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.

CCafePress.com 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.

ZZazzle.com 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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  • http://www.jujups.com sivam

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

  • http://www.replicatorinc.com Joseph Flaherty

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

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  • http://buzvia.com/woodmarvels.com Jon

    You guys forgot Ponoko ;-)

    Jon
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  • http://www.replicatorinc.com Joseph Flaherty

    Jon,

    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.

  • http://buzvia.com/woodmarvels.com Jon

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

    Jon
    http://WoodMarvels.com – Create Unique Memories

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  • http://www.fluid-forms.com 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…

    cheers

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

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    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!

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

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

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

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    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!

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