Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur
jducoeur

Personal Manufacture starts to get real

I'm sure that some of my friends are going to find Ponoko interesting, and may even want to get involved with it. Far as I can tell, it's basically CafePress for *stuff*.

At its simplest, it's a marketplace for designs and ideas -- a place for people to trade blueprints and talk about them. Where it gets interesting, though, is that they will actually manufacture the things you design, on a one-off basis. More precisely, they are set up to laser-cut from your designs, in a variety of materials: when someone orders something, they do that, and then ship it off to the designer for final assembly. So it's not quite as hands-off as CafePress, but it does make it feasible for a lot more people to get into the Making Stuff business.

They're clearly ambitious, too -- they're explicit that, while they're only doing laser-cutting now, they intend to get into 3D printing and the like soon. This makes lots of sense from many angles: it centralizes the expensive equipment purchases, so small-scale and one-off design and manufacture becomes more practical than it's ever been.

Very, very neat stuff, and I wish them the best of luck. Getting critical mass for this project isn't going to be simple (something like this needs both buyers and sellers, and getting the first ones can be tricky), but it's one of the coolest ventures I've seen in a long time, and has the potential to be pretty revolutionary in a lot of subtle ways. Heck, I'm intrigued by it as a way to produce custom good-quality game boards relatively easily...
Tags: technology
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