Hello everyone,

I am currently working on an idea for a startup using lean. I made a video of what I want my startup to do. The video still needs some polishing but I hope it will give a clear image of the product.

Things I want to know.
Are you a designer, a maker or both?
If you are a designer is this service something that you would use?
As a maker would you apply for such a network?
What amount of money would you need to be paid per order? Choose something between $4 and $10. One order meaning one print or one cut of the CNC machine.
Do you know websites from individual makers?
Some tips in general. What would you require?

Thanks to everyone who’s helping out. It’s much appreciated.

I for one like the idea. It will require a lot of work, so hopefully you are not thinking of this as a get-rich-quick scheme. This is not just setting up some dispatch app and you’re done. It does have a tremendous amount of potential.

I think the biggest issue to overcome will be on the manufacturing end. It would be nice if every product was a single part, but that will be the exception and most finished goods will be assemblies. Even you example you use on your video, a chair, illustrates the problem. How is the manufacturing end going to estimate the assembly and finishing costs? Are you going to keep that rate the same between manufacturing sites? How are you going to ensure quality between manufacturing sites? Any incentive for the sites on GP? Then you have to loop this back to the cut of the designer and yours as the middleman.

Being on the designer side, I wouldn’t join until I had a clear understanding of all the business details.

Just my .02.

Seems like you need to flush out the details more. Right now you have an extremely wide statement.
I think you need to take some products and really work out the logistics from there.

Some good examples of websites are:

etsy.com - for pretty much anything custom. From birthday invitations, to clothing, art and furniture.

Custom furniture, home decor, and unique jewelry made for you by the most talented makers in the world | CustomMade - Custom made furniture & decor. I cam across this one while researching outdoor patio furniture. THis may be your perfect product. I was tired of the cookie cutter patio sets at Lowes or Home Depot. The nicer sets at other stores were ususally 3-5x the cost. If looking for a wood patio set, you can hire a local wood worker/carpenter to make it for you…specially if its a modern design. Plenty of do-it-yourself plans out there. Best of all, if it’s somebody local…no shipping.

https://www.3dhubs.com/ - If it’s strictly 3D Printing then this is the place. Ability to search by region, material, etc.

https://www.ponoko.com/ - Designers & makers marketplace.

Good luck.

Some good points so far.

Check out Opendesk. https://www.opendesk.cc/ Colin which was featured on Core77 recently: New Online Resource Colin Offers an Easy Way to Find and Communicate with Local Manufacturers - Core77

My understanding right now for your idea is that a customer looks at designs on your website, finds something he likes, somehow gets quotes from local fabricators and ultimately makes the purchase at which point presumably a design documentation package gets sent to the fabricator which in terms makes it.

I don’t know what’s your level of experience in the manufacturing field but things don’t usually work this smoothly when getting something made, even if you provide stellar documentation. There’s usually quite a bit of back and forth between the fabricator and the designer/engineer. Material availability, tooling availability, equipment requirements, heck just the fabricator wanting to make sure they understand correctly slow things down.

IMHO, these kinds of on demand fabrication businesses work when say Shapeways or Protolabs have built up great software that are able to give feedback on manufacturability and are using machines that have a lot of freedom in what they can do. (You often end up in direct contact with someone at protolabs anyhow…). Or the flip side like custommade FH13 mentionned where a maker has a lot of freedom in how she builds.

One interesting business proposition would be an on demand manufacturer. IE you have a clearly defined set of manufacturing capabilities. Designers can work and verify their work with your business. Then, you have could have several of these small but uniform manufacturing centers throughout the world that can fulfill orders. Unfortunately, I kind of doubt the fact that you’d be closer would offset the potential savings from mass manufacturing. And by mass, I mean anything more than 5 of something at a time.

Are you a designer, a maker or both?

