In search of a method to explore his creativity, David Johnson built a micro-factory in his garage. But what he does in his little factory is anything but micro.
The path to David’s current skill set took some interesting turns. He grew up studying and practicing graphic design, in the classic sense. With pens, paints, and paper. Seeing a change in the way things were going, David shifted his focus into technology, not as a graphic designer, as a technologist. David dove into Telecom, networking, software development, and hardware.
As time progressed he did the things he needed to do to become relevant in the space, and eventually landed a 'dream job' for a world known company, working on unbelievably complicated and interesting projects.
Meetings, approvals, and reviews all got in the way of moving ideas into reality, and David felt stifled by the bureaucratic nature of working for big business. And as anyone who has tried to get a project through an organization knows, nothing kills one’s enthusiasm faster than delays, doubts, and red tape.
To get away from the hurdles, David built himself his own mini factory, right in his garage. A full electronics bench, a laser cutter, 3D printer, a Shapeoko CNC router and a Nomad 883 Pro CNC mill. These are the tools of David's trade. In his micro-factory, he is the boss and makes whatever he wishes. His micro-factory isn't for work projects. It's for his own. It is a space for him to explore and experiment with his own ideas. Maybe they'll be products one day, or maybe he just wants to see if he can build them, either way, he built himself the resources to do so.
This is where things get interesting. Unlike 'makers' in the traditional sense, David is obsessed with perfection. Gone are the rats nest wire projects and ugly enclosure boxes from Radio Shack. Gone are the hacked together components typical makers use. Instead, David has an arsenal of unopened components, all meticulously organized and labeled in small sliding bins. All of the components one would need to build something with the fit and finish of high-end, consumer products.
Although David wants to 'make', it is clear by looking around his shop that he's doesn't want his projects to look like they came out of a garage. Browsing through the 'prototypes' he has made over the last 5 years, they are all finished and sitting nicely on shelves. Although David can point out the flaws of each one, those flaws are not obvious (or even visible) to anyone else.
3D printed components have been CA bathed and sanded to a perfect finish where seam lines are almost invisible to the naked eye. Perf boards are not an item he keeps on hand, because for all of these projects David designs and then produces his own PCBs. On top of that he even adds a soldermask and silkscreen. Hot glue? What’s that? Instead he's using threaded inserts, tab and slot, or overlapping features to connect his parts. Features you generally only see in professionally manufactured products.
Software to run these contraptions isn't hacked together, it has been written from scratch, and the UI is as tidy as the code. There is nothing 'amatuer' about any of David's projects. They are possibly the best looking and functioning prototypes one could make without a FULL traditional machine shop.
If you are looking for a contemporary Renaissance man, look no further. David’s talents span a wide array of disciplines and his projects never cease to amaze. To keep up with everything that David is working on, be sure to follow him on Instagram as @diy.engineering and Youtube.