Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing

Lawrence J. Rhoades on Desktop Manufacturing

Via the P2P Foundation blog, I recently read an article entitled The Tranformation of Manufacturing in the 21st Century, written by Lawerence J. Rhoades of Ex One, a developer and supplier of innovative manufacturing technology and equipment in Pennsylvania, USA.

It is an excellent and comprehensive article detailing the nature of desktop manufacturing and how it could bring about a new industrial revolution will enable people to live where they like and produce what they need locally.

Mr. Rhoades concludes his article with a prediction for the new economy to come:

“Even if products are designed remotely, however, production will be done locally. Physical objects will be produced “at home” or “in the neighborhood” from locally recycled materials. Thus, cities will lose their economic advantage, and urban populations will be dispersed.

Although the revolution promised by these technologies could have great benefits for consumers in developing countries, the economic advantages of manufacturing in areas with comparatively cheap labor will be ultimately unsustainable, and workers in poor countries are likely to suffer. Consequently, our energy and creativity must also be focused on finding other paths to economic parity in the value of equivalent human labor to hundreds of millions of low-wage workers throughout the world.”

Sadly, Mr. Rhoades died on April 21st last.  Even though he will not see the Tranformation of Manufacturing realised, his article lights the way for those who will follow, and highlights the responsibilities that go with the pursuit of progress.

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One Response to “Lawrence J. Rhoades on Desktop Manufacturing”

  1. Nic Ward Able Says:

    It is a fantastic article. And highlights the very real future of the unlimited capabilities with personal manufacturing – the beginnings of which are already underway, as designers/creators/inventors upload their designs to get them onto the market, or utilise the digital manufacturing hardware as a more financial (and envionmentally friendly) viable way of prototyping prior to offering their product to the greater public. And I fully believe that the future isn’t too far away where it will become part of a general household’s ‘tools’ much like the home printer/scanner is today. Ponoko is the first company to offer anyone the place to buy and sell digital products. We’re in closed beta testing at the moment, which has utilised 19 independent designers to test Ponoko, and highlight any hurdles we need to overcome before opening up Ponoko to everyone. We had a showcase night for our independant beta designers a week ago, there were 29 designs from our 19 designers, ranging from bike lights and tables, to jewellery and a chess set. See the blog here . Further to this, three of the designers have alrady started to sell their products overseas – not just to their friends and families! When someone asks ‘what will a person be able to design and build through Ponoko?”- I think – ‘how far does your imagination stretch’. As I believe that’s what design combined with digital manufacturing hardaware is going to give us – unlimited imagination, with no necessary requirement for a degree in design or engineering for the end product. It’s pretty exciting stuff – and Ponoko can’t wait for the next hurdle to jump over and see what’s on the other side! What we do encourage is for any present or budding designer, crafter, inventor or the like to log on and sign up for our open beta, which will happen in a few months! Register here . So they too can become part of this incredibly exciting future. Cheers, Nic Ponoko.

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