Make4 was started with the idea that members of a community are in the best position to design and build the hardware that they want.
We use the term community as shorthand for online communities like Reddit. Reddit provides a venue where people discuss their interests with others who share a similar passion. The PC enthusiast community is a great example. Millions of people across hundreds of subreddits discuss and debate all things PC. From gaming to mechanical keyboards, the breadth and depth of discussion within this one community is astounding.
Who knows what end-users want more than passionate users that actively discuss the product on a daily basis? When the Maker of a product is the actual User he or she will develop the product until it meets their specifications. This is the essence of Make4. Make4 exists to help enable communities to design and build their own products. The ultimate result will be products that more closely fit the needs of the community.
The simple answer is that the cost of reliable, high quality, and high tolerance, machines like 3D printers and desktop CNC machines are within the reach of the average consumer. Even 2 or 3 years ago the cost of a truly reliable 3D printer was several thousand dollars. Today, you can pickup a functional, quality, 3D printer for around $300. More and more members of the online communities are obtaining the ability to design and produce their own products. This trend will only accelerate as 3D printing and other desktop-manufacturing technologies improve. The goal of Make4 is to highlight great projects, provide exposure to members of the community, and hopefully bring some great products to market.
We strongly believe that the free exchange of information is vital to innovation at the community level. All of our project are licensed under a "share and share a like" style open source agreement. This means that if anyone bases their own product/project off of a Make4 project, they are required to make their improvements open source. The information, knowledge, and experiences gained from a Make4 project can be passed on and hopefully used to help bring new products to market.
Make4 was is a giant "feedback loop" for people who want to bring a product to market. Makers can showcase their products and receive feedback in the early stages of development. This information is vital as it gives the Maker an idea about the viability of their project turning into a product. People interested in the product can follow its development and be ready to help that project reach that, "next stage." This could be a crowd-funding campaign or even the launch of a website where the product can be purchased.
On the other hand, the Maker might find out that there is no demand for his or her particular project. The Maker can either iterate on the feedback or abandon the project altogether. Either way, the Maker doesn't spend time and resources developing a product that is unlikely to ever be successful. However, because the project is open source, it might become the foundation of something the original Maker hadn't even envisioned.