It once was the case that in order to write a book you had to find a publisher that would produce and market your work. This left the decisions about what we got to read in the hands of a few. The same situation applied to music. The internet, of course, has changed all that. Electronic publishing has made it possible for anyone with the inclination and skills to put their work into the marketplace. The movie, The Martian, that starred Matt Damon and grossed more than $300 million started out as a self-published novel, for example.
The same forces that democratized book and music publishing are now at play in the world of electronics manufacturing. No longer are just a few huge companies making all of the decisions about which products we get to buy. Modern manufacturing methods, improved software tools, and novel new approaches to funding are making it so that anyone with a great idea and the right skills can find out if there is market demand for their product.
The Prototyping Challenge
For years, it was difficult for an independent hardware designer to find a company that would and could produce a prototype for anything resembling a reasonable cost. Prototyping manufacturing was necessarily expensive and time-consuming. This created a barrier too big for many would-be innovators to leap.
Fortunately, there has been a shift in the technologies and approaches used for prototyping manufacturing. Cloud-based manufacturing platforms make it possible for manufacturers to provide on-demand prototyping manufacturing at a low cost with quick turnaround times. This is because modern software allows for the combination of many small orders into one bigger run, and shortens the time it takes to switch from task to task.
In addition to solving the prototyping challenge, the new approach to manufacturing has many other benefits for inventors. The best vendors provide instant, online quotes for prototyping and production orders, they handle parts sourcing for printed circuit boards and electronic devices, they even offer downstream services such as inventory management and fulfillment.
Today’s manufacturing partners are knocking over the hurdles that once made it difficult for hardware designers to perfect their inventions and bring them to market. This is as revolutionary for the hardware market as electronic publishing was to books and music. We all benefit when great ideas are given life.