From August 2016 I’m taking part in Utweak project as a product manager and UX designer We have been working in a framework of Fabulous Accelerator program for the last 4 months. Utweak is a marketplace for customization of furniture, driven by the web-based 3D editor. It works with parametric designs and CNC manufactured furniture.
In the end of December we have closed our accelerator program with great results and a working prototype. One of our goals was to identify algorithms for further development and simplification of File2Factory process. Throughout the last 3 months our team, made of inspired professionals – Isaac Pierre Racine, Shashank Shrivastava, Javi Ajenjo, Gabriel Ceron, Qifeng Xie, Ayman Mognieh, Alvaro Muñolez and Katia Sanz – dedicated themselves to building up a platform from the scratch. We have managed to prepare 3 furniture designs for customization and integrate them into an editor: One to Many Table, Modular Shelves and Twistab stool. Shashank Shrivastava also designed 5 more products for future integration.
To share results of our ongoing research on digital manufacturing I would like to give resume some findings. The last several years industry was focused on customization for 3D printed objects, and the furniture and wood related products in general stayed in the shadow. Though the challenge of this field is even more daring than 3D printing and has a great potential. CNC milling is not an additive and is yet to discover its way to cut down the costs and enable mass customization. Among some of the crucial issues we faced on our way are:
- There is a lack of nesting web-applications or plug-ins for CNC milling.
- Majority of the fabricators still do not line up for manufacturing-on demand, there is a hope though that mass customization will urge more and more fabricators to adapt to new models. From our experience so far, unsurprisingly, majority of our potential partners are FabLabs and some smaller manufacturers with a feel for innovation.
- There is a huge market to target with customization of furniture.
- File2Factory is extremely complex issue, and it will take a lot of players and some good productive years to bring it to the level of mass production. The workflow from 3D model to fabricable .dxf, differences in fabrication techniques, equipment and standards are only few issues to mention.
After acceleration stage 1 is closed we are planning to further investigate the spectrum of these issues, together with some other brilliant start-ups and our peers.