On July 7, 2012, NPR’s Jon Kalish reported on the growth of DIY making, specifically using 3-D printers to replace a broken part on a baby stroller for a lot less than what the manufacturer wanted for the part. Power to the makers! Our original 100kGarages partner, Ponoko, gets a nice mention, and Kalish references the resources of 100kGarages as well.
Regular Springwise readers may remember Ponoko, the company that turns consumers’ creative ideas into real-world, manufactured goods. Some 30,000 products have been made a reality using Ponoko since its launch back in 2007, and now the company has kicked off yet another initiative: 100kGarages, a site that connects creative consumers with small-scale, local garages that can do the manufacturing for them.
This year, ShopBot and Ponoko introduced 100Kgarages, a program in which it acts as the interface between designers with ideas and producers with Shopbot tools in what they hope will be a hundred thousand garages and workshops across the country. Shopbot owners get work; designers get tools; the public gets access to both. The best ideas from everywhere can be made in your backyard. This really will change everything.
So with all the talk recently both in favor of and the rather cynical counter-take on the 'new industrial revolution' I figure that it might be good for someone who's personally involved to share their thoughts as well. Take it for what you will, for this is just my view, but so far most of what I've seen written about it hasn't come from anyone directly involved with it.
It was just a few weeks ago that we returned from the AWFS Woodworking Trade Show in Las Vegas. I had been looking forward to the show as an opportunity to get a pulse on what is happening with ShopBotters, woodworkers, and the economy.
As designers, we are all familiar with how difficult it is to push small projects through the vast industrial manufacturing complex. You have the idea, the drawings and the money, but factories have no time or patience for your small run. Or it's difficult to find someone open to having a conversation about the methods available to produce your rather experimental piece. Well, 100kgarages is here to change all that.
During the 2007 US Presidential debates, journalist Tom Brokaw asked candidates Obama and McCain whether our challenges would be best solved by… "funding a Manhattan-style project or by supporting 100,000 garages across America to encourage the kind of industry and innovation that developed Silicon Valley?" A new website takes the second approach! Inspired by Tom Brokaw's question to the presidential candidates, 100Kgaragesis a community of workshops all over the world that are run by "Fabbers", with digital fabrication tools for precisely cutting, machining, drilling, or sculpting the components of any user project.
This is quite interesting - a partnership between Ponoko, producers of a terrific personal manufacturing and sales platform, and ShopBot, makers of inexpensive CNC Routers. What they've done is create a new gathering place for both designers and fabricators: 100KGarages.com.
An important connection has been made which brings to fruition what I foresaw happening about a year ago in my previous article Part 5: The evolution of mass customization and personal manufacturing Each part of the chain for truly distributed and democratized product design and personal manufacturing have essentially come together to form a coherent whole.
Designers are rarely short for ideas. In fact, the problem lies less often with coming up with an idea, but rather in taking it from the concept stage to a manufactured prototype or even a product. Large manufacturing and fabrication plants tend not to want to have to deal with the amount of work that a small run of a new product can bring to them. It simply doesn’t make best use of their time and manufacturing equipment to do small runs of production from a business standpoint.
It is far more economically sound to do large runs for clients that have tooling that does not need constant tweaking, but instead can be run around the clock relatively maintenance free. So then, designers run into a problem when they are trying to initially get products into a prototype stage, or perhaps even beyond that, to a finished product stage with a small number of total products to be manufactured. Rapid Prototyping has made it affordable for some studios to do such prototyping in house, but not all types, and not for all studios (and what of singular designers trying to get something fabricated?).
100k Garages is trying to bridge the gap between small, local fabrication shops and designers with ideas that want to see them turned into reality.
The 100kGarages idea not only turns centrally based manufacturing on its head; it also promises to reduce transportation costs for designs sold to consumers located near each “garage.” Such a model is unthinkable in traditional mass production methods, in which specialized machines and well-trained labor help to ensure quality control from a central point—but which also result in high transportation-related fees and energy consumption. With 100kGarages, precision is controlled largely by machine-driven processes, allowing fabricators to be more involved with assembly and finishing near the point of delivery.