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The rise of personal manufacturing raises some interesting questions. Will it be as disruptive to the manufacturing industry as the Internet has been to media companies?

How is 3D printing is changing the industry and what impact is it having on entrepreneurs? With the costs of prototyping coming down, what does this mean for start-up companies who have a product to manufacture? Will this lead to a wave of 'digital manufacturers'?

The resources on this page provide some background to the event we held on 19 January 2011, and some places for further reading and viewing.

Changing the world

Cory Doctorow has written a great novel called 'Makers' that imagines a world where 3D printing creates a new bubble, and what happens to some of the inventors afterwards. You can download the text for free on his website:

A Wired article in early 2010, entitled 'Atoms are the new bits' described the new technologies as bringing a 'new industrial revolution'. 

Ben O'Steen, from the University of Oxford's Library service has a web version of a talk he gave on 'Making the Physical from the Digital'. This discusses archiving, 3d printing, visualisation and many other topics.

The Science and Technology Policy Institute recently published a report commissioned by the US Office of Science and Technology Policy called [email protected]: The emerging economy of personal manufacturing.

Using the technology: 3D printing

Adrian Bowyer spoke at the NESTA event. He is the creator of the RepRap, a 3D open source printer, than can reproduce most of its own components. 

TedX talk by Adrian Bowyer:

The Guardian and the Times have recently covered kits sold by MakerBot Industries that can be put together to make a ‘Thing-o-matic’ desktop 3D printer. The Thing-o-matic and Makerbot’s Cupcake CNC are derivatives of the RepRap project, and are also open source.

The BBC News site has a great series of articles called 'The Technology of Business'.

One of these, 'Manufacturing the dream: game-changing new production' follows the creators of the Glif, an iPhone tripod mount, who used 3D printing company Shapeways and crowdfunding site Kickstarter to create their product, before committing to a large run of traditionally manufactured injection-moulded versions. 

Other places that will help you make things include Ponoko, a ‘personal factory’ for buying, creating and selling user-created designs; and Inventables, a place to find new materials for projects.

MIT has created a working flute using a 3D printer: 

FabLabs are locations where you can get access to 3D printers and other prototyping machines to help make your designs a reality. The UK's first FabLab is in Manchester.

London Hackspace is another location where you can make things, and get access to resources including a 3D printer.


Personal manufacturing isn't just about desktop 3D printers, but also about open designs that allow much greater customisation by individuals.

Local Motors is an open-source car manufacturing initiative. They are creators of the Rally Fighter, an  open-source car design that can be built at one of their local locations in the US over a couple of long weekends, and then driven home. 

Fashion is an area that has embraced the personal manufacturing concept. Print-on-demand companies like Threadless, Zazzle and MySoti will print your designs onto t-shirts and other products.

The Digital Fashion Studio at the London College of Fashion offers technical advice on how to use these new technologies to turn creative ideas into prototypes and commercial concepts.


Crowdfunding (or micropatronage) began in music and film - fans contributing money to get their band to tour or donating contributions to get a film made.

The Economist has a recent article on this trend, 'Putting your money where your mouse is'. 

One of the highest profile sites for crowdfunding projects is, whose tagline is "fund and follow creativity".