Donal Reddington on mass customization, crowdsourcing and digital manufacturing


Digital Reality

The Make Magazine Blog recently carried a short post about a demo page depicting an ‘online digital manufacturing’ service on the site of 3D technology company Digital Reality. The copy on the page says that users can “create and sell custom toys, jewelry, motorcycle accessories, accurate fine scale modeling parts, promotional products, and millions of other unique products”.

Logo of Digital Reality Corp

I enquired with Chris Norman, President and CEO of Digital Reality Corp. as to the status of this development. He informed me that the company is currently focused on patent prosecution globally, and that the online marketplace project is at a very early stage. The company has filed non-publication requests for their patent applications until such time as they are granted. The marketplace project is likely to be progressed further by the last quarter of 2007 or the first quarter of 2008.

It appears that Digital Reality intends to position itself as a technology provider for enterprises wishing to enter the digital manufacturing sector in the future. The demo page referred to above would be shown to potential clients to show what they could do with Digital Factory (TM), their core product currently under development. It is based on a patent pending process called Made-To-Order Rapid Manufacturing Enterprise. MTO-RME integrates web 2.0- based internet, CAD/CAM, Enterprise Resource Planning & Rapid Prototyping hardware to create an online design, sales and manufacturing system using Direct Digital Manufacturing.

Image of headlight before flames embossed

Edit 11/08/2007: These pictures show a motorcycle headlight and that has been “personalized” using what is commonly referred to as a 3D displacement map. If you look at the first picture, you will see that the headlight bowl is smooth. The second picture shows the headlight bowl embossed with ‘flames’. Chris Norman explains: “Basically, it (the 3D displacement map) allows someone to use an image to create a terrain mesh which is effectively a 3D mesh on a surface. Using this technique, it is possible for the general public to do all sorts of things to objects without messing with the underlying design intent of the product. This is one powerful tool Digital Reality is developing and coupling with our WYSIWYG 3D-based product system we like to call Made-To-Order Digital Manufacturing Enterprise. We use 3D CAD files as the actual products and print them directly from the CAD files using 3D printing technology (commonly called Rapid Prototyping). What’s special is that we are going to allow designers to publish designs in our system and allow consumers to “tweak them”, letting them see in near real time the modifications and how they affect to the product in 3D. The 3D object that the customer sees is in effect the digital representation of their physical manifestation, a complicated way of saying that what they see is virtually what they get. In this case, a Cast Aluminum & polished motorcycle headlight.”

The same headlight after flames embossed with a 3D displacement map

To create this representation, a mesh was wrapped on the surface through a tool that Digital Reality has developed. This tool will form part of the customer-facing functionality. When a customer uses it, they make their own product and it gets printed via 3D RP with the customer driving the sale and production.

According to Chris, one of the implications of this is that Digital Reality can establish connections with bureaus around the world and send the 3D files across borders without any of the costs associated with manufactured goods.

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6 Responses to “Digital Reality”

  1. Derek Elley Says:

    Hi ya Donal

    Yes, Chris is doing some very cool work! We have been talking about how to ‘grow the pie’ in this amazing new digital industrial revolution.

    While Chris is taking the route of technology provider to enterprises, Ponoko is for the exploding creative class, digital manufacturer and consumer markets to create, make and consume individualized products more quickly, more easily and at less cost than before.

    You can check out some of the products our private beta creators have made —> http://www.ponoko.com/blog/2007/07/22/ponoko-beta-user-night-at-the-paramount/

    We go live in September 07 and accepting pre-registions at http://www.ponoko.com/registration – we’ll be sending personal invitations to check us out as soon as we let this thing loose.

    We’re VERY excited by the buzz.

  2. Jesse Kaufman Says:

    As a CAD/CAM artisan using 3D design technology to create jewelry, I understand the potential for making the technology more accessible. This is the future of design and product development. Very exciting!

    -jdk-
    cad/cam technology
    handcrafted originality
    http://jdkjewelry3d.blogspot.com

  3. Chris Norman Says:

    Thanks for the Kudos here folks. It is appreciated. I especially like hearing from Jessee on his topic of being an “Artist”. Our product will let folks with Ideas bring those products to market without the fixed costs of doing so traditionally. Think it up, sketch it up and we handle the rest. Best of all, you get paid for each sale and you still own your design. Its going to open a whole new realm of consumer-driven product development and since one-off becomes cost effective in this manner, all of the other barriers to product diversity and basically getting consumers what they want go away!

  4. Chris Norman Says:

    Digital Reality seeks funding: We’ve exhausted our seed funding and are in need of a serious investor at the $1.5-3MM USD mark. $1.5 will provide thru beta. $3MM is a value we’ve determined would get us operational. Give it to us in traunches, we’ve got a development schedule and are prepared to offer serious equity in the IP and company.

  5. Chris Norman Says:

    News Flash-Funding arrived….en mass. Patents on 4th round and almost done! The world will change in 2009-2010! Stay tuned :-) We’ve gone stealth for a good reason!

  6. Donal Reddington Says:

    I look forward to hearing more…

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