A distributed network of manufacturers can help you take your passions from working prototype to a mass-produced product line.
If the maker movement is all about democratizing manufacturing, then it would be a good thing to have the leader of the world’s most powerful democracy jump on the band wagon. And so he has.
At the first ever White House Maker Faire this year, President Barack Obama famously proclaimed: “Today’s DIY is tomorrow’s ‘Made in America,'” and in one short sentence, placed the future of American manufacturing squarely on the shoulders of makers.
Given the $29 billion that makers contribute to the national economy each year, maybe this isn’t such a far-fetched sentiment. But even the president can’t change the fact that getting from “today” to “tomorrow” — from maker to manufacturer — requires a tremendous leap. This is the leap that DIYers make in scaling-up from an initial prototype to the kind of production capacity that will grow a project into a successful business.
To help makers get there, several new resources have come online, aiming to facilitate what we’re calling Instant Scale Production. This trend is empowering innovators to quickly and affordably move into mass production without compromising the nimble and highly customizable nature of many maker projects.
Brooklyn-based Maker’s Row takes its catalog of 3,000 manufacturers within the apparel and home décor industries and makes it available to designers and companies who are looking for a partner to mass-produce their creations. Manufacturers join the platform for free, while makers and designers looking for a manufacturer pay $10 to post drawings and specifications in order to attract the right factory or fabricator for the job.
Maker’s Row can also help facilitate messaging, as well as photo and video-sharing within the platform itself. After two years of operation, Maker’s Row boasts a community of 31,000 designers who are looking to scale-up production in the United States. A recent infusion of $1M from outside investors should help the company expand both the demand and supply side of the equation.
BriteHub (formerly Elihuu) has a slightly different approach than Maker’s Row. BriteHub emphasizes the RFQ (Request for Quotes) as a means for makers to connect with both the production facilities and related specialists who can help them move from the prototype phase to full-scale production.
For $19.99, entrepreneurs create an RFQ, which details everything from the preferred location of production to materials and design specifications. BriteHub reviews the request, then distributes it to a network of manufacturers who can then submit bids for entrepreneurs to review and select.
Currently, the site includes manufacturers skilled in 40 different manufacturing processes using over 200 different materials. Like Maker’s Row, communication takes place within the platform which allows entrepreneurs to organize their options in one place and do side-by-side comparisons to find the best match.
Taking a more grassroots approach to helping makers reach Instant Scale Production, 3D Hubs offers designers a global network of individually owned 3D printers to quickly produce prototypes or distribute production out across the network. Autodesk recently incorporated the 3D Hubs API into their 123D suite of design applications and partnerships like these now drive 40 percent of the orders going through the network.
By connecting makers with 3D printers in their local area, 3D Hubs has cut days off of the lead time to have objects produced through larger service providers like Shapeways. Additionally, the concept allows owners of 3D printers to recoup some of the expense of their devices by printing for fellow makers. Currently, there are more than 7,000 printers on the network, spread across 140 countries, and a recent capital raise of $4.5 million will help them to expand further.
The White House is looking to entrepreneurial makers to give the tradition of American manufacturing a much-needed shot in the arm. To do this, tinkerers and innovators around the country are tapping into new resources to bring their projects to a scale that can have real economic impact on their families, communities and nation. Instant Scale Production is making the new “Made in America” possible.
Editor’s note: The “Maker’s Manual” spotlights the do-it-yourself maker movement and how new computing technologies are helping democratize the creation of things once limited to craftsmen and professionals. This 10-week series from PSFK and iQ by Intel explores trends and features interviews with artists, inventors and entrepreneurs who are turning their ideas and dreams into reality.