Twice in the last few months I have been out to FabLab Baltimore, at CCBC Catonsville. Last week, I took the introductory workshop that is a prerequisite for using the facility. At home, I've been hard at work on the CAD files that will translate my Ziptie Lounger into some form that a CNC router will understand. All of this is in preparation for prototyping my first machine-made piece of furniture, which I've posted over at OpenDesk, a platform for distributed design. Distributed design, in its simplest form, operates something like Instructables -- a central online repository of DIY manuals that folks can follow to make their own products. However, making something from scratch still presents significant barriers to entry, namely skills, tools, and time.
OpenDesk, along with similar startup Assmbly, are challenging (or, to use a current term of art, "disrupt") the traditional design-manufacture-wholesale-retail model that the furniture business has operated on for a hundred years. Designs are uploaded to the OpenDesk site, where they can be downloaded directly for free or, for a fee, sent to a local networked fabber who will cut, sand, and drop-ship the parts to the consumer's doorstep. Everyone in the chain -- OpenDesk, designer, and fabber -- make a small profit. Due to the nature of both the fabrication machines and the distribution network, all of the products are flat-pack.Read More