Distributed Fabbing

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Description

Massimo Menichinelli:

"Beside Fab Labs, there are more initiatives about distributed manufacturing and that are worth considering. This initiatives show different business models that can also be used within Fab Labs.

Shapeways is a company that started within the Lifestyle Incubator of Philips at the beginning of 2009 (they then decided to be independent from Philips). With Shapeways, users can 3d print their projects or selling and buying them in a marketplace (user themselves can decide the markup of sold projects: some of them gets $1,000 in profit every month). The price of a product depends on the actual volume (cm³) of material used and includes shipping (some materials have startup costs ranging from $ 1.50 to $ 5.00; most orders are between $50 and $150 but the minimum order amount is $25 per order. Shapeways’s growth has allowed them to drop prices to a third of what they were at their start: they want to be a low-margin business in order to leverage their community. The company generated 244,000 € in revenue over 2009, but at the same time it lost 1,400,000 €. In September 2010 Shapeways received a $ 5,000,000 fund from VC Index Ventures and Union Square Ventures (the same firm that backed Twitter and Etsy) in order to open a manufacturing facility and headquarter in the USA.

Ponoko, a New Zealand company that started in 2007, is a marketplace for fabbing, sharing, selling, and buying products with laser cutting, 3d printing (with many materials) and hardware in the same project. Ponoko started offering only laser cutting, and the other technologies have been added in 2010. 5 digital factories in Wellington, San Francisco, Berlin, Milan and London were established in 2008: each hub is locally owned and operated; therefore pricing, materials, support, delivery and business terms may vary between them. Ponoko gets paid based on the cost of the materials plus $2 for every minute the laser cutter is used. Ponoko now offers a Prime month subscription (at $ 39,00 per month), which has more advantages, services and lower prices compared to the Free account (though Prime is only available for orders made at the NZ and US making hubs). Unlike Shapeways, Ponoko does not require any setup fees or minimum order size. In 2009, Ponoko was reported to have a revenue of $250,000 a year.

100k Garages is a community of workshops with digital fabrication tools (most of them are located in the USA and Europe), supported by machine manufacturer ShopBot and the digital fabrication service Ponoko. 100k Garages provides a marketplace for professional manufacturing services with zero fees (transactions amongs designers and fabbers are in US $), rather than offering shop access to makers. A similar but non-commercial(and open source) service called MAKERFACTORY has opened recently.

TechShop is a chain of member-based workshops in the USA equipped with typical machine shop tools (welding stations, laser cutters, milling machines) and corresponding design software. Access to the workshop is through monthly ($ 125) or yearly membership ($ 1200) for individual membership, but there are also student, family, corporate or one day memberships available. TechShop also offers services like Personal Prototyping, Personal Consulting and Personal Training at $95.00/hour, with a 2-hour minimum (up to 3 additional attendees to Personal Training are permitted at $30/hour each one)." (http://www.openp2pdesign.org/2011/fabbing/business-models-for-fab-labs/)