It’s an interesting industry, which seems prime to hit the mainstream with more then just T-Shirts.
Ponoko is CafePress for 3-D objects. You create the design, send it to them, and on demand they build it.
This whole idea just blows my mind - no upfront materials cost, and no time from “idea” to “fulfillment”. The only thing that stops me from making something up (or… more accurately… begging Brendon to help me diagram something…) is that shipping to Canada is, like always, pretty pricey (it looks like prices start at about 25-30 bucks per sheet; I assume price per sheet goes down with more sheets). When the price of an entire fancy table is $124, $60 in shipping is pretty crazy. If you were in the US, though, it costs about $4.60 for the first sheet; which is just plain awesome.
With a great idea, and a wee bit of marketing, you can come up with some designs and put them up - if people go for them, wonderful. If people don’t, well, you’re just out your time.
The other thing that’s really great is that the entire thing is customizable on demand - want it taller or shorter? Email the designer; it’s a quick edit on his end of things. Want a glass top? Get him to put a hole in it for you. What you want, when you want it. Maybe you’re running an event, and you want your logo in the table - for a few bucks, you’ve got it.
Where it gets creepy is when you start to consider some of the future implications of this - all of a sudden, physical property IS intellectual property! You get a design for a table, and for the materials cost you can HAVE the table! I’d wager that, 10 years from now, people won’t just be sharing movies and music online, you’ll be able to get your entire living room set through bittorrent.
So, should we get together to make some Red Card Group furniture?