There’s a lot of interest in how we’re planning on expanding the types of digital tools in 100kGarages and we’ve posted our thoughts and plans at http://www.100kgarages.com/Whats_next.html , but we just wanted to make sure that everyone had a chance to look it over so we’ve re-posted it below:
Since we first started thinking about 100kGarages we have always planned for it to eventually encompass all types of digital tools. For several reasons we started off with only ShopBot CNC tools and detailed our reasoning in our discussion of Digital Fabrication http://www.100kgarages.com/digital_fabrication.html, but here are the two most important ones:
*) Start small: The most practical reason was that we knew that we’d be overwhelmed if we opened things up to anyone that had, or claimed to have, some sort of Digital Fabrication tool. We wanted to start with a small subset of Fabbers that we knew something about to ease the startup pains.
*) Credibility: More specifically, for 100kGarages to work and be useful for Makers it was important that they trusted Fabbers to be legitimate and to be able to do the job they needed to have done. We could easily verify that a person was actually a ShopBot owner and also knew the capabilities of ShopBots. This meant that we could get the 100kGarages concept up and running without getting distracted before we even began by trying to certify Fabbers.
We have a good beginning now with 100kGarages and have gotten many of the pieces in place. We’re ready to work on adding more tools, but the credibility issue remains one that we’re struggling with. We’ve considered all kinds of plans for having people cut samples and send them to us or provide photos, but each approach had it’s problems. In reality the biggest factor for success is the person doing the work. So we’ve come to feel that the most basic criteria to rule out scammers and crooks is what we should apply — basically to verify that a potential Fabber has a Digital Fabrication tool and that they are set up to do business.
The plan we’ve come up with is to work with other Digital Fabrication Equipment manufacturers and let them do the same sort of ownership verification steps that ShopBot has done with the original Fabbers. If a person with a Thermwood (or an EZRouter, Universal Laser, etc) wants to join 100kGarages they can have the manufacturer of their tool verify that they are an owner. We’ll work out a simple process for this verification and will work to develop relationships with other manufacturers over time to make the process as painless as possible and to let them get involved if they would like.
We hope other manufacturers of Digital Fabrication tools will be excited to work with 100kGarages, though know that there will likely be some that will realize that 100kGarages is a great idea and will want to create their own version. It also leaves a question of the home-made and home-brew Fabbers. We appreciate that some of these tools can be pretty good. There may be other kinds of user organizations for some types of tools that could help with certification, but we’ve got to admit that we don’t know exactly how we’ll deal with it yet. It may be as simple as “send us a picture of yourself, your machine, and a portfolio of work”, or we may have to develop some sort of certification method involving cutting a sample. We’ll let you know when we come up with something, but we’ll try to make it as painless for you (and for us) as possible.
The other side of the credibility coin is business licensing. Since 100kGarages transactions are business transactions, we require all fabbers to have whatever business licensing is appropriate in your locality … at the minimum it will be by self-certification as it is now, but we may require that you send us your license information and the locality that you’re licensed in so that we’ll have basic documentation of a business presence.
So when will all this happen? At the moment our top priority is rolling out the EasyCut system (beta testing is getting ready to start!), so we’re guessing that we won’t start adding more type of tools ’til after that … sometime in the Spring. In the meanwhile, though, we’ll be talking to tool manufacturers to help get the process started, and will try to keep everyone updated as we make process. We’ll also need to add LOTS more instructions and documentation, to help Makers understand when they need a CNC Router, a Laser Cutter, or some other kind of Digital Fabrication tools, and what to realistically expect from them.