If you are a designer is this service something that you would use?
Yes, if the quality is good - you will need a good quality control procedure across makers and manufacturing techniques

As a maker would you apply for such a network?
Yes, if the network is active enough (which 3D hubs is not anymore, for example)

What amount of money would you need to be paid per order? Choose something between $4 and $10. One order meaning one print or one cut of the CNC machine.
$10 is a fair price for a small 3D print

Do you know websites from individual makers?
Yes, I check the ‘competition’

Some tips in general. What would you require?
Shapeways works well because they have good quality control automation.
If you can combine such a system with connecting makers and customers AND keep it simple, it will be a success.
This way we can set up custom prototyping houses.
Guiding the information flows is the main challenge - how do you make sure the customer sends enough details and the maker will understand it? Meeting specs to requirements can be a very tedious, iterative and overly technical process that the client does often not want to go through.

The general idea of global production partners is a great idea, and actually a lot of large companies are already doing this, increasingly so. In my opinion though, I don’t really believe the “Maker” movement has a true roll in producing robust products with consistency. Aside from extremely simple products, you’re not going to find many makers that have the capabilities in my opinion. I’m talking things like ESD protection, Upholstery, Sewing, Sharpening, Assembly, the list goes on. Think bigger and I think you’re on to something.

First, I am a big supporter of local manufacturing and shipping data rather than goods whenever possible.

I think there is a fundamental problem, you assume that if you can reduce shipping by transferring data to a another location then all other costs stay the same. You’re taking the “mass” out of mass production and that is where most of the efficiency is built in. I think you’re talking about makers and local fabricators and not necessarily factories but there are still purchasing and assembly efficiencies as well as material inventory issues to consider.

On top of that your rate of $4-$10 doesn’t go very far in covering any overhead to own and operate this machinery and if it does then it definitely doesn’t leave anything to cover the hourly cost of skilled labor setting up, babysitting and then assembling and packing out the job for shipment.

There may be a model here for sustainability and community but i don’t think it can all be wrapped up in a tidy package that also includes 70% cost saving.

if this is just about basic 3d printed and cnc cut parts you should check out 3dhubs

Yes to the first part, but I’m not so sure on the second part. That will heavily depend on the skill of the designer and advancement of rapid manufacturing.

Why does tooling need to be hardened steel? Why not a resin that is good for a few shots, but then can be reground and used as a new resin tool? Why not design an aluminum lamp with a paper shade that was water-jet cut and bent?

Not to say that a decentralized model won’t have issues, but just thinking about opens all sorts of possibilities. I think it would be a very exciting area to explore. I love taking what’s old and making it new again.

I agree with your points, i’m a big fan of decentralized everything… manufacturing, banking, power
my point was that you cant just assume there is no change in any cost but shipping and in my opinion if were talking about anything other than simple parts the cost will go up.

but if you want me to put my ball buster hat on…

Why does tooling need to be hardened steel? Why not a resin that is good for a few shots, but then can be reground and used as a new resin tool?

it doesn’t need to be hardened steel and quite often it’s not. Generally soft tools like you are suggesting are made from thermosets which can not be reground and used over again like thermoplastics. When you do regrind a thermoplastic you can max out at about a 20/80 regrind/virgin material mixture and that’s on the high side. Every time you do reuse material like that the properties degrade slightly and that’s probably not great when you need specific tolerances in your mold.

low volume tools still cost money and by nature that cost must be amortized over fewer shots.

If I’m not mistaken acrylic molds (thermoplastic) can be reprocessed completely.

On topic, decentralization also in practical sense means that noone is taking on full responsibility. Until someone brands the system, and guess what, you will have to carry all the responsibilities over everything happening in the entire network. That is the complexity of it.

My 2 cents is to rather than focusing on a specific production method, focus on a specific niche audience and maximizing brand loyalty.
‘Thinking big’ works less well for decentralized systems where development is mostly ground up.

I agree. Costing on the proposed model is one of the largest caveats as I pointed out in my first post. Determining whether a centralized or decentralized model is “greener” or just greenwashed is another. The third, but certainly not the least is who is the entrepreneur driving the development process.

And maybe the manufacturing processes are limited, but you can get a lot of things made without molding, it all starts with that initial design. Some designers will complain about limitations, but I for one would like the challenge.