Philip Pille

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Social Manufacture Idea


The need to manufacture has existed ever since humans began using stone tools to improve their daily lives. The scale and ease of manufacture has greatly increased since then, with the industrial revolution being the turning point where mass manufacture became highly accessible to modern society. Industrialised manufacture has gone on to become a cheap and accessible alternative for many manufacturing needs when being made at large scales. With improvements in technology, modern society has arrived at a point where manufacture does not need to occur at a mass scale for it to be accessible and affordable for the world’s consumers. Individuals all over the world have begun to acquire and build their own personal self-manufacturing units which operate outside of an industrialised setting.

The emergence of the additive manufacturing movement which carries with it new benefits which were not previously possible is the beginning of a paradigm shift which challenges traditional manufacturing streams. Additive manufacture does not require any tooling, therefor there are no initial tooling costs, leading to affordable low run manufacture bypassing traditional economies of scale. Due to the efficiency of the technology there are greatly reduced waste materials and a quick and accurate turnover allowing for Just in time (JIT) manufacturing, reducing the size of inventory and initial costs. Freedom of creation has also increased with previously impossible forms and building structures now being manufactured with the aid of the users imagination and  their competence in computer assisted designs (CAD). Additive manufacturing technology is a game changer which gives its users greater freedom when manufacturing.

As this technology improves it is becoming more affordable, and therefore more people are beginning to have personal ownership of the technology. Individuals around the globe are building and utilising the technology for their own self-manufacturing needs.  However to have an additive manufacturing unit there is a requirement of covering initial overhead costs (which have greatly reduced due to the significant improvements in the development of open source (OS) units) and the knowledge of operating and utilising the technology. Additive manufacturing is still a specialist field where at a personal level the users are often enthusiasts with technical knowledge which allows them to master and use the technology to their advantage.

There exists a gap between the adoption of additive manufacture as an alternative manufacturing stream and the mainstream consumer who is still reliant on established traditional manufacturing streams. This gap exists for the mainstream consumer because the knowledge required to operate and maintain the machinery is still not very accessible or there is too much troubleshooting to make it worth while, particularly within the OS units. However the number of people who do have access to personal manufacturing units and the understanding required is increasing, and therefore the self-manufacturing capabilities around the world are increasing. The gap then is how do individuals who self-manufacture connect with the consumers who have a personal need for manufacturing through this technology.



Additive manufacturing has become more accessible to the mainstream due to the development of OS source technologies. OS additive manufacture has developed rapidly over the past decade due to a high level of connectivity which users experience through the global network of the internet. The internet allows individuals across the world to collaborate and share information rapidly. Creating a phenomenon where ideas are able to evolve and gain motion far more quickly and effectively than was ever possible. The power of the collective hive mind of mutually interested individuals is a powerful tool which is enabling individual empowerment and learning for many across the globe. The key to accessing the hive mind is the internet, with the forums and sites found here being the locks which open up new doors in development and social capabilities for all, not just one company.

A more recent evolution of the hive mind which connectivity has allowed to evolve, is the idea of crowdsourcing.  Through a high level of connectivity people are able to collectively work towards goals, or fulfil individual’s requirements through online forums and marketplaces.

Individuals across the globe come together to develop OS additive manufacturing units, the files which construct these units can be found on CAD libraries such as Thingiverse ( Thingiverse allows its users to upload files of the things they have created using CAD, ranging from 3d printer parts to ipad holders and simple locking mechanisms. These files are then downloaded and upgraded, with users developing each other’s designs further.  Connectivity has allowed people to work collaboratively on one another’s work, with the end results benefiting the entire community.

There are working models of micro-financing which have had great success such the sites Kickstarter ( and Pozible (  These micro-financing sites use crowdsourcing  as a way of funding upcoming projects in a wide variety of areas. Users pitch an idea with support material and set a goal for funding, individuals then collectively fund projects which are of interest with direct benefits being returned to funders according to the contribution made.

Another phenomenon found within the crowdsourcing sphere is that of people outsourcing a variety of work which is competitively bided upon by a hive of ably skilled individuals. For example someone may need a CAD model of their apartment building, this job can then be posted on a site such as Freelancer ( or Elance ( The post is then seen by the community and individuals who would like the work and then competitively bid against one another to win the job. A communication channel is then created between both parties of the job and an actual working contract is set in place, with a brief and payment plan being made. Upon completion of a milestone or the whole job (depending on the agreed contract) the individual receives payment for their work, and the “employer” receives a crowd sourced solution to their requirements. This sort of crowdsourcing service works largely for work which can be completed digitally. This includes, but is not limited to, work such as digital design, engineering, data entry, software development, product sourcing or even work for the adult industry.

