When we first started thinking about 100kGarages, we figured that the way to sustainably generate business for Fabbers was to start by signing up Fabbers to fill in the map, rather than trying to interest Makers when there wasn’t anyone to actually do the cutting….that Makers looking at an empty map was the quickest way to discourage them from coming back as 100kGarages grew. We also knew that it was equally important to have lots of educational info available for Makers, so that they would understand the process better and make the process smoother for both themselves and the Fabber they’re working with.
So the first push was to sign up Fabbers and start creating content, and we’re happy with the start we’ve made. We have close to 150 Fabbers signed up so far and, although we still have a way to go to make sure that Fabbers get files that are “Fabber ready”, we’re making headway with our Maker School section. We knew from the start that the downside of building up the list of Fabbers first was that there probably wouldn’t be a lot of jobs to start out, but now that the Fabbers Map has started to fill in we’re working on drawing Makers and generally growing and making things easier for everyone.
The Fabber map and JobBoard will always be free to Fabbers and Makers and we’ll continue to build these free services. There are lots of other things we’ve got in the works to go along with them..here are some:
*) Introducing EasyCut. We’ll be bringing EasyCut online over the next couple of months to enable cutting jobs using templates, to make it easier for Makers. This will be a managed program that will completely handle the business transaction, and will be opt-in for Fabbers. The Ponoko guys are hard at work on EasyCut and we hope to start testing in the next couple of weeks…we’re awfully excited about the prospects of simplifying CNC routing the way that Ponoko has done with laser cutting.
*) Collaborating with Vectric, the folks behind the great Aspire, VCarvePro, and PartWorks toolpathing software, on something that will give Makers that want to be more involved in the fabrication process the ability to test a design’s “cutability” before sending it to a Fabber. As soon as the Vectric team recuperate from all their recent updates we’ll be posting more info.
*) Begin adding other types of digital tools. We’ve always planned on adding all types of digital tools as soon as we thought we had a handle on how the process would work, and we’re starting to figure out how that might work while still keeping the credibility needed for Makers. It will also require creating enough educational materials that Makers will be able to decide when they’d want to use a CNC router, a laser cutter, or maybe a 3d printer, and what the differences are in the process for each. Once EasyCut is online we’ll begin the process of adding more tools, but will post info on how we see the process working before too long so that you can see what we have in mind.
*) Adding more projects to make, and connecting Makers with creative Designers. We’ve started with a sampling of projects at http://projects.100kgarages.com , with more available as time goes on. Makers (or Fabbers) will be able to download and cut project files from there, but we’re imagining it more as a showcase of a Designer’s work than a store to buy files….a place where Makers can find people to help them with their own projects. These Designers will be familiar with digital fabrication and may be able to work directly with a Fabber, to make the process easier for everyone.
This ties in with a recent posting on the ShopBot forum:
“My take on this along with the 100k group is that most normal customers want a complete finished product. I believe it to be a very small minority of folks that would want me to cut parts that they can assemble and finish.”
There’s no reason that jobs that come through the Fabbers Map or JobBoard need to be strictly for cutting…the details of the job are between the Maker and the Fabber. The power of 100kGarages is in the “digital” part of having jobs cut wherever the customer is, but if a Maker wants a “turnkey” job and it’s something that the Fabber has the capabilities to do, that’s great. We also imagine Designers, like the ones described above, will have products that they want manufactured in their customer’s location…these possibly will involve the Fabber doing the job from cutting to finished product, ready for the customer to pick up. As long as both the Maker and Fabber are happy and get what they want, we’re happy.
More to come as these things develop…