Seize the means!

General Fabrication is making the next generation of low-cost, high-productivity, open-source machine tools so that everybody can seize the means of production and build a better, freer world.

The manufacturing industry is beginning to slide down a dramatic S-shaped cost curve for robotic equipment, which is another way of saying that many machines which cost $50000 in 2000 will cost $500 in 2030. This has enormous implications for much of the built environment around us, and for the enterprises both large and small that build the things that make up that environment. We think that we can help this coming industrial revolution be an open and equitable one by making it as easy to start a factory as it is to make a web application.

We expect to ship the alpha version of our products in the coming weeks, and space in the alpha will be limited as we figure out how to scale. We’ll be selling two closely related things to start:

  • “Tracer”, a polycarbonate-capable polymer 3D printer based on the RepRap family of robotics

  • A support, services, and software package that will drastically reduce the complexity of running a printer farm of any size

The support package will include periodic upgrades to Tracer as we iterate on the design, discounted prices on quality-controlled parts, and highly responsive technical support from our engineering team. Early adopters can also expect direct contact with our founding team on a regular basis as we refine our product and add to it.

We expect to charge $850 for Tracer v0.0.1 and $150 per month for the support, services, and software package. If you’ve ever spent 20 hours debugging a hobbyist-grade 3D printer you’ll know exactly how valuable it would be to get much higher batch success rates without investing any additional time. Eating that sort of upstream complexity will be our primary area of focus; we want to make the logistical and quality assurance aspects of running a fab as easy as possible for as many people as possible. You should be able to focus on designing and selling a great product, not on debugging wonky drivers or clearing nozzles that won’t stop clogging. We can’t promise perfection right out of the gate, but we can promise rapid improvement as we get reps in and work out the kinks in our processes.

The economics of 3D printing have changed a lot in just the last 18 months. Printer farms are already very competitive with injection molding when it comes to plastic parts that are relatively high value and relatively low batch count. An individual printer may be much slower than a high capacity press, but in a lot of cases it’s actually quicker to run a batch of parts through a printer farm because no custom tooling needs to be machined and nothing needs to cross an ocean on a cargo ship. Printers don’t just compete with injection molding, they compete with the entire legacy “design for manufacturing” process itself, and with long and fragile supply chains.

We’ll have a lot more to say about GenFab’s mission, our product, and our master plan in the coming weeks, but for now we’d like to solicit your thoughts. We want to hear new ideas, specifically about how you might use an inexpensive polymer 3D-printer to build a product manufacturing business. We are especially interested to speak with people exploring the following areas:

  • Drones and other robots

  • Custom or parametrized consumer electronics

  • Niche gear (climbing! cameras! cooking!)

  • Any kind of polymer part that needs to survive harsh operational conditions

If there’s something that you think we should know about that isn’t mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We love to talk about robots, plastics, and all manner of other subjects. Most of all, we want to hear how we can help you build new things.