The A-B-C’s of Mass Customization

by Joseph Flaherty on November 15, 2008

A - Aviary is the most advanced online photo editor providing tools that rival desktop apps like Photoshop at a more affordable price. This gives consumers powerful tools to create online before having their creation manufactured.

Also see: ArrowEye, manufacturers of custom greeting, gift, and credit cards.

BBuild-a-Bear workshop has created a half billion dollar business in what was a slow growth industry by offering a customized experience.

Also see: Blurb, print on demand pioneer. Brother, who manufacturers many of the most advanced CNC embroidering machines. is one of the oldest and most successful print on demand companies allowing people to express their unique brand on a variety of products ranging from tshirts to coffee mugs.

Also see: Cricut, is a low cost paper plotter that can cut shapes out of thin sheet materials and the $2000 Craftsman Compucarve, which carves designs into wood based on user supplied CAD data.

DDesktop Factory creates very low cost 3D printers ($5000). Led by an ex-Xerox exec the company has developed an innovative FDM printer using non-traditional processes which makes it affordable for schools and hobbyists.

Also see: Dimension, which produces higher quality 3D printers at a much higher price.

EEvil Mad Scientist has created a 3D printer that prints massive, complex designs out of sugar as well as a number of other malevolent innovations.

Also See: Epilog, manufacturers of high quality laser cutting systems and Etchstar, who use lasers to bling out laptops and cell phones.

FFreitag is an environmentally friendly customizer that allows customers to create truly unique messenger bags from reused tarps gathered from the sides of trucks. Their design tool is one of the most interesting examples of customization software available.

GGoogle Sketchup is a free 3D modeling program that allows anyone with a computer to learn the basics of CAD.

Also See: Gershenfeld, Neil, Professor at the MIT Media Lab, author of books on personal fabrication, and one of the most visionary voices in this field.

HHousenbold, Jeff is the CEO of one of the few publicly traded customization companies, Shutterfly. In this podcast delivered at Stanford, he shares interesting insights on the profile of his customer, how they express themselves, and the social/technical issues his company faces.

I - Instructables democratizes innovation by allowing inventors, crafters, chefs, and other artisans to share their projects in a highly affordable, approachable manner.

JJones Soda allows you to put your pictures on bottles of soda, ideal for commemorating weddings and other special occasions.

Also See: JuJups, Custom 3D picture frames and gift products.

KKeds is an old line shoe company that has come to the recognition that their customers are aging. In an effort to create a new generation of customers Keds has partnered with Zazzle to allow millennial customers to upload images, patterns, or designs of their choosing and have shoes manufactured based on those designs.

LLulu is a print on demand book binder that helps you print your magnum opus, publish it to the wider world with ISBN numbers, place it on Amazon, and sell it in their market place.

MMaker Faire is a gathering of technology and craft enthusiasts that takes place in San Francisco and Austin twice a year. You can see Mentos and Diet Coke fountains, giant sculptures made from old car parts, and a fashion show with garments made from garbage, among other amazing projects created by artisans and tinkerers from around the world.

Also See: Make: Magazine, just like Maker Faire, but flatter. My M&M’s, like regular M&M’s, but with more spelling options. MOO, a UK based print on demand company.

NNIKEiD was one of the first companies to take the plunge and allow their users to co-create branded products. Using their service you can choose a base model NIKE shoe, customize the colors and on many models, add a personal message (subject to some restrictions).

OObjet produces a 3D printer that prints parts with one of the smoothest surface finishes available today which is much different than the gritty surface left by most 3d printers. Fine mechanical engineering combined with advances in material science allows the new Objet Alaris 30 printer to provide parts that look almost as if they came out of an injection mold.

PPine, Joseph is one of the early thought leaders in mass customization and author of several books on the subject, including this seminal work.

Also see: Paragon Lake, provides an infinite inventory of custom jewelry to independent jewelry stores. Puma Mongolian Barbecue, which is their answer to NIKEiD. Ponoko, a laser cutting service and market place.

QQoop is a print on demand service, largely unremarkable with it’s major distinction being its name starts with “Q” giving it great utility in this list.

