Personal Fabrication for Dummies — Teaching Videos at Replicator, Inc.

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I just discovered the great new blog by Joseph Flaherty, founder of a start-up called Replicator, Inc. While the company will launch in full speed in February 2009, they already were quite successful in securing seed money and attention in a number of important start-up competitions (MIT 100K  (semi-finals), Princeton (semi-finals), and the Rhode Island Business Plan Competition (runner up prize winner)).

I hope that we can meet Joseph at the MIT Smart Customization Seminar in three weeks.

Replicator, Inc., manufactures and sells custom consumer products. Their first product is custom jewelry for tween and teenage girls, sold under the name WhirlyBelle. This is made possible by combining web-based design tools with custom manufacturing

His company blog not just has a recent posting about 47 words you can not use on custom Nike sneakers (which I do not quote here to get my blog not banned from your corporate content filter). In another posting, he has a great chart about the price premiums you can gain with mass customization:

Price premiums with mass customization

A great number of postings covers user manufacturing and the new opportunities for users to produce anything they want. In one of my favorite posts, Joseph explains all technologies that enable personal fabrication. You probably also could Google those, but Joseph created a great posting with small videos explaining all technologies.

Many people think 3D printers are the way this will happen, but there are half a dozen other amazing technologies that allow people to make anything they can imagine.

While by no means an exhaustive list, his list is a is a very convenient overview for anyone interested in how the idea user co-design meets manufacturing. As Joseph writes:

"Combined with web-based design tools these technologies could enable a change as profound as the industrial revolution: increasing the options for customers while reducing the environmental impact."

His posting shows examples of these machines in action and provides a glimpse of what is possible already today:

1. 3D Printers (some notable examples: Z Corp., Dimension, 3d systems, Objet, Desktop Factory, Paragon Lake, Figure Prints, EOS)

2. Laser Cutters  (Notable Examples: Epilog, Trotec, Etchstar, Ponoko, VersaLaser)

3. Waterjet Cutters (Notable Examples: OMAX, Flow Corp, OCC)

4. 2D Plotter Cutters (Notable Examples: Cricut, CraftRobo, Xyron)

5. Print on Demand (Notable Companies: Blurb, Lulu, Shutterfly)

6. Direct To Garment Printing (Notable Companies: Cafe Press, Zazzle, Spreadshirt, Spoonflower)

7. CNC Milling (Notable Examples: eMachine Shop, Tech Shop, Craftsman Compucarve)

8. CNC Embroidery (Notable Examples: Singer, Brother, Toyota)

9. Cut & Sew Construction (Notable Examples: NIKEiD, Timbuk2, Freitag)

10. 3D Scanning (Notable Examples: Z Corp., Next Engine, 3D Digital Corp., Corpus-e)

Go to his web site to watch all videos

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.