In 2015, Frank Cornacchiulo and Michael Franchino founded Maker Depot, a company that sells memberships to people who want to learn manufacturing, technical and industrial skills. “We started Maker Depot to help people to develop patents, develop ideas, and to develop the future of manufacturing,” Cornacchiulo said.
Members can use the company’s MakerSpace facility in Totowa. The facility features wood-working shops, metal shops, 3-D printing, electronics, fabrication and computer numerical control machines. The company also sells and leases equipment and 3-D printers to high schools and the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.
Cornacchiulo and Franchino have been friends for more than 30 years. They operate Maker Depot’s MakerSpace seven days per week and they see it as a venue for people to form friendships.
“My job is to be the mother hen, to source materials, to know what is going on, to source wood, to source plastics, and to source acrylics,” Cornacchiulo said.
Many wood-working professionals use the Maker Depot woodworking shop.
Urbano Maher is a freelance artist, teacher, and subcontractor and is a member of Maker Depot. He works on a contractual basis for people who do not know how to make an object.
“One of the benefits of joining the MakerSpace is to grow a small business,” Maher said. “If you do not know how to do something, chances are you can learn how to do it here. There is always somebody who is a retired machinist or a retired carpenter, who has a lot of knowledge and is willing to share. And it is a lot cheaper than actually going to a place where you take wood-working lessons. You go for a week and pay $900 to learn how to use a lathe. Or you can come here, spend $100 per month on a membership and find a lathe-master who will show you how to use it.”
Maher spent the first month of his membership learning to use equipment. He is now teaching other people how to use the computer numerical control machine and the laser cutter. He specializes in 3-D modeling, 3-D design, hand-carving, building furniture, making signs and other projects.
“That is usually where the bread and butter money is,” Maher said. “I do a job in one day and got paid $1,200 for that day. I do smaller jobs on the side. Those kinds of things cover most of my bills.”
Stanley Szczepanski is a member of Maker Depot, taking advantage of the metal shop, woodworking equipment, laser machine and 3-D printing. He made instruments for a defense corporation in the 1960s and worked on the Hubble Telescope, the Space Shuttle and on gyroscopes. He recalled Astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins visiting his workplace before their lunar-landing mission in 1969.
Szczepanski comes to MakerSpace as a hobby and to pass on his knowledge to other people. He makes products that are sold in a store called Just Jersey.
“They sell it for us,” he said. “I made a couple bowls and wine bottle holders. They are really unique. I made a couple cutting boards. I make a laser cut box. I make a solid wooden bowl.”
The husband and wife duo of Graham Clarke and Elizabeth Lieb are also members of MakerSpace. Clarke is a glazier and replaces broken windows. Lieb works in real estate.
“This is the community,” Clarke said. “Someone asks for a hand and they will stop what they are doing.”
Lieb concurs. “I have made a lot of contacts here,” she said.
Shweta Thapa is a co-founder of 3DucatorsUSA. She is also a digital fabrication specialist and educator at Maker Depot Academy. She teaches students who visit from New Jersey schools.
Maker Depot Academy is a 501c3 nonprofit company that Cornacchiulo and Franchino founded and operate that promotes STEM education and teaching. Maker Depot Academy helps train teachers and students on equipment in their classrooms. Cornacchiulo and Franchino plan to dissolve Maker Depot eventually and merge its operations into Maker Depot Academy.
“We want to make this educational,” Cornacchiulo said. “The 501c3 helps build and design Maker Spaces in schools but also helps them decide on what kind of equipment they need to get, how to use it, and how to incorporate it into their curriculum.”
“Maker Depot has given an incubation space to my business,” Thapa said. “They allowed me to grow. Ever since we have been working in harmony.”
Her company supplies 3-D printers to schools and works 3-D projects from MakerSpace. She has provided professional development for elementary schools and performs rapid prototype projects.
“3-D printing makes anything possible and it is the most tangible way to approach things,” Thapa said. “You start prototyping and then you can actually produce anything.”
Her goal is to give students the resources to produce the best results.