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February 05, 2010



I think one needs to consider that Ponoko has up to now provided laser cutting services rather than 3D printing services, so we should really compare the costs with that of buying a laser cutter. I think they need to ramp up the localised nature of their manufacturing network as quickly as possible as they are really competing with local laser cutters around the world, who will always offer an advantage in terms of shipping costs. Ponoko and this sector could really be working together more, bringing business to each other.

Your point about quality is more pertinent as even with the increased simplification of CNC machines and laser cutters, the process is one requiring no mean skill and experience, hence we are unlikely to see laser cutters in the home in the very near future, but would be better off leaving subtraction jobs to a local fabbing expert.

3D printing seems to be a slightly different kettle of fish given that it can be operated in a more 'push-button' manner, and is a process that is generally limited to a specific material, which may be why we are seeing 3D printers develop into more of a consumer product. The most interesting question I think is at what point (if ever) Ponoko will choose to go into 3D printing, and how this might differ from the model needed for other processes.

I think there is still a way to go in allowing various fabbing technologies to converge, but that the sooner a distributed manufacturing network is evolved, the better. So hooray!

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