Wikifactory announced a new collaborative manufacturing marketplace to complement their existing services.
What is Wikifactory? It was launched three years ago after a few years of development, and promises to revolutionize hardware product development.
How is that happening? Their base concept is that hardware development should be like software development, where there are tons of tools and services to smooth the work effort and simplify procedures. Software today can be developed far faster than ever in history, in part due to the environment that’s developed over time. On the other hand, it’s continuing to be a challenge to produce hardware at a similar pace.
Wikifactory launched a series akin to GitHub, where designers can work together online to iteratively develop hardware products through sharing designs. Wikifactory includes a number of tools to make that experience smooth and effective.
The service is available at no charge, but the projects are not private, similar to the GitHub model. That’s been effective, as Wikifactory has attracted an incredible 90,000 participants from 90 countries thus far. The private service is currently “invite only” at this time.
Today’s announcement takes Wikifactory to another level.
Consider their current services: they allow designers to work together to create an effective design, and ultimately a prototype.
But what happens next? Well, manufacturing the item, of course.
That’s what the announcement is all about. Wikifactory explains:
”Once designers have created, shared, reviewed and collaborated on a product design, the new Collaborative Manufacturing Marketplace system offers an online solution for them to prototype and produce hardware, anywhere in the world. It provides online quotes, global delivery, and faster production times for CNC machining, sheet metal, 3D printing, and injection moulding with 150+ materials and presets via both global and local manufacturers.”
This completes the lifecycle for a product: design, prototyping and finally manufacturing.
This is a big accomplishment for Wikifactory, which happened to receive an investment boost of US$4.5M only last year. Evidently that cash assisted the development of the new service.
The manufacturing component may boost usage of Wikifactory, as participants know they have an easy route to full manufacturing, should their design make it that far. This could be a very powerful linkage, because plenty of designers know how to design, but far less about manufacturing. That lack of experience may make them more likely to take the “easy step” of simply using the new Wikifactory manufacturing service.
There’s something else here: this places Wikifactory in competition with several other high-flying manufacturing services and networks. Hubs, for example, (now part of Protolabs), is one of them, as well as Xometry. Many of these companies hold top positions on our weekly 3D print company stock leaderboard, so I’m wondering whether Wikifactory might at some point join them.
Wikifactory does have an advantage over their manufacturing network competitors in that they have the input pipeline of designers to automatically generate network users. Other manufacturing services don’t seem to have such a comprehensive design layer and could be at a disadvantage.
The next few years should be very interesting for Wikifactory.