How cool would it be if, in the near future, we all had machines that would manufacture any products we need? Already, there are inklings of that possibility--rapid prototyping machines are getting cheaper all the time; Jay Leno famously uses one to make custom car parts in his garage. And then there's Microfactory, by DK Ahn, a designer and recent graduate of London's Royal College of Arts.
The idea is to create "domestic manufacturing machinery" that would allow people to make their own products, and also share their designs. Which sounds dandy, but Ahn has actually produced a working prototype. MOW is a portable tabletop cutting device to which you can upload patterns via Bluetooth. Then it cuts that pattern in cardboard, polyproplyene, and wood (provided its less than 2mm think). Watch this video of it in action (it really gets going at 8:35):
Ahn envisions the at-home manufacturing model as a clever way of reusing materials, and cutting out all the carbon-intensive supply chains currently involved in bringing products to market. Which might be a longshot--given how lazy most people are--but it's certainly fun to think what technologies like this might create. Some of the best design out there is already flat-pack, after all, and cut from a single sheet. Imagine that instead of a furniture store, there was something like the iTunes store, which allowed you to download plans from your favorite designers.
[Via Core 77]