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Innovation Amplifier : Crowdsourced Capital and On-Demand Digital Fabrication

We have seen many successful projects that leveraged Kickstarter and Shapeways to bring a creative concept into reality, but never quite so purely as the Crania Anatomica Filigre: Me to You project by Joshua Harker. 

We have mentioned Josh’s project previously on the Shapeways Blog but now that the project has succeeded and shipped it is worth looking back over what made it such an amazing story of scaling creative practice without financial risk by leveraging crowdsourced capital and on-demand digital fabrication.

Creating an environment where it is safe to experiment and fail with minimal risk is critical to a culture of innovation. In the past this would have taken place in universities, artist studio’s, ateliers, hacker labs or innovation incubators such as the one that Shapeways has emerged from.

Now that place of innovation is online thanks to enablers such as Shapeways and Kickstarter where someone can pitch a concept, gather support and realize their ideas without risk. If an idea fails, there is no significant financial loss for those proposing the idea, or for those who back the idea, just an incredibly fast learning cycle that allows creative entrepreneurs to iterate and succeed.

Joshua’s story is a fantastic case study of this occurence, he was looking to use Kickstarter to get his artwork out to a wider audience and raise $500 to fund the production. He placed it on Kickstarter with a modest target and was overwhelmed with backers pledging $77,271 then using Shapeways to exactly fulfil the production requirements with on-demand digital fabrication. 

Below are just a few of the nearly 1,000 skulls Shapeways produced for Joshua and his backers.

  • With Kickstarter Joshua gained access to a market far beyond his capability in a traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ art gallery.
  • With Shapeways on-demand digital fabrication he had the ability to scale his production EXACTLY to his needs with no minimum order quantity, no investment in inventory, no financial outlay needed before the payment came through from his backers

Below we see one of the many skulls emerging from the nylon powder like a modern form of digital archaeology, three pallets of digitally fabricated skulls heading their way to Joshua and his friends for dyeing and distribution.

When we look back over the history of art, design and manufacturing, never before has it been possible for a physical product to scale exactly to the needs of the market with such speed. There would always be a lag time for production, an excess of inventory as the demand wanes, scarcity when demand is greater than supply (sometimes all three).

There are parallels with digital products such as music, software, movies etc where the ‘product’ is scalable to demand but this is the dawn of a new era where physical products can scale in the same way.

Shapeways and Kickstarter bypass ‘traditional’ mass production with crowd sourced capital and on-demand digtal fabrication in a perfect demand equals supply equation.  

What can YOU feed into this equation? 

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Shapeways Designer Evangelist
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