Viral Cloud Manufacturing

This is the most interesting thing that’s turned up recently:


Nice innit. It’s a small plastic thing. You can never have enough of those.

What it is, is… the peeps who make the little Makerbot things… little laser-cut 3D printers with a bit of the reprap tendency built into them, found themselves a bit hassled for time and are offering to pay people to make parts… with their own makerbots. They’re paying a $1 a go.

Now… I’m not sure if anyone’s done the numbers on this (they must have done, but what are they? what are they?)… on how much of a bite materials/electricity/postage makes out of the profits… or how many can be made an hour etc etc…

… but, in the Web 2.0 world, there’s a list of tickboxes for “signs that your startup will be successful”, and top of the list is “it helps people make money”.

This raises a potentially interesting scenario (if the numbers do work out) of people buying Makerbots JUST to make the parts for other Makerbots. You’d have this potentially rapid proliferation of a technology that serves no other purpose than to self-proliferate… because (god-dang it) I still haven’t seen anything that a reprap’s produced that would stand up against an injection-molded rival, that would cost a fraction of the price.

A reprap bubble in other words.

Now… what really needs to happen is for this to somehow be driven not by $$$ but as currency that looks a little bit like this:

ie: a currency based on abundance-of-production, rather than being lent into existence (at interest) as a scarce resource… that we then fight over etc.

Despite what Gordon Gecko says, This is NOT a zero-sum game. We’ve been cheated.

Anyway, I’m really interested in the idea of The Reprap model escaping from the confines of a single piece of technology, and getting into a much wider sphere… but I wasn’t expecting this. This is… Motive.

1 Comment » for Viral Cloud Manufacturing
  1. Here are some incomplete and back-of-the-envelope-y figures:

    I can print a pulley in about 20 minutes of run time, using 20 cents worth of plastic. Printing pulleys in batches can cut the amount of time actually spent poking at the machine, so in raw dollars we’re talking six dollars in plastic, probably a negligible amount in electricity (here in the pacific northwest anyway), and *maybe* four dollars in shipping makes for twenty dollars from running the machine for ten hours, or two dollars an hour.

    For me, running the MakerBot is currently a fairly pensive affair, but I’m getting better at settings and increasingly feel confident enough to “set and forget” prints. So one can make money off the MakerBot at a decent time-equivalent salary assuming good production techniques. Of course, with one MakerBot, the salary cap is pretty low, at least at these rates.

    The real way for a MakerBot owner is to charge a premium for custom jobs of various kinds, but jobs like these can certainly defray the cost of buying one over time…