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More desktop manufacturing for consumers


Last year, we wrote about Ponoko, an innovative company from New Zealand that turns two-dimensional designs into three-dimensional objects by way of laser-cutting plastics and wood products. Besides creating products for themselves, users can also sell their designs through Ponoko, with the company handling payments and shipping. Ponoko was recently joined by Shapeways. The Dutch venture, which is part of Philips’ Lifestyle Incubator, lets users upload 3D designs and have them produced on one of Shapeway’s 3D printers. Customers can currently choose from four different types of rigid and flexible plastic, and their object is shipped to them within 10 days of ordering. Costs depend on size and mass, but smallish items are priced around USD 50-150. Since users need to have access to CAD software and be able to design an object in 3D, Shapeways isn’t as widely accessible as Ponoko, which allows users to create items based on 2D vector images. On the other hand, this is one of the first initiatives that makes 3D printing widely available to consumers around the world, at a relatively low cost. Creative people who love to design in three dimensions finally get a chance to turn those computer screen images–of toys, tools, art–into tangible objects, a desire that drives the make-it-yourself trend. Spotted by: RK On a sidenote: while Ponoko and Shapeways focus on remote printing, Japanese Tsukulus lets customers print 3D figurines on the spot in their Tokyo showroom (see Akibanana for a summary in English). One for Disney, Mattel and friends to look into? Ready-made figurines are one thing. But let customers change a character’s clothes, accessories and pose, and then manufacture their own unique rendition on the spot, and you’ve turned a product back into an experience.



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