3D Printing technology, as it develops, will transform the way we design and acquire products in our society. Many predict that when 3D printing and other 'DIY' practices becomes ubiquitous in households, 'big box marts' as a business model will become obsolete, as consumers not only produce what they want on demand in their homes or at 'makerspaces', but also design the exact products they want.
Micro Center's Chicago branch, located on 2645 Elston Ave, isn't worried about losing profits to the 'Third Industrial Revolution'. For over half a year now, they've hosted a well stocked 'Do It Yourself' section in the left shelf of their video game alcove, filled with various hobby electronics supplies for people interested in building and programing their own inventions.
Arduino circuit boards and parts take up most of this 'DIY' wall. By combining various sensors, mechanisms, logic boards, and micro-controllers together, then programming them with the Arduino language, hobbyists and professional scientists alike can make custom robots, scanning devices, video-game platforms, art projects, and other kinds of sophisticated electronics.
Next to the electronic components is a bookshelf with contents ranging from how-to manuals in Arduino to blank 'Maker' journals for fledgling tinkerers to sketch out their designs in. On the higher shelves are self-assembling electronic boards, science experiments in a box, and other educational kits for kids. Lower shelves hold more sophisticated model kits for hardcore hobbyists: model rockets, programmable robots, RC vehicles, and the like.
Micro Center staff members were quick to point out their rack of Raspberry PI computer components, the most popular products in Microcenter's 'DIY' section. Originally designed as a $40 computer affordable for children of all ages and circumstances, the Raspberry PI core processor is smaller than a paperback novel, comes with a free Linux-based operating system, and can hook up to any model of keyboard.
Aesthetically, it hearkens back to 1980's computers like the Commodore 64: no-frills and with an operating system that encourages experimentation and hobby program. The main processor can be used on it's own, or networked with other units and modules to assemble the computer system of your choice.
Whether permanent fixture or fad, this section in Chicago's Micro Center branch connects the garage programming innovation of the 1980s and 1990s with the future of decentralized, customizable technology that 'DIY' movement members predict. It's also starting place for people who not only want to create new things, but understand the electronic technology that modern society relies on day by day.