Tag Archives: Ponoko

Cloud Production Coming: Does Every Consumer Need a 3D Printer?

Cloud Production 3D Printing

Consumer 3D printers are still costly. The latest models from MakerBot are over $1,700 and a DIY kit still costs $400 or more. Does every consumer need a 3D printer? Not according to Phin Barnes, venture capitalist with First Round Capital.

At AND 1 we had a 3D printer. It was super expensive but it shortened the time from a drawing to a physical object by weeks. The file that drove the printer could also drive the CNC machines in Asia that cut the aluminum molds we used for production.

MakerBot has innovated in the 3D printing space by making the printer cheaper and establishing a marketplace for the digital files that create the physical objects. But for the people who want high quality, durable parts with real utility, will it ever be possible to have a CNC machine in your house for metal objects or an injection mold set up for TPU parts? Maybe, but why can’t I pay Makerbot to make my file in hard plastic or metal? Wouldn’t enough people want this makerbot Prime service to support a CNC machine in Brooklyn? I bet they would – and as the peer-to-peer economy grows, cloud production should grow with it.

Barnes goes on to comment about the different ways that entrepreneurs can solve “logistics problems”.

  1. Marketplaces:  There is great value in coordinating buyers and sellers and removing friction in an existing transactable space. (eBay, Half.com, ETSY, CustomMade, ThreadFlip). This is traditional behavior at web scale.
  2. Collaborative Consumption: A technology platform that coordinates demand and balances it across distributed capital assets. These platforms unlock a previously latent pool of demand (usually with very efficient unit pricing) and help individual suppliers maximize the value of their assets and time with better utilization rates. (Uber, TaskRabbit)

Both types of companies are solving a logistics problem — removing coordination friction that used to make a transaction impossible — but as this granularity of supply takes hold, the rules of utilization rates and economies of scale will still hold in the world of physical assets. I think this will inspire a third group of companies with logistics at their core: Cloud Production.

In the transition from digital to physical (online to offline) platforms that enable full utilization/rapid amortization of wholly-owned capital assets over a greater base of creators should emerge. Today’s cloud services are maximizing utilization of the physical devices required to store and serve digital goods. Cloud services in the digital space have changed the math of the creator’s business. Instead of budgeting for a certain level of demand — and buying servers to safely cover that projected level of usage, companies/creators can make sure the unit economics work for each unit of demand and architect for infinite scale. Up front costs are dramatically decreased and more ideas come to market.

This same transition should occur around the physical production of goods where economies of scale are powerful. With cloud production niche products can meet global demand and achieve greater scale than ever before. The innovation will be in the coordination and technology required to aggregate individual creativity and produce increasingly specialized, niche products with higher production value and quality.

In summary, physical goods production — enabled by 3D printing — will follow the lead of software-as-a-service and cloud computing to provide goods-on-demand. We are already seeing this trend from 3D printing marketplaces like Shapeways, i.materialise, and Ponoko.


Read the full post at Sneakerhead VC.

Cloud photo by Bast Productions used under Creative Commons license.

Top 3D Printing Headlines Last Week: Kids, Stocks, Suitcases, Fab Labs

Cubify Google Name Plate on3dprinting

A roundup of the top news On 3D Printing brought you from August 6 to August 12.

Monday, August 6

Tuesday, August 7

Thursday, August 9

Friday, August 10

Fab Lab of the Week: Maker Kids Lab in Toronto

Maker Kids Toronto

This week’s featured Fab Lab is Maker Kids Lab in Toronto. Maker Kids is a non-profit center that gives kids the space and tools to design and build their own creative projects. From 3D printing to robots, the lab has everything you would expect from a makerspace, just with smaller chairs.

In recent years, the Maker movement has grown exponentially through print publications, web sites, events and community spaces. Collective community workshops known as Hackerspaces or Makerspaces have grown worldwide from 124 in 2009 to over 500 in 2011. We are at the leading edge, providing one of the first kids’ Makerspaces, empowering all kids to be Makers.

We started in 2010 with a summer program and school events. In 2011 we obtained a permanent space and renovated it extensively. Our Makerspace has areas and tools for woodworking, electronics, mechanical creations, 3D printing, programming, art, sewing, and all kinds of other crafting and making. It is a centre for ideas, inspiration and implementation – a resource centre for our community.

Our program relies on a strong volunteer base and mentorship by kids themselves. Our adult collaborators are facilitators for the kids, and also encourage them to seek out resources to learn on their own, and to teach each other. Teenage collaborators help the younger kids as a part of their high school volunteer hours, as well as work on their own projects.

Interwoven with everything we do is our philosophy to honour kids’ own creativity and trust their abilities. Kids who are confident in their own abilities are capable of learning and doing anything!

Photo credit to Ponoko, who visited Maker Kids this past week and posted some photos from their trip.

Results of First Survey On 3D Printing: Adoption, Education, Services

[Updated for corrections]

The results of the first survey on 3D printing are captured below, courtesy of Statistical Studies of Peer Production. We wanted to highlight the most interesting statistics.

First engagement with 3D printing: The survey asked respondents when they first used 3D printing. The largest concentration was for the year 2011. 2010 and 2012 were close runners up. This suggests that we are at an inflection point for adoption of 3D printing.

Chart 3D Printing First Engagement

Education level: 33.7% of 3D printing users have a 4-year college degree and another 23.5% have an advanced degree. This suggests that the earliest adopters are mainly well-educated people.

Chart 3D Printing Education Level



Most commonly used 3D printers: The most commonly used 3D printer was RepRap, with MakerBot as the close second.

Most Commonly Used 3D Printers

Usage of 3D printing services: The most-used 3D printing service was Shapeways. Others, like i.materialise and Ponoko, were not commonly used. The largest response to this question was “none”, which suggests that these 3D printing services have a long road ahead in terms of driving awareness.

Chart 3D Printing Services

Read the full report at PeerProduction.net.

Here is a video by Stephen Murphey visualizing the results.

Ponoko Team Demos Autodesk 123D and 3D Printing Made To Order

Ponoko Webinar with Christina Westbrook

Yesterday, we attended a Ponoko webinar with community manager Christina Westbrook. Christina likes to make things and shared her passion for personal fabrication with us. Last year, Ponoko announced a partnership with Autodesk to host 123D in their Personal Factory App Gateway. In this webinar, Christina was showing us how to use 123D and Ponoko to make interesting products.

First Christina showed us some examples of what you can do with 3D design software and 3D printing. These ranged from jewelry to lamps to custom iPhone cases.

Below is an example product Christina made: a case for a Square card reader. This product costs about $10 in materials and she sells it for $18 on Shapeways.

3D Printed Square Card Reader Case

This product was made out of durable plastic, but a variety of materials are available, including gold plating and stainless steel.

Durable plastic is cheap at $1.70 / cubic cm, and can be printed as thin as 1mm. You can purchase samples or make your own prototypes to test out different materials. http://www.ponoko.com/make-and-sell/materials

Ponoko Material Samples

How did she get the exact dimensions for a Square reader? She suggested either buying a digital caliper or taking a photo of a source object and measure digitally. We asked if you can import a photo into 123D in order to trace the dimensions. That might be on the roadmap, but isn’t ready today.

Autodesk 123D

In the webinar, Christina gave us a detailed walkthrough of 123D from Autodesk. 123D is free 3D modeling software that lets you create complex 3D designs. The exported files can be uploaded to Ponoko or other sites to be 3D printed.

What can you design? As Christina said, “Something simple can be made into an awesome gift.” Over the course of the 15 minutes, Christina designed a ring with an extruded heart shape.

Here are some screenshots of her design:

Ponoko Webinar Design

Ponoko Webinar Design

Ponoko Webinar Design

Ponoko Materials Selection

Expert 3D design tips:

  • Adhere to the minimum thickness for your target material. When designing a product in 3D software, keep in mind the minimum wall thickness. If your design is too thin, your product may not survive shipping. For durable plastic, the minimum thickness is 1mm; for stainless steel, it’s 3mm.
  • Color can be added to projects. This can be done in the design software or later with dye.
  • If you do sell your 3D printed products, don’t forget to account for the extra time it takes you to finalize a product in the price. Some designers like to dye their products after they are printed to give them that extra polished feel.
  • When shapes in a design overlap, combine areas and make the intersection hollow. This will save on cost.
  • Clean up edges so your customer doesn’t get scratched by your product.

What’s coming down the road?

Christina wouldn’t divulge specifics from the roadmap, but it sounds like Maker Faire on May 19-20 will be a big event with more exciting announcements to come.

Thanks to Christina and the whole Ponoko team for hosting this informative webinar!