Four years ago, when I was a magazineeditor, I bought one of the first consumer 3D printer kits. It was one of the early MakerBot Cupcakes and it barely worked, but it blew my mind. It also changed my life. Today I’ve moved from media to manufacturing: I run 3D Robotics, a drone company with a big electronics and assembly factory in Tijuana, Mexico. (Yes, a Tijuana drone factory. Beat that, sci-fi!)
How is it possible for a magazine editor to become a high-tech manufacturer, essentially overnight? And how do you go from a bag-of-parts 3D printer to a full-scale factory? The answers are rooted in a revolution that’s come to manufacturing over the past five years. The changes boil down to three ideas: desktop, digital, and cloud.