A new online service has launched to provide collaboration services for product development: Wikifactory.
The service provides a means for participants to register with the community and associate with any number of shared projects. The purpose is to foster more efficient development of possible products using teams that are distributed, or even remotely located.
While the name of the service, “Wikifactory”, connotes a “Wiki” where anyone can edit and contribute, that’s not exactly what’s going on here. Yes, people can contribute and edit, but it is focused on projects.
I would say Wikifactory is much more akin to GitHub, another online service that caters to the software development community, where coding projects are developed by worldwide networks of participant coders.
The pricing concept is also much more like GitHub than Wikipedia: public projects are available at no charge, while private projects must pay a fee. Like GitHub, this could make Wikifactory the go-to place for managing public product projects, while at the same time providing an outlet for paid private projects.
But unlike GitHub, which focuses on software (and yes, a bit of STL as well), Wikifactory recognizes that software and hardware are very often combined in today’s projects. They explain:
“Products are becoming more complex, often comprising mechanical parts, electronic components, and software. In short, modern products require collaboration amongst people with a wide range of skill sets and specific production processes for each part of the product.
However, hardware teams today are still using tools like Dropbox to share files and Microsoft Excel to manage complex workflows. The result is higher costs, slower product development, and error-prone sourcing.
Wikifactory is changing that. Designed for open source communities and product companies alike, Wikifactory connects the next generation of product developers to the tools to accelerate their product development.”
The two main elements of the Wikifactory system appear to be their community, which is a collection of individuals, and their collection of shared projects. The system essentially links the two together and provides a number of convenience functions to make that happen.
Their notable functions include a version-controlled file storage system that projects can use; a visualizer that allows easy view of CAD projects; trouble ticket system; documentation capabilities; and security and permission systems.
One extremely interesting feature is called the “exploding view”, where a CAD design can be instantly “exploded” into its component parts in 3D. I should mention that they currently handle over 30 CAD formats, something GitHub does not do.
The system allows you to view (if authorized) to see what people are working on, and determine which projects are most popular. This ensures labor is attracted to the most interesting projects, much like is done with open source software. You can discover other projects very easily, and, if permitted, join their team to contribute.
I’m quite impressed with Wikifactory’s highly clean and tidy interface, which should make it exceptionally easy to use.
Wikifactory competes against several other project-oriented systems now on the market, but I suspect by taking a GitHub-style approach which has proven to be successful, they may also succeed.
That said, some of their competitors may offer more advanced functions that cater to a more commercial audience; Wikifactory is likely to be the king of open source projects.
It could also be highly useful for makerspaces worldwide, where participants often gather to work on new ideas. In fact, the remote participant ability of Wikifactory may enable easy inter-makerspace projects that could not easily be attempted otherwise.
For now, you can try out Wikifactory at no charge. However, for a private project, their fees start at US$7 per month and go upwards from there.
MakerOS has a brilliant hidden feature in their online service: a sophisticated 3D print pricing calculator that allows operators to determine exactly how to price prints.