It’s fun living in the future, especially if you’re an inventor. Kickstarter already gives even garage shop level innovators access to funding they could never see before without a design team and a business manager. For those who could afford a 3D printer, iterative prototypes and parts were easy to produce with a few tweaks to the CAD design.
Those who couldn’t afford that expensive equipment were out of luck, until now. Fictiv, a San Francisco-based company has introduced a new model of 3D part sourcing. It maintains contact with a stable of thoroughly vetted 3D print shops to know when they have downtime from their regular production schedule. Capitalizing on this “free money” opportunity, they negotiate the lowest possible production price. Clients in need of 3D models get these lower prices at the quality level that only professional sources can produce.
The arrangement reduces pricing, but also reduces turnaround time since the company can access vendors with different capacities and in different locations. Fictiv then has agents pick up, hand-inspect and ship the parts for same-day courier delivery.
Customers can design using their own CAD program, or Fictiv’s proprietary interface, and order their models in one of eight standard materials:
- PLA hardened starch
- ABS or ABS-like plastics
- Transparent plastics
- Rubber-like materials
- Visiclaear polycarbonite simulation
Fictiv was born in the middle of 2013 when three engineers were sitting around complaining about how hard it was to get hardware prototypes during the development stages. After the complaining wound down, those three engineers started developing a solution. Fictiv is the solution they found, and thus far it has been a successful one.
If Fictiv’s experiment in 3D print delivery proves successful, it has potential to offer another revolution for inventors. Access to funds has already been democratized, made available to anybody with a good enough idea. A similar democratization of access to iterative prototyping could be in the near future.