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4 May 2017

From repair culture to 3D printed panda: Shenzhen makers residencies in the UK

In March 2017 seven UK makerspaces and creative organisations hosted makers from Shenzhen. Find out in our video reports what the makers and hosts accomplished together during the residencies...

Last month saw the conclusion of the first series of Hello Shenzhen residencies. Taking place over the next three to five years this programme consists of a series of exchanges, each focused around the practices, interests and challenges core to Shenzhen and UK maker cultures.

Thirteen makerspaces and creative organisations in the UK and Shenzhen hosted three week residencies for makers, each focused on a specific project.

For our first overview of the programme we’re taking a look at the collaborations between the Shenzhen makers and their UK hosts.

Ten Shenzhen-based makers were selected to take part in the programme and brought with them a wide range of expertise, from industrial design to mechanical engineering as well as providing insights into the unique culture of making and manufacturing in Shenzhen.

The residencies covered a variety of themes, including disability, maker education, community development, sustainability and repair culture.

Watch our short maker residency videos below to find out what the makers and hosts produced together:

FACT Liverpool

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) is a media and arts centre, based in Liverpool. They hosted the Shenzhen-based maker and designer Joseph Wang to explore together how to produce engaging educational resources for young people based on the game Minecraft.

Joseph worked with FACTLab, a research space within FACT to support arts practice and engagement through co-design. With the help of local makers they built a robotic panda using rapid prototyping and Internet of things technologies. The 3D printed panda interacts with Minecraft to help kids learn about programming. They are now looking for partners to test the prototype with schools and develop new educational resources.

Central Research Laboratory (London)

The hardware accelerator Central Research Laboratory hosted two Shenzhen makers in their West London home: Shuyang Zhou, a product manager at Seeed Studio, a company that specialises in hardware electronics supply and small batch manufacture, and Michael Zheng, co-founder of the industrial design company Innozen Design. They helped the CRL startups think differently about their design process, shared crucial information about Shenzhen’s manufacturing ecosystem and helped them identify potential partners.

One of the highlights of the residency was Shuyang’s workshop at the CRL event “Maker Connections” where she shared her knowledge of Design For Manufacturing. The CRL team also helped the two residents connect with the UK maker scene and brought them to local manufacturing facilities. Now that the connection is made Michael and Shuyang are working with CRL to explore new ways to collaborate together and help hardware startups deliver successful products.

Lighthouse (Brighton)

The creative organisation Lighthouse welcomed Dr Wen Wen from Shenzhen for a residency in partnership with the University of Brighton and their new Fab Lab. Their residency aimed to explore how Brighton-based makers can connect to Shenzhen-based ecosystem of suppliers, prototyping facilities, methods of manufacture, and distribution.

The Lighthouse team introduced Wen to the people, places and organisations that together form the network of making in Brighton. The visits included community-run makerspaces, sites of small-scale manufacturing, maker education initiatives, universities, business incubators and more. They used network mapping as a simple tool to make the network visible, trying to visualise the types of organisations, their relationships, their connectedness and how they were clustered. You can learn more about the lessons learned from the residency and the next steps on Andrew Sleigh’s blog here.

Access Space (Sheffield)

Access space is an open digital arts lab practising and promoting sustainability through re-use of technology. Their residency aimed to investigate how maker practices could encourage the Sheffield residents to think about extending the life of things they own.

They worked with Rachael Hu from the Shenzhen-based makerspace Litchee Lab to take inspiration from the making and repair culture in Shenzhen. To highlight the issue of e-waste Rachel created pieces of jewellery from printed circuit boards taken from a trash computer. She explored with the Access Space community crucial questions about our relationship with electronic goods: How much ends up in landfills in the UK or in e-waste scrapping centres in China? How much can be reused, repaired or recycled to increase a product’s lifespan?

Machines Room (London)

Machines Room is a makerspace and community of businesses, designers, architects, artists and engineers in East London. For their Hello Shenzhen residency they hosted Kang Cheng, a 3D printing specialist and Technical Director at Zealfull Tech. Kang worked on a project in collaboration with the Maker Library Residents Disrupt Disability to design and prototype a core ‘hub’ for a wheelchair.

Disrupt Disability are exploring how makerspaces can be used to connect wheelchair users directly to the design and manufacturing process of making wheelchairs. Kang worked closely with Disrupt Disability’s Founder Rachael Wallach to develop a wheelchair hub with a set of standardised interfaces which could then be used to enable wheelchair users to customise and create individual wheelchair components.

Makerversity (London)

Makerversity is a community of professional makers, designers and innovators located in Somerset House in London. As part of their Hello Shenzhen residency they welcomed two makers in their space: Violet Su, community manager of Chaihuo makerspace and Honggang Li, co-founder of Maker Collider. Together they developed Making Connections, a platform for open conversation and peer to peer guidance between Makerversity and the Shenzhen makerspaces.

They live-streamed sessions with a different maker each day to share their area of expertise, from manufacturing to creating a service based business. The online platform will act as an archive of all the connections made, and live on as an active portal between the two cities.

They already have ambitious plans ahead: Chaihuo and Makerversity will offer free membership to makers in each space in exchange for a skill swap or workshop session. Chaihuo will also act as a soft landing for any Makerversity member visiting Shenzhen and help connect them to resources and tools. Equally, Makerversity will offer Shenzhen makers a place to tap into local cultures of making in the UK. They will also bring together designers and engineers working in similar fields to develop new innovative IoT (Internet of Things) products and services.

Impact Hub Westminster (London)

Part of the Impact Hub Global Network, the Impact Hub Westminster is a co-working space for social innovation, civic services and charitable organisations based in London.

For their Hello Shenzhen residency the Impact Hub hosted two maker from Shenzhen: Savio Lai, product designer and Chief operating officer at Artop Group, and Jiuzhou Zhang, product designer and co-founder of Xivo Design. Their residency focused on helping the hub members build connections with China and develop strategies for creating more ethical supply chains between the UK and China.

After meetings, networking events, focus groups and larger workshops Savio and Solo decided that an app would be the best solution for connecting makers and offer essential advice and transparency about the manufacturing process. They prototyped an app that asks the user questions about the product, offers solutions, compare prices and ethics involved in each process. Savio and Solo are working on a pitch deck to gain funding and now have been connected with the Impact Hub Hong Kong to continue their journey.

Hello Shenzhen is a bilateral residency exchange programme connecting makers in the UK and China.

Hello Shenzhen is a partnership between the British Council, The Shenzhen Foundation for International Exchange and Cooperation and Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab.

Hello Shenzhen is developed in partnership with Liz Corbin, Institute of Making, UCL

Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council

With thanks to Kickstarter for their in-kind support