We re-read last week’s post on the new “What Can I Make For You?” service and had an idea. If you recall, the WCIMFY service was quite simple: type what you want (in natural language) into a box and hit submit. The service then figures out how to match your desired “thing” with someone who could actually make it.
So on to the idea. One of the big barriers to the expansion of 3D printing is the availability of models. While many Fabbaloo readers will be perfectly capable of firing up <insert 3D modeling tool of choice> and cranking out a 3D model of <insert interesting artifact> in no time flat, the sad truth is that most of the general public will never be able to do that. How will the general public ever use 3D printers?
Some 3D print ventures attempt to get over this hurdle by providing a wide variety of models to choose from in a repository. Shapeways and Ponoko, for example, have many items to choose from; MakerBot is associated with Thingiverse, etc. You don’t have to be a 3D modeler to use these services and products. But unless you can model, you’re stuck with whatever’s in the repository.
That bleak scenario doesn’t take full advantage of this technology which permits one-time custom-fit manufacturing, a completely different approach than traditional mass production. Use of a 3D model repository, while useful, is kind of a step back towards mass production.
The idea is to create a “What Can I Model For You?” service, in which everyday folks could enter a brief description of what they need and be matched with a 3D modeler capable of producing a design suitable for printing either on a home machine or a 3D print service.
Interested designers could register with the service, indicating their speciality (e.g. jewelry, mechanical parts, home repair items, works of art, scanning, etc.) The service would provide skills matching and manage the financial aspects, where fees would be negotiated, collected and allocated. This might be a great way for designers to make some extra cash while making life easier for those wishing to use 3D technology. Or maybe it’s just another crazy idea.