We are on the precipice of a personal manufacturing (r)evolution (what a cliché!). The barriers to product manufacturing are falling fast and access to affordable, high precision machining need not be further than your work bench or your keyboard.
Records are now cut in bedrooms, their music videos shot in the basement. Software is written by people in their underwear eating three-day-old stale pizza. Robots are being built on kitchen tables while the rest of the house is out cold…
The internet is alive and kicking with self-assembling, non-hierarchical communities. They are creating derivative work, optimizing designs, doing quality control and developing things at a scale and speed which 9 to 5 companies could only dream of. The key to this is people are sharing, everything. The collective experiences of these communities, unrestricted by time or distance, and spurned on by a strong belief in non-proprietary information, offer a myriad of opportunities for designers to take away huge amounts of knowledge, and hopefully, give something back in return.