TL:DR If you want to make a lamp, like the one pictured here, you can get all your components at Ponoko instead of having to use multiple services.
New Zealand based Ponoko recently announced “Personal Factory 4” the latest development in their quest to democratize manufacturing.
What is Ponoko’s Personal Factory 4?
Ponoko offers makers ala carte access to custom manufacturing technology. You can have items you design 3D Printed, Laser Cut, and water cut out of metal. Your parts can be made in a variety of materials including plastic, rubber, felt, wood, cardboard, and leather. Ponoko also sells electronic components in a partnership with SparkFun so aspiring electronics entrepreneurs can buy internal and external components in one shot.
Product Design is Becoming a Hobby
Developing new physical products is becoming easier for non-professionals. This new service by Ponoko accelerates that trend. Up until now, no consumer facing service offered so many manufacturing options on one site. Shapeways does an awesome job providing access to 3D printers, but they don’t offer laser cutting services or electronic components at this time. Reducing supplier complexity will allow hobbyist inventors more time to refine their designs and experiment.
Ponoko is also smartly addressing the significant educational aspect that comes with hobbyist product development. Most people who make things on the side give little thought to the realities of shipping, customer service, or profit margins. Chris Anderson of Wired and “Atoms are the New Bits” fame wrote ten rules for aspiring product entrepreneurs based on his experience with his company DIY Drones.
Overall it is a great step forward and a very impressive development. Ponoko could add a few case studies to show how people can actually take advantage of all these materials and processes and get into the technical details of some of the 3D Printing processes (pros & cons), but it is another reminder that it is a very exciting time to be making things!