Long Tail of Manufacturing

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= As the long tail lashes through manufacturing technology, personal fabrication technologies will push product design and manufacturing methods onto the same path already traversed by the music and film industries, the mass media and ecommerce retailers. [1]

Introductory Citations

Personalized design and manufacturing machines will be an emancipating technology, creating freedom for people to work and play independently in ways that were previously restricted to an elite few.

- Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman [2]

Since personal fabrication technologies remove the barriers of investment in heavy machinery and specialized operator skill, consumers, for the first time since the era of artisan craft production, will lead the design and manufacturing process.

- Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman [3]

“Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks. The Internet democratized publishing, broadcasting, and communications, and the consequence was a massive increase in the range of both participation and participants in everything digital — the long tail of bits. Now the same is happening to manufacturing — the long tail of things.”

- Chris Anderson, The Long Tail [4]

Imagine applying online retail models to custom manufacturing, where consumers would locate and purchase niche objects from makers and designers all over the globe, no mass produced products need apply.

- Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman [5]


Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman:


"The long tail effect forever changes an industry when the following conditions are met: there’s a large selection of products or items to choose from, sufficient availability of these products, a large number of potential consumers, and low inventory and distribution costs. All of these forces are already in play in the emerging world of personal manufacturing technologies.

  • First, thanks to ever-improving design software and creative designers, the

number of available electronic blueprints is increasing daily.

  • Second, electronic blueprints can be endlessly replicated quickly and easily.
  • Third, there’s a quickly growing population of people who own their own

personal fabrication machines and those who prefer to shop for designs and let someone else handle the manufacturing.

  • Finally, since objects are made in small batches as demand dictates, no inventory

is necessary for a retailer who sells custom-manufactured, custom-designed products." (http://web.mae.cornell.edu/lipson/FactoryAtHome.pdf)



Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman:

"the long tail of manufacturing is gradually taking shape on web sites such as thingiverse.com which describes itself as “a place for friends to share digital designs for physical objects” (reminiscent of Napster). A quick browse of thingiverse.com reveals an online flea market of electronic blueprints for objects anyone can make if they have access to a personal fabricator.

For example, in the online catalog, a plastic model of the Notre Dame cathedral (“Cathedral Play Set”) is offered alongside a Filament Guide Bracket (a part for a 3D printer) and a pair of black plastic nerd glasses." (http://web.mae.cornell.edu/lipson/FactoryAtHome.pdf)


Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman:

"a long tail manufacturing marketplace taking place in the commercial sector is exemplified by a company called eMachineShop which provides easy, convenient and low-cost fabrication services of custom parts via its web site. eMachineShop has its own, proprietary design software that customers use to design the part they need so they can submit the blueprint design to eMachineShop for an instant price quote. Once their design is completed, customers can play with alternative options that affect the cost of manufacturing their desired design by getting a smorgasbord of cost estimates based on using different available materials, and adding or subtracting product features." (http://web.mae.cornell.edu/lipson/FactoryAtHome.pdf)

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