Smart Takes

We can all be manufacturers

We can all be manufacturers

Posting in Design

Chris Anderson, best known a big thinker and an author that chronicles the digital revolution, is going decidedly analog.

Chris Anderson, best known a big thinker and an author that chronicles the digital revolution, is going decidedly analog.

That’s the gist of a talk the Wired editor-in-chief gave at the Supernova conference in San Francisco. I must admit it’s odd to hear Anderson get so wound up about physical stuff. But he got into manufacturing—without any infrastructure mind you—via his DIY Drones venture (right). “This could be the future of manufacturing and the future of the U.S. economy,” he said.

Anderson’s speech, which he used to try out new material that will most likely wind up in another book, made the following points:

  • The Web revolution is hitting the real world. “We are entering a new manufacturing age,” said Anderson. “I’ve been thinking about being analog and the world of manufacturing.”
  • Manufacturing businesses are utilizing a lot of the techniques pioneered on the Web.
  • Tools of production are being democratized. Exhibit A: 3D printers will now run you $750. Anderson has one in his basement. Laser cutters and circuit boards can all be designed in your basement using world class industrial technologies.
  • If you want scale, a Chinese factory will work with you where ever you are. “I can click a button and make robots in a Chinese factory move,” said Anderson. “These factories want to work with smaller companies because there’s the flexibility to do so and higher margins. You have access to the same factory as Sony.”
  • Anderson chronicled Local Motors, which walks you through designing and building a car. Can this business scale?

The list goes on. Anderson’s big point is that the barriers to manufacturing are falling away. In fact, we may all be manufacturers down the road. Consider it the long tail of physical stuff.

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Larry Dignan


Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure