MixeeLabs, as we wrote about not too long ago, is a site where users can sell customizable designs. Using tweakable templates, customers can modify the characteristics of a given item that is then 3D-printed by Shapeways. These tweakable templates, called Creators, are continuing to expand and on Tuesday, MixeeLabs released a Creator for customizable cufflinks.
The site is pretty neat, even if its distinction from other 3D printing marketplaces is hard to describe, as MixeeLabs co-founder Nancy Liang mentioned in an email:
A lot of times when talking to people about what we do, I find myself struggling to find a new word to describe our products. They are products, but more dynamic. They are apps, but apps that create physical things. I think this is a signal that we are doing something new and inventive.
In the case of the cufflinks, by uploading a design and altering a variety of parameters on the site, customers can design hip, 3D-printed cufflinks meant to truly represent their personality. The cufflinks can be printed in nylon plastic for $20/pair, in stainless steel with bronze or gold plating options for $60, or even sterling silver for $160. There are other cufflink customizers out there, but Nancy points out that, “unlike other cufflink customizers, you can add images and logos as well as text.” For now, you can purchase them in round and square shapes, but I’m hoping that, soon, you’ll be able to print custom shapes, too.
There is a shift taking place in shopping, designing and manufacturing from mass production to mass customization. As Nancy explained:
In mass production, you really can’t afford to rapidly adapt to your customer’s needs. You create a design, commit to a minimum order quantity of, say, 10,000 units, and then you have to sell your inventory before you can create another iteration. Even if a customer discovers a flaw in your design, or if you have an idea for improving your design, you essentially have to wait for the next product cycle. With 3D printing, you can test out a bunch of different designs, and improve on the fly. I can upload a design tweak, and the next day start printing the new and improved versions! Now compared with waiting a year for Apple to fix their reception issue (remember when iPhone 4 had poor reception if you cover a certain part of the phone?), I think that’s a much better way to go.
MixeeLabs, then, is a perfect example of this shift, as Nancy puts it:
I think people will be more and more interested in participating in the design conversation. They are interested in having a voice in what their objects looks like.
With Mixee Labs, we invite consumers to take part in the design process. Essentially, the designs on Mixee Labs are more product templates, designs with variability in mind. The designer leaves part of the final design up to the consumer. It is as though all of a sudden, they are designing not one, but hundreds and thousands of products — for example, the variations of Quark Jewellery designs are basically endless. Rather than launching one product at a time, or committing to 10,000 units of one variation (with traditional manufacturing), you can at once release 10,000 different variations of a product (with 3D printing) for the customer to customize to their hearts’ desire. That’s powerful stuff!
Mixee Labs also invites designers to design these “meta products,” web creators that enable consumers to customize and create their own variations. I’ve always been interested in design, but oftentimes I want to make tweaks to the products I see in the store. Mixee Labs makes that possible. We want to redefine what it means to design a product. With technologies like 3D printing, a “product” is no longer a static thing. A product can be different for different people, and we think that’s really cool.
As mentioned in the last post, the company is attempting to make a platform for designers to launch Creators, regardless of any coding knowledge. This time, Nancy gave us a clue as to how this might be done:
Until I can think of a tweakable model to upload, I know what kind of cufflinks I’ll be getting:
Now all I’ll need is some fancy French shirts and a pocket watch.