Customers also have the ability to customize the design, making a bespoke product that won’t cost the earth. Designer and co-founder of Fabise, James McBennett, says, “It really democratizes the bespoke.” So, for example, if you want to buy bookshelves that fit exactly within the parameters of your living room, you can simply email the measurements, which can then be incorporated into the CAD file before it is sent to the CNC machine. As McBennett says, “It is something that all those old industrial manufacturing companies just can’t do.”
He continues, “We’ve had requests from people saying, ‘can we make it taller for somebody who is 6ft 5”’ or, ‘can we make it smaller for our kids,’ by parents who want their children to improve their posture and we can switch those dimensions easily so the stool can fit perfectly in people’s homes.”
Mass personalisation is the innovation of the twenty-first century
McBennett himself has designed Fabsie’s first piece of furniture – a rocking stool made up of three parts, which can be assembled in less than ten seconds. They are looking to raise money for Fabsie by crowdfunding on Kickstarter, where, if you pledge a certain amount, they will send you a stool with your name or company logo carved into it.
What makes this business plan possible is the growing availability of CNC routers. McBennett says, “CNC machines are nothing new but the sharp drop in price for a machine is completely radically new.”
Not only does that mean there will be a rise in the number of CNC workshops but also, in the not too distant future, the customer might own a domestic version of the machine. This way people could download the CAD file and cut their own furniture at home.
CNC, which stands for computer numerical control, is a system that allows for precise, automated cutting and drilling in three dimensions. It is very similar to 3D printing in this way but, unlike the latter which is still at a specialist or hobbyist stage, CNC machines have been used in the manufacturing process since the 1970s. In fact, most people will have come into contact with a product that has been created using one of these machines – if you own an Apple Macbook, for example, the unibody aluminium casing was created using one of these routers.
On a CNC machine you can make a dining room table in a couple of minutes
It is the availability of these machines and the ease with which designs can be personalised with the arrival of a platform such as Fabsie that will transform the way we manufacture. McBennett notes, “Mass production was the innovation of the twentieth century; mass personalisation is the innovation of the twenty-first century.”
Interestingly, McBennett believes that it is 3D cutting and not 3D printing that is going to change the manufacturing landscape. Currently, 3D cutters are way ahead of the printers in terms of what they can do. McBennett says, “It can take a couple of hours to make a small earring on a 3D printer, whereas on a CNC machine you can make a dining room table in a couple of minutes.”
If Fabsie piques your curiosity go to their Kickstarter page here. With 30 days to go they have already raised nearly £9,000 of the £25,000 target.