Years ago, I did a residency at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. One night, I gave an enthusiastic lecture about the maker movement. During the Q&A, one of the professors asked: "But what is the usefulness of all this? Like 3D printing — is anyone making anything practical with it or just plastic whistles and Yoda statues?"
I was caught off guard by the question. While I certainly knew of people creating real-world solutions with maker technologies (and I stumbled through some of those in my answer), she did have something of a point. I started thinking that something would eventually come along that would really allow the maker movement to show its mettle.
That turned out to be COVID-19. As this Hackaday video recounts, during the early days of the pandemic, when the world's PPE (personal protective equipment) was in perilously short supply, many makers stepped up to 3D print PPE, touchless door openers, ventilator parts, and other necessities. Some hackerspaces and maker companies even started mixing their own hand sanitizer and giving that away.