 3D objects out of wood, stainless steel, and even titanium can be purchased for several thousand dollars. Tools to assemble and remake objects are more accessible than ever. While not cheap, a middle-class person dedicating part of their income to building things can develop high-quality prototypes.
The knowledge barrier is also shrinking. AI might eliminate it completely.
I can already learn how to do almost anything from YouTube videos and Reddit threads. AI can assist in creating the 3D CAD designs. With no technical knowledge, I can produce real outputs with a CNC milling machine on the same day. Without much prior knowledge.
3D printing started a revolution in hobbyist manufacturing that AI will accelerate. It’s largely eliminating the technical requirements, much like it is in software.
What can the average person already do from their garage workshop today?
  1. Custom Drone Manufacturing: Build and sell specialized drones for industries like cinematography and agriculture.
  1. Precision Machined Parts: Create high-precision components for aerospace and automotive industries using CNC machines.
  1. 3D Printed Prosthetics and Orthotics: Develop custom-fit prosthetics and orthotics with 3D printing technology.
  1. Custom Sensors and IoT Devices: Design and produce specialized sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) devices for smart home and industrial applications.
  1. Small-Scale Robotics: Build and sell robots for home automation, education, and industry-specific applications.
  1. Custom PCBs (Printed Circuit Boards): Design and fabricate custom PCBs for electronics enthusiasts and small businesses.
  1. Electric Vehicle (EV) Conversions: Convert gasoline-powered vehicles into electric vehicles with custom-machined and 3D-printed parts.
  1. Sheet Metal Fabrication: Use machines like the Titan 2ST to create custom sheet metal parts for various applications.
When individuals can design, prototype, and produce sophisticated hardware products from their homes or small workshops, the world will accelerate in unimaginable ways.
The rate of innovation will skyrocket vertically and broaden horizontally. More and more people will participate. Local manufacturing hubs will emerge, and supply chains will grow more dynamic. Custom items are harder to produce but higher in quality than mass-produced items. The indie hardware revolution will create the infrastructure to fix things without needing replacements.
With this newfound efficiency, we can increase manufacturing output without increasing inputs. Devices will regain the quality and permanence they had in the mid-20th century.
With more people building, society will once again focus on and glorify these hard skills. We are already starting to see this happen as deep tech becomes cool. How many kids will dream of building B2B SaaS if they can help develop a civilization on Mars?
Government agencies will also benefit from this privatized leap. Companies like SpaceX have already surpassed NASA, and Anduril is winning military contracts over traditional defense contractors.
Taste will become a bigger factor as well. Indie hardware will evolve into bespoke hardware—high-end, physical devices made to an individual's unique taste. Manufacturing will become more nimble and responsive to real-world needs. Hardware will be adapted to cultures and specific desires.
The current oligopoly in hardware production is set to be disrupted. Imagine a small company producing a device superior to the iPhone with just a dozen employees. What if most parts of your home were custom crafted by you?
We can see this kind of revolution happen in hardware, just as laptops and the internet sparked a software revolution. Our education system should provide young people with advanced hardware tools and knowledge to start experimenting and building. This is how you ignite a new era of innovation. Community maker-spaces and public workshops can become incubators for the next generation of hardware pioneers.
Investing in this movement is investing in our future. The foundation for the next wave of technological advancement is being laid in garages and small workshops around the world.