A similar model to Freelancer and Elance, are the websites MechanicalTurk (  and Fiverr (  The main difference here being that instead of a job being posted and people bidding upon how much they will do the work for, an employer or employee will propose a set amount for a small task, upon fulfilment the individual is payed. Mechanical Turk works as an on demand work force for tasks which do not require a high level of skill but just need to be done, therefore the payment is low. Often there are multiple iterations of the same task, so users earn money by doing many small tasks. An example of this would be key word searching in Google, or making lists of related websites.  Fiverr works on a similar premise to MechanicalTurk, the main difference here is that all jobs are worth a fiver or $5 and that people are generally offering their services and not looking for work. On fiverr people often offer specific services such as promoting on their blog, or singing something in a foreign language.

All of these crowdsourced services are highly competitive and can create results that are often obtained at a high quality with lower costs. Graphic designers in India can now connect with individuals in America who need a logo made. One major drawback of crowdsourcing for ideas or professional work is that it devalues the work of others who are not working within this kind of structure. It devalues the professionals work who has had, for example, 5 years of training  and 10 years of experience, compared to the amateur who has access to a computer and is situated in a country where work is generally done at a lower payed rate. This is something which consumers need  to be aware of and is also a reflection of the type of global market place that we find ourselves in. This global marketplace exists largely due to the high level of connectivity that the internet affords people across the globe, crowdsourcing is simply facilitating and fulfilling a gap within this market.

The main point of these services is that people are connected through the internet, and essentially they are middle men between someone who requires a service and someone who can fulfil this service. For facilitating these meetings, or creating these connections, the middle man receives a small percentage of each transaction, making the entire business model economically sustainable and profitable, with all involved in these transactions mutually benefiting together.

On the 22/07/2012,

 Freelancer has had $570 932 838 worth of jobs posted (from website),

Elance has completed work to a total of $576 302 592 (from website),

Kickstarter is estimated to be worth $28 777 976 (

Fiverr is estimated to be worth $ $120 165 563 (

Additive Manufacturing Networks

As the price of additive manufacturing drops, more and more individuals are gaining access to this technology. There are small manufacturing labs popping up in people’s workshops around the world. They are able to manufacture at competitive prices compared to traditional manufacturing streams by bypassing initial tooling costs and therefore having a set price which is not affected by economies of scale. These personal manufacturing units are often even able to compete in cost and convenience with the major corporate 3d printing services such as Shapeways ( or i.materialise ( . This is because the cost of the materials which is being used is often so low (~$14US per kilo of ABS plastic, ~$15US per kilo of PLA plastic ( and the initial overhead costs of a personal manufacturing unit can start at less than $500US (

The biggest factor in cost is time, and this is a universal affect of the technology where an item is not made instantly, but built layer by layer over hours depending on the size and quality of the print.  Quality and materials which are available to be printed with are the major factors which individually owned personal manufacturing units cannot compete with. The additive manufacturing units which can print in materials such as metals or ceramics are not easily accessible to the mainstream due to their high initial overhead costs and their high running costs.  Essentially there are 3 major factors which come into play when dealing with personal manufacture, time, cost and quality. Personal manufacturing units are highly competitive in cost and also in time if located near the consumer, the limit in materials is the major impeding factor when compared to large corporate operations.

If an individual has the need for something be printed by a personal manufacturing unit, specifically through additive manufacturing, there is currently no real way to access the technology beyond owning a unit or knowing someone with a unit (  There exists a gap in the market where people who want something made using additive manufacturing and the people with the ability to fulfil this need are not easily able to connect with each other.  A type of crowdsourcing service for people who want to manufacture and the individuals that can, would create this connection. The service would receive a percentage of each sale, and the individuals involved would receive payment through economical gain and receiving their desired printed parts.

A service such as this affords individual empowerment through a social manufacturing service. The benefits of using this technology have already been discussed, however the social benefits of enabling individual manufacturing empowerment are far more reaching. This is a highly subjective topic as the technology can be used for good or bad, it depends on the individuals involved. However what this certainly would enable is a way of challenging established manufacturing streams and empowering individuals to take charge of their own manufacturing needs. If something breaks, it does not necessarily have to be thrown away as obsolete, but rather it could be preserved by printing out the replacement part. As we enter a world where uniqueness and personalisation is becoming more and more valued, individuals will have the ability to cater to those needs and accessing them at an affordable and unique way. It also gives the owners of these additive manufacturing units a new income stream which was previously untapped at such a scale.

Currently there are no crowdsourcing services which cater to manufacturing at low runs without a significant cost involved. The emergence and growth of additive manufacturing coupled with the connectivity that the internet affords is key to creating a manufacturing service which is affordable and accessible to the general consumer around the globe.


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