On-Demand Manufacturing Hack Chat

Here a factory, there a factory

Wednesday, March 4, 2020 12:00 pm PST Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Dan Emery will host the Hack Chat on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 at noon Pacific Time.

Time zones got you down? Here's a handy time converter!

Join Hack ChatThe classical recipe for starting a manufacturing enterprise is pretty straightforward: get an idea, attract investors, hire works, buy machines, put it all in a factory, and profit. Things have been this way since the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, and it's a recipe that has largely given us the world we have today, for better and for worse. 

One of the downsides of this model is the need for initial capital to buy the machines and build the factory. Not every idea will attract the kind of money needed to get off the ground, which means that a lot of good ideas never see the light of day. Luckily, though, we live in an age where manufacturing is no longer a monolithic process. You can literally design a product and have it tested, manufactured, and sold without ever taking one shipment of raw materials or buying a single machine other than the computer that makes this magic possible.

As co-founder of Ponoko, Dan Emery is in the thick of the manufacturing revolution. His company capitalizes on the need for laser cutting, whether it be for parts used in rapid prototyping or complete production runs of cut and engraved pieces. Their service is part of a wider ecosystem that covers almost every additive and subtractive manufacturing process, including 3D-printing, CNC machining, PCB manufacturing, and even final assembly and testing, providing the new entrepreneur access to tools and processes that would have once required buckets of cash to acquire and put under one roof.

Join us as we sit down with Dan and discuss the current state of on-demand manufacturing and what the future holds for it. We'll talk about Ponoko's specific place in this ecosystem, and what role outsourced laser cutting could play in getting your widget to market. We'll also take a look at how Ponoko got started and how it got to where it is today, as well as anything else that comes up.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney03/05/2020 at 00:47 0 comments

    OK, everyone, let's kick it off. I think I saw our guest Dan Emery log in. He joins us today from Ponoko to talk about on-demand manufacturing.

    Welcome, Dan! Can you tell us a little about your background and Ponoko?

    Dan Emery12:01 PM
    Hi there! Excited to chat with you all about digital manufacturing!

    Dan Emery12:01 PM
    I have an industrial design background and have been leading the Ponoko fabrication facilities for over 10 years.

    Dan Emery12:03 PM
    I'm originally from New Zealand but moved to the bay area in 2010 to set up the Ponoko laser cutting shop.

    So, a nuts and bolts question to start off - does Ponoko have a "laser farm" similar to the 3D printing companies with their printer farms?
    lspencergottlieb joined the room.12:04 PM

    Dan Emery12:05 PM
    Yes! We have 4 industrial lasers in our Oakland warehouse that run 8-12 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    alvern12:06 PM
    Dan, does Ponoko cater to mainly makers and hobbyist customers? Is there a significant amount of interest from industrial customers?

    morgan12:06 PM
    Huh, didn't realize Ponoko was here in Oakland

    My guess would be that you grew into those lasers, so you probably started with lower-end cutters? Maybe something better than a 40-w import laser?

    Dan Emery12:07 PM
    @alvern A lot of makers and hobbyists use our services. We see a lot of growth from businesses too.

    Dan Emery12:08 PM
    @Dan Maloney We started with a 60 watt Universal laser. It has proven to be a real workhorse. Our newest laser is 120 watt

    Dan Emery12:09 PM
    @morgan Yes, been in Oakland since 2010

    morgan12:09 PM
    cool, i'm also in Oakland

    re: businesses using Ponoko, is it for one-off and prototype stuff, or do you see businesses integrating your services into their manufacturing processes?

    Dan Emery12:12 PM
    @Dan Maloney we see the full range. Businesses take advantage of our speed for prototyping, and then once they're further along in the development process we'll see orders of 1000's units.

    alvern12:12 PM
    @Dan Emery what is the fastest you have ever made an order

    Prof. Fartsparkle12:12 PM
    how do you scale? Do you just buy more machines or switch to a different process/machine?

    Dan Emery12:13 PM
    @alvern yesterday we made and delivered a part to SF in 2-3 hours

    Impressive if that includes drive time

    alvern12:14 PM
    @Dan Emery that's a quick turn around, what's the average turn time for an order? 1-3 days?

    Paul Stoffregen12:14 PM
    what sort of materials are possible in the short time frame?  Anything stronger than plastic like acrylic?

    Dan Emery12:15 PM
    @Prof. Fartsparkle great question. More machines does allow us to produce more parts. Switching to a different process really depends on the part. Lasers are great at cutting stuff from flat sheet material. If that fits the part then stick with laser makes sense.

    Dan Emery12:15 PM
    @Dan Maloney that included drive time :)

    Dan Emery12:17 PM
    @Paul Stoffregen We have over 200 materials in our catalog. The non-metals are available with same-day turnaround right now. We're hoping to add same-day turnaround for the metal parts soon too.
    marek joined the room.12:17 PM

    Dan Emery12:18 PM
    @Paul Stoffregen if you want a plastic that is stronger than acrylic, we offer delrin which is probably the best option at this point

    itproducties.nl12:18 PM
    is there anyway ro use glass as a material?

    Kevin12:19 PM
    That may explain why I have been seeing Delrin being used for picks for musical instruments.

    Dan Emery12:20 PM you can laser etch glass but I dont think it can be laser cut. You can cut glass using a waterjet I believe

    Dan Emery12:21 PM
    @Kevin we've see folks laser cut custom guitar picks. I'm always inspired to see what folks will make

    Kevin12:21 PM
    Are you considering adding a waterjet cutter to complement the laser cutters for materials difficult to cut by laser?

    Prof. Fartsparkle12:22 PM
    yea waterjets are great for stone and glass

    Dan Emery12:23 PM
    @Kevin if there was enough demand we'd look into it. Right now we see demand for metal so our focus is to expand...

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