New tools are about to turn manufacturing inside out.
The merger of industrial scale craft-making with personalisation tools on the web is laying the groundwork for the “makernet,” a hybrid manufacturing network process that combines distributed design, development and production with the dynamics of niche networks.
As the industrial internet picks up speed, we’re seeing rapid evolution in how manufacturing can be approached in sectors like fashion, novelties, furniture, toys and even food. In China, 3D printers are exploding across the landscape, turning garages into web linked factories ready for custom orders, making everything from meat to shoes to wiki-houses. This is accelerating creativity and heralds a localized, grass-roots manufacturing boom stretching from Africa to Beijing.
In the US and Europe there is less emphasis on the tools (CNC machines, 3D printers) of the makernet and more emphasis on the design, funding and marketing at each end, but the lines are blurring and reversing quickly, making everyone a maker.
It is now possible to think about new modes of production that seemed farfetched just a few years ago. Linking it all will prove lucrative – leaving firms as diverse as Alibaba, GE, Etsy, eBay, Li & Fung, Ford, Amazon and Kickstarter to forge odd new alliances in the race to be King of Custom.
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