A Visit to Adafruit Industries: the Model for Fab-it-Yourself Gone Pro

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This machine attaches circuits to boards (and you can buy one too).This machine attaches circuits to boards (and you can buy one too).

This machine attaches circuits to boards (and you can buy one too).

On my way to GeekDad Day at the Wired Holiday Store this weekend, I had the chance to drop in on Limor Fried (aka @ladyada) and Phil Torrone (@ptorrone) at the downtown New York (and I MEAN downtown – three blocks from the WTC) headquarters of Adafruit Industries. A lot of us GeekDads are aware of, and passionate for, the awesome products and kits that Adafruit puts out (both through their own site, and MakerShed) – like the Drawdio, MintyBoost, and TV-B-Gone. But you’d also be blown away by the operation they have set up in a 1,200 sf (or so) loft. It’s really a model for a company that does it all – fab, pack and ship – with their own equipment, and self-designed systems based on a lot of open-source tools.

This machines uses frickin' lasers to etch stuff (and you can buy one too).This machines uses frickin' lasers to etch stuff (and you can buy one too).

This machines uses frickin' lasers to etch stuff (and you can buy one too).

What’s most impressive (beyond the board-fab machine or the Epilog laser), is their setup for processing orders. Everything is completely streamlined – print out a color invoice (with a bar code), fill the box, scan the bar code – shipping label prints and info sends automatically to UPS – seal it up, and toss it into a bin to go out. Even though they’re a bit swamped for the holidays, it still allows what is basically a two-person (for now) operation maintain a thriving fabrication and fulfillment company, all built on easy-to-recreate tech.

I know there’s not a lot GeekDad about it, but it’s pretty geeky, and it’s one of those times where knowing how something is made is actually way cooler than just having the thing. Thanks a ton to Ada and Phillip for hosting me at their shop! Also cool is that each week on Saturday nights at 10pm Eastern they live-stream from the loft. Now, back to earning these awesome merit badges they gave me!

The Arduino and Soldering geek merit badges.The Arduino and Soldering geek merit badges.

The Arduino and Soldering geek merit badges.

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