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Innovation & Startups

CloudFab ushers in the age of home-based manufacturing

Thanks to the open source Internet, sophisticated design and manufacturing isn't just for big industry anymore.

You can bring your own product ideas to life in the comfort of your home with the right 2-D and 3-D digital making technologies and open source electronics hardware. And CloudFab in Pittsburgh is providing the software that's making it happen.

Earlier this year, CloudFab announced a partnership with New Zealand-based Ponoko to bring 3-D printing to the masses. The collaboration marks the first widespread use of CloudFab's technology, which will be used by Ponoko, the world's first Personal Factory, a place to buy, sell and make custom goods online whether you have design skills or not.

But what exactly is 3-D printing? A more accurate term might be "additive manufacturing," says Nick Pinkston, CloudFab founder. It's a manufacturing classification unto itself.

Say you have an idea for something like a light switch cover. The design is in your head, but you don't do the design software. You could hire someone to design it for you. Or, with CloudFab's platform, you could build your own physical prototype, layer by layer, selecting materials as you go along; CloudFab fulfills orders for 3-D printing behind-the-scenes.

"It's mass production for everyone," says Pinkston. "My mom could do it. It's the democratization of manufacturing."

Advocates of custom manufacturing see a future day when every home will become its own design zone, filled with original lamps and furniture and tiles. The concept not only supports a greener economy, but will unleash a wave of creativity that bring an may end mass produced sameness as
we know it.

The possibilities are infinite, Pinkston says. CloudFab, part of Startuptown in Uptown Pittsburgh, evolved out of Hack Pittsburgh in 2009, which evolved out of GearHeadz. Hack Pittsburgh is a local community of that remains devoted to deconstructing and repurposing materials for new and innovative uses.

"It will be an interesting phase of humanity," Pinkston predicts. "The community at large is capable of building a better product than an individual."

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Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Nick Pinkston, CloudFab

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