I was in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago and I got a chance to check out NextFab Studios. I was really impressed with their setup to say the least. It was a 20,000 square-foot warehouse that had been renovated. It contained a cafeteria (under construction) as well as offices, woodworking shop, welding shop, electronics shop, a paint booth, a camera studio, and an assortment of 3D printers.
The first thing to know is that this is a for profit makerspace. Their business model revolves around many different sources of income including paying members, corporate memberships, government memberships, renting conference rooms for presentations, renting classrooms for teaching, and business incubation.
They have about 300 paying members. When I asked about the popularity of the different shops he said that the woodworking shop was the most popular. The people working in the wood shop consisted of mostly hobbyists, but some were people who built furniture or custom woodwork who needed extra capacity or space to complete a specific job. While I was there the busiest area was the electronics shop and product design. Lots of projects and various forms of completion.
- Community(1day/month) – $30/month
- Weekends – $79/month
- 7 Days a week – $130/month
One thing my tour guide warned about was space. While he liked having a camera studio, it went unused quite a bit. When they needed it, it was really useful, but otherwise it was wasted space that could have been used for something else. He also said that they would take large deliveries and store them for a fee. This allowed people to have their materials delivered to the shop instead of their house. As he explained all of this, I began to realize that their ability to monetize space was very important.
Nextfab also offers their conference rooms for rent. I wish I had a picture, but it was really professional. People who needed to present to venture capitalists, or give any kind of presentation can rent the room, which had a long conference room table and a projector mounted to the roof. He also said that they would host corporate team building exercises as well.
In addition, they host a business incubator. For a fee, a person can rent a small office and have access to the resources of the makerspace and 24/7 access. They were hosting about 3-4 businesses while I was there. My tour guide also said that several smaller firms and some government agencies had memberships. Mostly to get access to the massive 3D printers onsite for prototyping and design. This included a Z-Corp full color 3D printer! All told, they had about 10 different 3D printers onsite.
All together it was a great visit and I really learned a lot.
You can view the full gallery of my visit HERE.