July 25, 2017

An Uber model for manufacturing is ready to upend the industry

MakeTime Logo
Image Courtesy of MakeTime

Nazareth Ekmekjian was on a tight deadline, and news from the machine shops wasn’t good. A designer for Boston-based Piaggio Fast Forward, a transportation and robotics subsidiary of Piaggio Group, Ekmekjian needed a prototype of a component made within a week and a half. But every shop he contacted said it would take at least two.

Finally, Ekmekjian found a company that could meet his deadline, and at half the cost. The difference? It didn’t own any machinery, but ran a network of equipment leased from manufacturers.

“It was really simple,” Ekmekjian says. “I uploaded the geometry, provided a few specifications and they took care of the rest.”

“They,” in this case, are the employees at MakeTime, a startup launched by architect turned manufacturing entrepreneur Drura Parrish in Lexington, Kentucky. Under a model known as distributed or on-demand manufacturing, MakeTime is meeting small businesses’ manufacturing needs in much the same way Uber meets the needs of passengers looking for rides. Companies, entrepreneurs, and inventors can rent time on nearby equipment, be it CNC milling machines, water jets, or laser cutters—any of which can cost from $50,000 to $250,000 apiece to purchase.

The approach could have timely benefits. As US president Donald Trump continues […]

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