The Online Machine Shop

I’m at MIT all day at a symposium run by Eric von Hippel on Democratizing Innovation.  It’s a classic “drink from a fire hose” type of day – short (15 minute) descriptions of 40 or so research projects over two days.

Most of what I’m interested in is the research around open source.  However, given that I recently read FAB and have been thinking about a “personal fabrication machine”, I was totally jazzed to hear about eMachineShop – an online machine shop that allows a user to design, price, and order custom machined parts online.

The company’s tag line is “Why waste time traveling, calling, faxing or emailing to conventional machine shops – and waiting days for quotations? Reduce your total time up to 90%! Open doors to new products and projects, to inventing new things, to reducing the cost of parts and more.  Quantity 1 to 1,000,000.”

The examples are great.  Pricing is straightforward and easy to deal with.  And – for people like me that barely know how to use a stapler (unless it’s a virtual one) – this is a brilliant example of the shift from physical to virtual, enabling me to create stuff using software that I’d previously never have a chance of even thinking about playing around with.