Introduction

When tracking technological innovation, pay attention not so much to what is new as to what is ready to take off, as IFTF Distinguished Fellow Bob Johansen likes to say. By that measure, we’re officially entering the decade when 3D printing — think printing objectsfulfills the promise that makers, programmers, and geeks have been forecasting for the last twenty years. 3D printing is slowly but surely moving beyond the realm of high-end design and factory shops, and entering the consciousness of technology lead-users — those in cities around the world who are most likely to adopt new tools, start new businesses, and champion new movements.

Three years ago IFTF published a forecast on The Future of Making, which looked at the future of the DIY movement. We highlighted the democratization of access to new tools and open-source everything (along with eco-motivation and a quest for authenticity) as key drivers of the future of making. Today, in The Future of Open Fabrication, we take a deeper dive into the tools, processes, and manufacturing landscapes that are transforming how we reshape our material world. In the coming decade, we’ll manipulate the atoms of stuff — plastic, metal, concrete, glass, even biological matter — using many of the same tools, business models, and inspirations as the last decade saw with bits of information. Some of us will do it ourselves, while millions more will outsource it to a local shop or a factory in China. But no matter where it happens, new manufacturing tools in the hands of a wider variety of people will challenge the basic assumptions of industrial production, retail, and consumption. Welcome to the future of open fabrication.

Come with us on this interactive journey through the future of open fabrication. You’ll need approximately 45 minutes to view all the pages and content, or you can come back on several shorter visits and pick up where you left off using the dropdown menu across the top of the page, or the table of contents.

Start with our introduction to the emerging world of open fabrication for a look at the big shifts under way in manufacturing. Dip into Foundations, where we lay out the building blocks of open fabrication, from mesh merging software and 3D scanning to biological feedstocks and printable electronics. Open Fabrication Communities takes you into the world of the MakerBot, the first affordable 3D printer aimed at the nonindustrial market, and then out again to China’s shanzhai manufacturers, whose small-batch open networks give us clues about what the future of 3D printing might look like. Or go straight to our forecasts to see what the next decade could hold — and what it might mean for you and your organization.

Note:  You can find more materials in our Expert WorkshopFurther Readings, and Graphic Recordings and Presentations sections.  Learn more about the experts we consulted during the research, and download PPTs for your own use.