Recently, Humblefacture (and our lab The Humblefactory) have been exploring the potential of open source product design as a part of a more equitable, appropriate manufacturing. Chris Anderson at Wired Magazine has also been interested in this sort of thing for a little while; A recent article of his profiled a number of small-scale producers using open design and flexible manufacturing to make niche products that can compete with the big boys. It's great to see a big voice like Chris behind the open hardware movement (even better, his money is where his mouth is, with the success of his DIY Drones company). Even so, we can't help but think that the future that Chris describes doesn't go far enough. Where "the next industrial revolution" he describes has an open, but still top-down manufacturing structure (finished objects are still made by single manufacturers, just smaller ones, more flexibly) we imagine something entirely new. With a few tweaks, we might have manufacturing with unprecedented accessibility and specificity. You might call it cloud manufacturing, and it could be the most important step toward true locally appropriate manufacturing.
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