I am not a big fan of Star Trek, but I like the idea of the replicator - a microwave like device which produces food from scratch, no action required. As soon as such replicators appear - and I believe this will happen in my lifetime - I will transform my kitchen into a walk in wardrobe... Communities like Shapeways, Kickstarter and Quirky are making this future more real.
In a recent issue of The Economist, there was an article on Shapeways and Quirky titled 'Collaborative manufacturing. All together now. The advantages of crowdsourcing'
The author is excited about unravelling industrial revolution when Made by Me (or Made in USA) comes to replace Made in China. Collaborative manufacturing is the opposite of mass production with its tonnes, cubic meters, containers and wagons. Co-manufacturing is all about exclusivity and one off runs. Say, you have been dreaming about a bracelet charm shaped as an Amex card (my case, I know, I need to get a life), you've looked all over internet and could not find what you wanted, even on ebay. Before you would have had to live with the dream and get buried with it. Now there is Shapeways.
Shapeways was created by a group of New Yorkers who acquired a 3D printer and decided 'to democratize creation by making production more accessible, personal, and inspiring'. One site, thousands articles and 4 years late, and Shapeways just might become the driver of the new industrial revolution. It's very simple - you want something that does not exist, at least in the exact version you desire. You create a drawing - 2D for simple objects, 3D for more complex ones on Shapeways web site, choose a material (from golden steel to various plastics), specify dimensions, get the quote, pay and wait. They deliver by UPS which is not cheap but reliable.
My bracelet charm worked out just fine, although I got confused by inches (again) and the end product is now used as a key fob. This however did not make me any less excited about the service. I plan to nail down the inches and reorder the originally intended bracelet charm. Also produce a mini version of Afghan treasure crown and convert future drawings of my little son into 3D souvenirs.
Quirky is a more commercial, mass concept, although somewhat similar to Shapeways. Say, you have invented a mega brilliant iPad stand which holds it equally well on flat and non flat surfaces. In the past, if you wanted to produce it, you would have had to look for a factory, produce a batch, negotiate, arrange delivery, storage, convince retailers to stock it, etc. Now you post your design on Quirky and if sufficient number of geeks, sorry, customers, votes for it, guys in Quirky will manufacture it (yes, using 3D printer, and yes, in USA), market and sell it. Check out their web site to see what's been invented so far and start writing down those ideas when you exclaim 'why has no one thought of...!'
Kickstarter, in my humble opinion, is a jewel in the crown of co-manufacturing. Kickstarter marries co-manufacturing with co-funding and it's not limited by physical objects, like Shapeways and Quirky. Say, you want to make a movie. Or record an album. Or create a magazine. Or a piece of art. You have a project. You believe world needs your project. You need funding. Kickstarter is the platform to promote your project on and if its audience likes what they see, they will co-fund your project, making your dream a reality. Investors do get something exclusive, eg a role in the movie or signed tshirt. By the way, this year they showed a couple of movies created this way at Tribeca. Several music records were released this way. Kickstarter is the way. And no need in producers or sponsors.
The first project I got interested in on Kickstarter was the art project of an American artist Laura Greengold, For you and yours. As she says, 'the rewards go far beyond the monetary. You get an artwork inspired by your thoughts and I get your inspiration. This is an experiment in art as conversation!' For $55 I bought a dream (she will draw a dream of my choice) and for $35 a wish (I am thinking kitsch version of a fragment of Pleasure Garden by Bosch). There were other funding options.
Are there projects from Kazakhstan on Kickstarter? Let me go take a look...