Compute Midwest: Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan On The Digital Manufacturing Revolution

by Zach Kaplan
November 10, 2012

Alex Knapp of Forbes wrote an article on the Compute Midwest Conference.  Here's the full text:

Compute Midwest: Inventables CEO Zach Kaplan On The Digital Manufacturing Revolution

Zach Kaplan started off his talk about his childhood – and the childhood lots of us had – playing with Legos or other blocks and imagining we were creating the real thing.

“Thinking about that the other day,” he said. “I realized that a single Lego brick is like a digit – but put a bunch together and its the scaffolding for your imagination.”

According to Kaplan, we’re at the very beginning of a digital manufacturing revolution. (In computer terms “we’re in between the Altair and the Apple IIe.”) What makes that possible, he says, is the scaling down of factories from “giant monoliths” to boxes and machines that you can have anywhere.


With $700 in equipment, he notes, a person is capable of manufacturing a skateboard that rivals the quality of mass produced, expensive artifact - and for less money per board. And that’s not the only field – he described a number of his customers building everything from jewelry to shoes.

We’ve reached a point, Kaplan says where we’ve, “decoupled design from fabrication.” That is, using applications, you can design something for 3-D printing, hit “print”, it can be fabricated somewhere across the world and mailed to you.

Another part of this “digital manufacturing revolution,” he notes, is steadily lowering costs of doing business. Ten years, ago, he notes, an entry level laser scanner for 3-D objects cost $25,000. But now, with a free app for your phone, you can take a bunch of photographs of an object and the app will give CAD specifications. Those specs can then be used to 3-D print.

To underscore his point on the lowered cost of doing business, he asked the crowd who was excited about the future of manufacturing. To cheers, he pointed out a member of the audience and just told him, “Congratulations – you’ve just won a mill!”

“That’s my Oprah moment,” he said.


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