RReplicators were developed in the 24th century universe depicted in Star Trek: The Next Generation. They are onboard machines capable of producing almost any kind of food or beverage through a process of molecular sub-assembly.

In the modern day it is a company focused on combining web based design tools and custom manufacturing technology that helps put the “custom” back in customer.

SScrapblog is like Photoshop for people more concerned with expression than technology. They help “scrapbookers” create narratives around photos and share them as web based widgets, or printed as a book.

Also See: Spreadshirt, which is like a European Cafepress. Stratasys, manufacturers of high resolution 3D printers. Scion, Toyota’s customizable, youth focused brand. Spoonflower, print on demand fabrics. Shapeways, a web based 3D printing service bureau and social network.

TTechshop is like Kinko’s with laser cutters instead of laser printers. For a yearly membership you can get access to 3D printers, CNC mills, embroidering machines, and a variety of other interesting technologies.

Also See: Thinglab, UK based 3D printing experts. Timbuk2, one of the first cut and sew customization companies offering messenger bags. Trotec, manufacturers of high powered laser cutting systems. Tikatok, a youth focused print on demand children’s book publisher.

UUGOBE creates toys. Founded by the creator of the Furby, Ugobe produces the Pleo a dinosaur toy famous for its ability to “learn”. Filled with sensors it provides a glimpse into a future where our toys and everyday object will learn and customize themselves to us and our environments.

VVon Hippel, Eric is an MIT professor and Author of “Democratizing Innovation“. His research delves into the ways customers can “co-create” products with manufacturers.

Also See: Versalaser, highly affordable laser cutters for the serious hobbyist.

W – The Wohler Report is THE guide on developments in the custom manufacturing/3D printing market.

XXoddo allows children of all ages to express their personality by designing character based toys and then having them produced in plush form.

Also See: Xyron, manufacturers of the Wishblade personal cutting system.

YYouTube offers viewers the ability to customize a channel to fit their interests, but more importantly features a great collection of videos on customization. is one of the most innovative companies doing print on demand.

Also See: ZCorp, makers of the only full color 3D printers.

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  • sivam

    Don't see the two companies in 3D prting. and

  • Joseph Flaherty

    Sivam, Thanks for the reminder, they are now added to the list!

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  • Jon

    You guys forgot Ponoko ;-)

    Jon – Create Unique Memories

  • Ponoko Blog

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  • Joseph Flaherty


    They are in there, under P, I just had to give the top slot to the man who literally wrote THE book on mass customization. I couldn't forget the Ponoko team though they are providing an awesome service.

  • Jon

    Thanks for the huge list… great summary of what is out there for both designers and customers wanting more unique items.

    Jon – Create Unique Memories

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  • Andreas Jaritz

    Nice list! Would be cool to see letter F a bit more tuned… F like Fluid Forms?

    by the way: I think studio:ludens would also be worth to mention…


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    Hello, for a long time I read your blog, thanks for that that write interesting and
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  • josha

    i personally use Scrapblog and is great,

  • Joseph Flaherty

    They definitely have the nicest web based collage making tool. Very powerful, but also extremely easy to get started with. Kudos for them developing their software outside of the mainstream in Miami.

  • nutrition foods

    Thanks for the info. May God have mercy on us all.

  • for you health

    nice article! nice site. you're in my rss feed now ;-)
    keep it up

  • Acai Burn

    Wow I'm online a lot and didn't know a lot of those, nice work.

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  • Cara B Levi

    great article!, grats for u site :)

  • Angela Poole


  • Background Check

    I like that list…very good information.

  • Austin Mini Storage

    Great post.. I really need those tools, thanks for sharing those links.. and by the way, you really had a wide imagination on creating this blog post =)

  • Titan

    Great list. I cannot believe that you managed to make this ABC list using all letters of the alphabet. A,B,C,…Z. Anyway there are many products I did not know which I will try. In particular Xoddo. This seems a great way to let my young children develop their creativity

  • Bachelorette Party

    Thanks for a great post, I actually was surprised to know people actually make money using Cafe Press.. I want to try sometime too.

