Personal Manufacturing Tools

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Tools Overview

See: Personal Manufacturing Tools

"Personal-scale manufacturing tools enable people that have no special training in woodworking, metalsmithing, or embroidery to manufacture their own complex, one-of-a-kind artisan-style objects."

See: Personal Manufacturing Machines

Typology of Personal Manufacturing Machines (Hardware)

Desktop 3D Printers

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:


"3D printers use as an additive process, meaning they make objects by systematically depositing a chosen raw material in layers. Somewhat similar in concept to that of an inkjet printer that orchestrates different colored print cartridges to form an image onto paper, the most common household 3D printing process involves a “print head” that works with any material that can be extruded, or squirted through a nozzle. Another common type of 3D printer uses a laser beam or glue to selectively fuse powdered plastic, metal, or ceramic raw material in layers." (

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Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

"Today’s lowest cost 3D printers have their roots in university research projects. The two leading consumer-level 3D printer platforms originated from university research labs at Bath University in England, and Cornell University in the United States. The University of Bath’s 3D printer is called RepRap and Cornell’s is called [email protected].

Perhaps because of their university origins, the machine blueprints for both RepRap and [email protected] are freely available to anyone who wants to build their own machine, or to improve upon the existing designs.

Not only do Cornell and the University of Bath openly publish their machine design blueprints, they permit commercial companies to develop and sell their own versions based off of the designs of the original university machines.

In contrast, commercial-scale 3D printers are developed commercially and their product designs are proprietary and not shared publicly." (

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Desktop CNC Routing and Milling Machines

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

"more established than 3D printers are desktop-sized numerically controlled (CNC) routing and milling machines. These machines use a physical blade to cut and carve precise designs into a broad range of materials. Under the guidance of an electronic design blueprint, a rotating mill bit, sometimes called a cutter, is spun along by a motor called a router or spindle. As the electronic blueprint guides the cutter along x, y and z coordinates, the cutting tool makes multiple passes over the material to create perfectly carved engravings or shapes." (

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Desktop Laser Cutters and Engravers

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

"laser cutters and engravers use intense, focused beams of light to cut out shapes and engrave images onto a wide variety of materials. Laser machines can produce images, text or designs in an amazing level of detail and precision. Laser cutters are versatile and can cut a range of materials from wood to plastics to leather, and can etch or engrave metals, glass and ceramics. Their versatility, speed and precision make them ideal machines for small businesses to create design prototypes and customized consumer products. Beyond engraving, one of the most common uses of home-scale laser cutters is to precisely cut parts out of a sheet of acrylic or wood. These parts can be assembled by hand into complex, 3D products." (

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Desktop Sewing and Embroidering Machines

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:

"Automated, personal-scale embroidery machines are already available in mainstream stores such as JoAnn Fabrics." (

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Desktop Circuit Makers

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:


at-home manufacture of circuit boards is a rapidly emerging application for hobbyists and electronic designers.

Desktop circuit makers offer a clean alternative to traditional chemical-based processes, making them an appropriate tool for the classroom, lab or home." (

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Computer-Aided Design Software

Hod Lipson and Melba Kurman:


"Hardware is not useful without software. The adoption of personal-scale manufacturing machines comes hand-in-hand with the emergence of cheaper, and increasingly accessible computer aided design software (CAD).

Industrial designers and engineers have used CAD software for decades. However, CAD software has been slow to reach the consumer market and remains one of the last bastions of software still targeted to, and controlled primarily by high-end industrial users. CAD software is expensive, requires a computer with an excellent monitor and lots of memory, and perhaps most importantly, has a long learning curve that deters casual users. In industry, CAD software long ago replaced drafting tables and paper blueprints. However, due to its cost and complexity, CAD software has remained the tool of trained specialists and professional designers, not home users.

Industrial designers use CAD software mainly to design detailed 3D models or 2D drawings of components or floor plans. Process diagrams are another popular application.

The cost of CAD software is dropping and software companies are working hard to make it more user-friendly. In 2008, Google entered the CAD game with a no-cost version of 3D modeling software called SketchUp. Currently, SketchUp is offered in a “Pro” version that costs about $500 (at the time of this writing), alongside a free version."


"Realistically, though CAD software continues to drop in price and complexity, it’s still nowhere near as user-friendly as today’s mainstream office applications.

Another barrier is that even the low-end CAD software described above was not created with personal fabrication applications in mind. Instead, today’s CAD software reflects its industrial legacy and is intended primarily for modeling and visualization applications rather than designing consumer goods and machine parts.

Ideally, to accelerate the adoption of CAD software aimed at the personal manufacturing market, design software would need to be easier to use and optimized for the unique constraints and capabilities of the physical manufacturing process." (

See also: CAD for Personal Manufacturing

CAD Tools

  • In 2008, Google entered the CAD game with a no-cost version of 3D modeling software called SketchUp. Currently, SketchUp is offered in a “Pro” version that costs about $500 (at the time of this writing), alongside a free version."

More Information

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  2. Personal Manufacturing Industry