An aspect of decentralization often overlooked is manufacturing and the physical world. There's a disconnect in peoples minds between P2P network-based systems, and the 'real', tangible world, but I think it is actually very important to bridge these.
I believe being able to affordably create all sorts of high quality objects on an individual or community level will be crucial in a future with hyper automation.
That's why I'm starting this new series called The Desktop Manufactory, as a way to explore the people, machines and techniques for physically building this new world. I want to get stuck in and design the machines that can make useful, functional objects, and even other machines themselves.
We can already see the very early stages of how physical objects are dematerialized and transferred as information, and I hope this trend will continue. Many people aren't realizing the full potential of their machines, and only create toys and other plastic trinkets, but I think the potential for complex, useful object creation isn't far off.
Just imagine a future where, instead of buying a new smartphone, you buy the blueprint source files and have a replicator type machine make a completely customizable one for you. That's obviously a long way off, but we're on the path towards that day.
AREAS OF INTEREST
There are many areas where progress could be made, by either increasing the machines capabilities, shrinking down size and cost, or making them easier to operate.
Creating a new range of machines and their software, pooling resources, and open sourcing all of it gives us a chance to innovate and progress together.
Here are a few of the areas I've been thinking a lot about, and want to cover.
Obviously the first thing everyone thinks of is 3D printers. There's lots of room for innovation here. From increasing print quality, speed, output, to making complete out of the box solutions that require zero tinkering to operate.
There are some people even working on ways to drastically increase build sizes, or use conveyerbelt build surfaces to act as higher volume production lines.
Resin printers are another area that I'd love to see new ideas in too. There's definitely room for improvement here, and potentially ways to automate more of the processes, so it's less messy, and more user friendly.
Perhaps the basic tenants of 3D printing themselves can be challenged, and rethought, allowing completely new ways of doing things to emerge? Who knows? But either way, it's worth exploring.
3D PRINTING ACCESSORIES
Along with the printers, there's also lots of room for new open hardware accessories that can do things like automatically finish prints to production level standards, or devices to create precise custom filament or resin colours.
3D scanners are also an area to explore, as a way to quickly digitize real life objects for later manufacturing, and there are a range of open source options out there already.
CNC Mills have come a long way in the past few years, but plug and play solutions are still quite expensive for what they are. Mills are still the go-to solution for creating high quality objects, especially from wood, or soft metals.
One area that could be looked into is automated drill bit changers, and stuff like that, which would dramatically increase productivity and usefulness.
More complex 5-axis mills are another area ripe for innovation, and a great open hardware machine is needed. These would allow users to make very intricate things.
LASER CUTTERS / ENGRAVERS
High quality laser cutters are often massive, expensive machines. Can we change this? They are widely used for many applications, and it's something worth looking into.
There are a few open source projects out there already, and perhaps that's a good place to start.
The injection molding process is fairly simple, yet has large set up costs, and massive machinery involved. What if we could shrink this down. Maybe combine the other CNC machines to create on-demand metal molds.
Imagine what desktop injection molding could bring to open hardware projects. Creators could make small to medium runs of high quality plastic parts in very little time, and for much less cost.
Another way to make simpler plastic parts quickly is with a vacuum former. You basically heat up a sheet of plastic, then hold it down over an object using a vacuum, while it cools and sets hard.
It's often used in packaging design, but could be useful for other things too.
There are some consumer products out there, but making an open version could be worth doing.
Printing is an area often overlooked due to it's fairly mature ecosystem, but I still think there are many areas to explore and innovate in.
Large format printers, for example, are still quite expensive for what they are.
Other 2D print methods could be looked into also, like inkjet printing directly onto plastics, woods or metals, or even creating new conductive inks for printing circuits.
Screen printing, and pad printing is yet another space that's widely used in many products, and could be shrank down and automated further for the individual user.
In a similar realm to 2D printing, personal, automated book binding could be a very exciting technology to pursue. Imagine being able to use standardized A4, or A5 papers and cards to print, fold, cut, and bind professional on demand books, zines, leaflets etc.
HP already has their giant, expensive machines for on-demand printing. What if we could do something in a similar vein for the personal user level?
DIE CUTTING / PLOTTERS
Another machine that deals with paper, amongst other flat materials is the die cutter or plotter.
These are used in a wide variety of applications, from vinyl stickers and decals, cutting leather or heat transfers, to stuff like finishing paper and cardboard with intricate detailing.
They seems to use very similar mechanics to inkjet printers, and I wonder how inexpensive you could create something like that.
Creating PCBs at home is still a little hit or miss, and often requires a lot of mess, or chemicals and general faffing about. A small, all-in-one system that can take designs and create professional quality boards in a short amount of time would be killer for inventors and tinkerers.
There are a few all in one devices out there at the moment, but I think there may be other ways to do things too.
This area is definitely one that I will be putting a significant amount of time into researching. I've got a feeling there's either new materials or new techniques that are waiting to be uncovered.
Probably the grand daddy of them all is actual electronics component fabrication. Creating chips and other components at home may seem like a fanciful sci-fi dream, but there are actually people out there, like Sam Zeloof, and the LibreSilicon project working on these problems, and making progress.
Maybe one of you watching this holds the key to unlock this technology, and change the world? You won't know until you look into it.
GET IN TOUCH
If you know of a great project in any of these areas, have worked on one in the past, or are currently working on something, I want to hear from you. Besides covering them in this series, I'd love to collaborate, and start designing and building a new family of highly affordable open hardware machines, that push boundaries, and can create output on par with large, expensive alternatives. I have some ideas for some new things that I've never seen tried before and want to realize them.
I especially want to hear from those who have made their own machines, industrial designers, and software developers for creating the user interface side of things.
I genuinely think we could help bring about a new decentralized industrial revolution, where the power to create advanced machines and objects is within the reach of many people worldwide. We could create open systems that are easy enough for beginners to use, and modular enough for advanced users to tinker with and expand.
Email me (firstname.lastname@example.org), and we can start organizing little groups to work on the various areas you're all interested in. Thanks for watching, and I hope to hear from you.
CREDITS / SOURCES
3D Printing: ,,,,,,,,,,,,
3D Printing Accessories: ,,,
CNC Mills: ,
Laser Cutting / Engraving: 
Injection Molding: 
Vacuum Former: ,
2D Printing: ,,,,
Book Binding: ,
Die Cutter / Plotter: ,
PCB Fabrication: ,
Music: Xtract - Audiotool Day 2016 (CC License)