Maker6 is a very different ballgame for 3D printing. This is an integrated service, including assistance with design and consumer-friendly services. It’s also a very interesting business approach, making 3D printing easily accessible.
I was fortunate enough to get an interview with MacKenzie Brown, CEO of maker6 and its related CAD design company, CAD Crowd. I was extremely interested in what looked to me to be a very effective way of managing 3D printing across a very wide range of commercial and consumer needs.
I don’t need to do a lot of talking here. I was lucky enough to get a particularly well-informed expert as my interviewee, and MacKenzie explains how maker6 works extremely well. What I will say is that this is the first working model of consumer level 3D printing I’ve seen, and it’s a truly good idea, practical and efficient across a whole spectrum of 3D printing commercial and consumer applications.
Calgary-based maker6 is an online operation, providing access to 3D printing services and design services. It also provides access to local printers, as Mackenzie explains below. What stunned me was the sheer scope of maker6’s range of operations and products.
The new face of print on demand 3D printing
These products are top of the range, latest in class, 3D printing designs. You’ll notice the carbon fibre business cards, complete with hollow cut logo-shape. That’s new, and it’s also a good indicator of the versatility which 3D printing can bring to designs.
You’ll see a truly vast range of products of just about every known type of consumer goods, and a lot of information about how to source these products. I will now shut up and let MacKenzie do the talking:
Digital Journal:How does a consumer use maker6 3D printing services? Can they just contact you and say they want something printed, like a special birthday thing, or whatever?
Planters you can customize? Think that'll take off? Ask a few billion home owners stuck with take-it-or-leave-it buckets for their plants.
MacKenzie Brown: Creating a custom product starts with posting your project idea on CAD Crowd. Let’s say you want to create a special iPhone case for your friend’s birthday. To get that exact case you have in mind, you start by posting your idea as a design contest on CAD Crowd. Freelancers will submit their designs and it’s up to you to choose the winning designer. Next, you’ll upload your design file on maker6. You can select the type of material you want and you’ll get an instant quote for printing the case directly from a printer near you. Then, you can pick it up or get it delivered to your friend in time for her birthday. That’s how you can go from a napkin-sketch to a 3D printed special gift for someone you care about, in a matter of a few days.
Digital Journal: What are the advantages of custom 3D printing?MacKenzie Brown: Every object has a personal biography. Whether it’s a t-shirt from your favorite band in college, or a coffee mug you designed and printed for your first day on the job-- these stories are connected to where our objects came from and how they were created. With custom 3D printing, these biographies can become even more personal. You can input meaning into the design itself, even before you buy it, use it, gift it, or display it on the fireplace mantle. Custom 3D printing platforms like maker6 have the power to transform how we interact with the objects around us.
Interesting, isn't it? You want it, you've got it.
The collaborative nature of maker6 allows our users to seek advice from hundreds of freelance designers when they need help tweaking a design or iterating on a past prototype. This type of collaboration allows for a truly innovative design process since our platform allows for continuous feedback between the user and the designer. How many Amazon reviews have you read where someone writes: “I love this product but the switch was hard to turn on and off,” or “This was what I was looking for, but I wish the handle was on the left side, instead of the right?” With custom 3D printing, this kind of feedback won’t be static anymore. It can actually be incorporated into the design and production of the objects we use on a daily a basis.
Digital Journal: Looks like you can do print-on-demand for new CAD designs, too. What are the advantages for designers in using local 3D printing? MacKenzie Brown: We see the 3D printing market developing along local trajectories because of the advantages that derive from local, community-sourced production systems. For consumers, nothing will seem out of grasp or too far-fetched because there will always be someone around the corner available to help bring your idea into fruition. This will empower designers and freelance drafters across the world because our platform connects them with a high volume of clients and businesses that they would not normally have access to.
Just think of the possibilities here. Rococo table settings, made to order?
Digital Journal:I was checking out your ready-to-print products, and you seem to have everything from guitars to silver table settings? Exactly how many ready to print products do you have?MacKenzie Brown: We have several hundred products that are currently available. We have a special commitment to finding customizable 3D printed products. For example, one of our 3D printers offers carbon fiber reinforced business cards, which can be printed with personalized text and company logos.
Digital Journal:Those prices are pretty good by any standards. Why so cheap? MacKenzie Brown: As our business grows we are working towards educating our users on how to value their products in a way that benefits everyone in the production network. Through trial and error, we’ve learned there are some key factors that come into play when setting prices. One is the level of effort involved for the designer and another is the degree of specialization that that the product requires. Crowdsourced production is a newly emerging area of our economy. We’re excited to be at the forefront of this new field, to build a sustainable business model around the customized production process, and educate our users on setting prices.
Digital Journal:We’re an international site, with readers all over the world who’ll be interested in this. I notice you’ve got a Find A Printer search for Local 3D printing in San Francisco, New York and London, as well as Canada, with different rates. How does that work?MacKenzie Brown: Our goal is to have maker6 printing hubs in every major metropolitan city. Our site gives individuals and businesses access to a broad range of 3D printers with a wide range of materials. Connecting our users with local 3d printers available in their cities eliminates the need to purchase an expensive commercial 3D printer on their own and our users can receive their items faster, bypassing shipping and delivery fees.
Digital Journal: There are commercial aspects, too. What if a business wants a custom design made? What are the business angles for print on demand 3D printing? Can you manage the design issues and CAD design in-house, too, like a one stop shop? MacKenzie Brown: Many businesses are frustrated with the current options for hiring designers and engineers on a project-by-project basis because they are often expensive and inefficient. This is especially true if a company wants to work with someone on an ongoing basis. We’ve developed a more efficient way to connect business looking for custom designs and product with virtual 3D designers, CAD drafters and engineers. We work with businesses to find out their specific needs and find the best person for the job. Starting from day one, the hiring company can begin implementing the project instead of having to manage employment logistics.
Digital Journal: Can you tell us your vision for the 3D printing market of the future?
The time has come for 3D printing to change the world. This is a NanoWatch for iPod Nano.
MacKenzie Brown: For 3D printing to take-off as a concept and as a business model that will transform manufacturing and production as we know it, it must start at a local level.
That’s where we come in. As local 3D printing communities continue to grow, making and distributing customized goods will become the new norm. In the long-run, we envision our platform empowering small-business and individual entrepreneurs to create and sell their products directly to consumers through our online marketplace.
3D printing is in its early infancy. It will change the world, and I’d say MacKenzie has described how it’s going to do that.