I’m noticing a growing trend of what were previously hard to manage design processes and tools being simplified for the masses to use via the internet. This allows anyone to shape their built environment through creation. Is this a good thing that the masses can create? Does this take anything away from designers? Or, will there always be a place for the technically skilled to create? Should we trust anyone with this power? On the other hand, there are product recalls all the time from companies. What’s the big deal? The rich have always had the power to customize their environment, but now this same power is accessible to the masses. At first glance, it looks like only surface treatments are possible, but the future points to a far more robust, customizable frontier.
Threadless is the site that first (at least most iconic) site that capitalized on providing designers a mouth-piece to get artwork and t-shirts created. Without this site the other sites on this list might have never come around, thank you threadless. also, thanks for all the cool cheap shirts — i dig it!
Ponoko is a site that allows users to create simple products using laser cutting. There is even an online community akin to Etsy.com or threadless.com where designers may sell their creations. This site appears to be attepting to engage non-designers into creating small-runs of crafts. Some people have made some very cute furniture and crafts in the store, definitely worth checking out.
eMachine Shop, the most technical of the sites i’m sharing in this post, allows users to design and create product parts online. This site has full prototyping or small production run capabilities. I haven’t used them but they appear to offer a full gambit of metals, plastics and even carbon fiber as materials to work with. There is a small download to use their CAD software package, but i’d imagine you can just send them a DXF form your preferred CAD package. This site seems to cater to designers and engineers working on more technical products.
Big blue saw is machine shop that helps designers and engineers create custom prototypes. They boast a quick turn-around time. They even have a rudimentary online tool. What makes this different than eMachine shop is their tool is online instead of for download. I will say, I’d still prefer to use Solidworks, Rhino, or Alias over this tool below. I imagine it maps well to their factory tools capabilities, which is a real plus when getting things made quickly.
Stuff your doodle, is a site that creates stuffed animals from drawings. They will even take a child’s line-drawing and make it into a 3D plush toy. How cool is that! that’s right make your children into designers. I really enjoy the gallery it highlights the drawing the stuffed animal was created from next to it. very cool!
Desktop Factory has been refining this technology for quite awhile. Just look at the price tag $5,000 for a 3D printer, these printers have historically cost $30K, lets watch as the price plummets. You may ask, why would I need such a device, imagine if you could print products instead of needing to go out and purchase them. It would be like buying a song on iTunes, but instead it could be your kids toy from amazon.com or some similar marketplace. How cool! Currently, you can go to a CAD file site such as Turbo Squid and purchase CAD files to manipulate and animate, but very soon you could 3D print them. This coupled with a site like Ponoko would be a real game changer! Imagine the transportation savings, the ability to customize your products and of course the fiendish designerly fun for everyone.
Do you know of any other online tools that are helping people shape the world around themselves? I’d love to hear your responses. Please leave a comment here on our blog, our facebook fan page, linkedin fan page, digg it, delicious or check us out on twitter @brightinnovate. Share how you like, thanks!