Imagine a car designed by online collaboration, built using stock parts and assembled by its buyers. Kit cars aren’t new, but a car open-sourced from the first sketch on a drawing board to the tightening of the final lug nut was a mind-blowing first when Local Motors of Wareham, Massachusetts set out to build the first open-sourced automobile two years ago. Dubbed the Rally Fighter, the street-legal racer was designed by volunteers using easily-obtained off-the-shelf components. Volunteers also designed necessary secondary parts, and buyers assembled their own vehicles during a “build experience” at local assembly centers. (Click here to read the entire amazing store on Wired.com.)
Wired suggests that the future of U.S. manufacturing could lay in micro-factories. Local Motors is creating specialty cars for a niche market with just 10 employees; but the future of manufacturing could go even smaller. Three-dimensional printers, which have been around for a couple of decades, are getting smaller and more affordable. A number of models are now available for home use and aren’t much bigger than a microwave. Office-size models capable of building larger parts and products are about the size of an office Xerox machine.
Three-dimensional printers take a design drawn on a piece of paper and turn it into a 3-D plastic object. They are capable of reproducing intricate colored objects. Several different processes can be used, but the most common 3-D printers build an object by laying down myriad thin layers of plastic. Companies selling the printers use the tag line “If you can think it, you can build it!” to market their products. (Click here to watch a CNN demonstration of 3-D printers.)
The combination of micro-manufacturing and crowdsourcing opens new opportunities for entrepreneurs who may have a “big idea” but lack the design skill or technical knowledge to bring it to fruition. Zoondy offers a platform that could be used to seek people who have the skills you need to design and build a new product. In effect, Zoondy can be used as a crowdsourcing site to build collaborative design teams. (Click here to see how Zoondy works.)