Most webmasters and online entrepreneurs are already familiar with CafePress.com which allows users to create custom t-shirts, coffee mugs, and more using the print on demand business model. Essentially, with print on demand there is no need to preorder inventory. You simply upload your images and advertise you CafePress.com store. When someone orders something CafePress creates the item, ships it off to the customer and credits the seller’s account with a portion of the proceeds. CafePress is largely a love-em or hate-em company on the ‘net and I have to admit I’ve been in both camps at various times.
Now a new company as expanded the print on demand concept to cover manufacture of just about anything! Ponoko allows anyone with internet access to design jewelry, furniture, two and three-dimensional artworks and more following a similar model. Essentially the deisgner creates sketches of their product on their computer, uploads it to Ponoko, and chooses materials. That’s all there is to it. They can then advertise their products through Ponoko, on their own websites, or even out in the “real world”. When a customer wants to purchase an item the order is placed through Ponoko who creates the pieces following the designer’s plans, ships it off to the customer and pays the designer.
This is the technology that many of us have seen coming for years. In fact, it brings us one step closer to Star Trek style replicators! Whether you’re looking to create custom items for personal use or start a new business without the expense of a manufacturing plant or carrying inventory, then Ponoko is worth a look. It’s certainly opening a whole slew of new business opportunities to the small and micro businessperson.