Personal Manufacturing - Discussion

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How Personal Fabrication Will Change Manufacturing and the Economy

See: How Personal Fabrication Will Change Manufacturing and the Economy

Personal Manufacturing contributes to:

"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." (

"Similar to the world of rare book sellers or specialized web-based retailers, manufacturing companies and designers will unearth profitable niches by selling custom products, on demand, to customers from all over the world." (

  • Economic emergence of underserved communities;

"we will witness a growing amount of consumer-led product development and modification across a wide range of industries that manufacture physical objects, similar to the already mainstream open source software model. Already across diverse industries such as printed circuit CAD software, surgical equipment, sporting equipment and pipe hanger hardware, up to a third of product users reported designing, modifying and developing their products themselves to suit their needs." (

"Personal-scale manufacturing machines ... enable small manufacturers to make one product at a time in response to customer demand, and scale up production as the product sells. ... Regular people and small manufacturing companies that lack investment capital will be able to set up low investment, “start small and scale up as it goes” businesses. Thanks to the low-cost Internet virtual storefronts, and the low cost of small-scale manufacturing for prototypes and custom goods, new companies can get started on a shoestring budget, yet sell their wares or services to niche, global marketplaces. The “scale up from one” aspect of personal manufacturing democratizes the world of manufacturing and retail by lowering the barriers to entry. Launching a new product today requires its maker to start large: industrial-scale manufacturing machines are not designed to make only one item at a time. Personal-scale manufacturing machines ... enable small manufacturers to make one product at a time in response to customer demand, and scale up production as the product sells." (

  • Eco-conscious and subsistence-level manufacturing;

"With local, onsite production, long-distance shipping of the completed item is no longer necessary. Products and parts can be made only when they’re needed, saving on storage space and the costs of maintaining un-used goods and products." (

the potential rewards of toolkit-based, user led design could outweigh the high cost of developing products that no one wants to by. Toolkits enable a company to collect a direct physical manifestation of what their customers want." (

Barriers and Challenges to Personal Manufacturing

See: Barriers and Challenges to Personal Manufacturing


  1. Consumer Safety and Quality Control
  2. Hardware-Related Challenges
  3. Hardware and Software Standards
  4. Version Control
  5. IP Issues

Business Model Challenges

See: Personal Manufacturing - Business Models

Fabrication as an Educational Medium

See: Fabrication as an Educational Medium

Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman:

"Personal fabrication technologies provide a powerful educational tool that puts students into the driver’s seat in the design and engineering process, a “soup to nuts” learning experience that reinforces a number of the abstract concepts students learn in STEM classrooms. Computer design software, combined with low-cost, small scale manufacturing technologies, when integrated into science and technology classes, help educators craft physical models that help demonstrate abstract educational concepts. By removing the barriers of specialized resources and skill that currently prevent many ideas from being realized, personal fabrication technologies will excite and empower a new generation of inventors." (

We Need Clean Company Tax Benefits for Personal Manufacturing

Adrian Bowyer:

“One of the potential advantages of home fabbing is the massive reduction in goods transport that would be consequent on people's making lots of stuff for themselves, with all the greenhouse gas savings that that implies. Well, for energy itself we now have feed-in tariff laws, which oblige utilities to pay a fixed price for home-generated green electricity. This costs government nothing, as the utilities pass the charges on to their other customers. Dirty energy users are paying a premium, which is then used to reward clean generators. By analogy, one can imagine changes in, say, sales tax laws that would increase the cost of finished goods, but reduce that of raw materials used by personal fabricators. This would be revenue-neutral for government, but would encourage the use of the technology with consequent transport savings.”

Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman:

"Companies that use personal manufacturing technologies deserve competitive advantage for their eco-friendliness. Personal manufacturing keeps production regional, but also is less polluting than traditional mass manufacturing methods. Personal-scale manufacturing technologies offer a more precise form of manufacturing that leaves less toxic waste and manufacturing scrap by product. As a result, personal fabrication technologies provide a natural vehicle with which to experiment with local, recycled, or novel materials. More research is needed to pinpoint the optimal criteria for “clean company” tax advantages.

Examples of possible criteria would be to offer advantages to manufacturing companies that:

  • Use a certain percentage of raw material from their local region
  • Use a certain percentage of raw manufacturing materials are of re-used waste materials
  • Produce few than a certain number of tons of waste per year
  • Emit a certain amount of exhaust into the air or nearby groundwater."