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Manufacturers and Makers Finding Ways to Work Together

Posted By Jeff Moad, September 30, 2015 at 4:25 PM, in Category: The Innovative Enterprise

1a92f6eb86614ef55c83a3ce4d2ba03c.jpgFor a long time, the maker movement and the world of quality, high-volume production have been worlds apart. Contract manufacturers and job shops didn’t know how to sell or cater their services to makers who may have been interested in moving their creations into production. And makers—enthusiastic individuals who use digital tools to turn ideas into designs and prototypes—often didn’t know how to find and work with manufacturers who could turn digital prototypes into high volume, commercial products.

But a number of recent developments suggest the worlds of makers and manufacturers are finally beginning to come together.


  • Make Time, a year-old Lexington, KY, start-up, is an online marketplace that connects makers with manufacturers who have excess production capacity to sell. Manufacturers can offer their capacity and post their schedules, and makers can buy capacity by the hour. Make Time founders claim to have attracted 1,000 buyers and sellers into the system.
  • Etsy, a web site that started as a way for makers to sell their hand-crafted items, has launched Etsy Manufacturing, a program that promises to bring together makers with qualified manufacturers that can turn designs into products in volume. Etsy doesn’t vet manufacturers, but does require that they abide by ethical standards including non-discrimination and the avoidance of child labor.
  • Plethora is a job shop start-up that is tailored for makers and other designers seeking quick turn-around and help with design-for-manufacturability. The company offers a plug-in app for existing CAD programs that provides feedback on the manufacturability of designs. And it offers fast quotes and delivery of CNC-milled aluminum parts in as little as 3 days from order.
  • Proto Labs, a Maple Plain, MN, producer of prototype and low volume parts, has launched a Cool Ideas! competition that rewards great innovators and designers with free production services including CNC machining, 3D printing, and injection molding. The idea is to get makers into the door, then grow with them once their products take off. (Proto Labs was the winner of the Manufacturing Leadership Awards’ Manufacturer of the Year (Small/Medium-size enterprise.))

No doubt makers and manufactures will continue to struggle to speak each other’s language. But such examples suggest they are finding ways to work together.

Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit


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