  • Memory Foam Mattress

    Xoddo is great it is platform for raw talent to be showcased and make big if the potential is there. great work..

  • Cricut Expression

    I remember when I was little and I went to Build-A-Bear it was nice.

  • German Shepherd Puppies

    Thanks for the whole list it was really great to discover these great tools and websites..

  • Wedding Favors

    Some good websites you have mentioned, I like cafepress a lot..

  • Cold Sore Treatment

    Thanks for the post, some of the sites were really unknown..

  • Acne Scar Removal

    Thanks for a great list, I have bookmarked the sites..

  • golfman_story

    This is quite impressive, I am pleased to read this post, keep posts like this coming, you totally rock!

  • Prada Sunglasses

    A good list of applications especially Google sketchup is the best , may be because i prefer using things that are free but fantastic.

  • Cellulite

    Thanks for the mention! will definitely be careful about these two!

  • AZShop

    Wow great resources, lot of useful infos,
    Thank you very much.

  • Glow Rave

    i know some of the tools but is some thing of a new tool, which i need at the moment.

  • debtfinanacing

    hey that was really informative and creative… thanks a lot of so much info at just one place.. we came to know of so many sites which we were not aware of too!!!!!!!!!!

  • fish tanks

    I'd say YouTube has been most successful. Google bought the site for $1.65 billion in 2006.

  • spot coolers

    THE book on mass customization. I couldn't forget the Ponoko team though they are providing an awesome service………….

  • Medela metro bag

    Hey there, thanks for the ABCof Mass customization, I have sure learned a lot, will definitely be bookmarking this page now!


  • King foam mattress

    Excellent resource, thanks !

  • wholesale korean clothing

    Thanks for the mention!

  • pomeranian puppies

    This is a great list of apps. I'm just going to bookmark this blog and refer back when I need an app.

  • Babies

    Useful list, will bookmark your post.

  • Winza Rubies

    LULU.COM is amazing..

  • Ways to Make Money Online

    I love Lulu as well, it is everything you ever needed for that type of usage.

  • ravm

    Very nice list. Thanks for sharing. There were many that I hadn't heard of before.

  • Aviator Sunglasses

    Wow. It's a nice article. I'm stuffed with new ideas now.

  • Varicose Veins

    Nice lists. ScrapBlog looks like an interesting site.

  • Sex Machines

    I'm a huge fan of Evil Mad Scientists! They have created a 3D printer that prints massive, complex designs out of sugar as well as a number of other malevolent innovations. Sweet!

  • wheelie bin cleaning

    You've compiled this wonderful list without missing a beat! Great work Joseph!

  • press controls

    I had seen a lots of their products and I can say they are pretty smooth and adorable.

  • Traveller_Adventure

    Great post, really help me alot. Thanks.

    Blog Review

  • Camera Accessories

    This is a great list of apps. I'm just going to bookmark this blog and refer back when I need an app.

  • Toenail Fungus Treatment

    A good list of the applicatiions especially googlesketchup. I like it alot. Thanks alot for the information.

  • Nail Fungus

    What is the purpose of the list?

  • sheela

    I added all this in my list. Replicator is the best.

  • Bean Bag Chair

    Very nice resource of links you have here. I appreciate you taking the time to post these.

  • datingchatroomsfounder

    Nice list. I would like to see you add more to this page. Thank you

  • acai

    I use all these links you have posted. I love the youtube.

  • geetg57

    My child love Ugobe toys a lot. Also they are safe for children as the material is of good quality.

  • bin cleaning equipment

    I never heard of Google Sketchup before well I think it will be a good idea to check it out

  • coldblood

    That is a great list Joseph.. however it would have been even better if you had added even more! Anyways..appreciate your effort in taking so much time to post these!

  • max191

    I am about to start a blog and your blog gave me much hint how to do it. I really loved to visit your blog. Hope to see more inputs from you in your blog.
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  • orlando family dentist

    this is a great list. I have went to alot of these sites and they are great.

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