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I don't think it would work in exactly the same way you are describing but there may be alternatives. Manufacturing equipment is very expensive and the only way to justify the cost is to keep it running daily, sometimes 24/7/365. The change parts for each unique product are also quite expensive (easily $10k+). If I want to open a KickManufacturing plant, I have to buy/maintain/service hundreds of different kinds of equipment which includes the cost of the hardware, software, and technicians. On top of that, each new product will barely have 10k - 100k units ordered if I'm lucky. After that the change parts are useless. The other problem with this is the manufacturing equipment that can do lots of different configurations is slower, error-prone, and more expensive than specialized equipment that does just one thing. So if one of the Kickstarter products does become a success and they want 100m units, you need to buy new equipment or source a better large-scale manufacturer. And worst of all, most of the equipment will be collecting dust 95% of the time unless someone has just the right Kickstarter project for them.

What most entrepreneurs spend their time between getting funded and beginning shipment is finding the right manufacturer who can allocate runtime on their lines. The manufacturers lose money when the lines aren't running. The entrepreneurs get delayed when the lines are busy. This is a very complex B2B market that has no current solution. If someone solves this problem, we can have significantly better fulfillment of Kickstarter orders.

Such a site would have manufacturers periodically uploading capacities and capabilities of their equipment, warehouse/distribution resources, and costs associated with each line/product-type by time/quality. The entrepreneurs would be able to book the best-fit manufacturer (be it in US, China, or Norway) and pay a reservation-fee to the manufacturer which sits in escrow pending successful contract. The reservation-fee would be high enough to deter fake orders and be credited towards the actual product order. The site could fund itself by collecting interest on the escrow or charging per new B2B relation.

All of the stuff this guy says. My dad's been running a robotics engineering company - http://www.primeengineering.net - for nearly as long as I can remember (well, he worked for a company that was bought out by Siemens prior to that). I've been inundated with the knowledge of what it takes to produce doohickeys at scale, whatever those doohickeys may be, since I was like 5. It's fascinating, and I wish more people were cognizant of all that goes into our modern society's niceties.

When he installs new equipment, there's a sub-day shutdown usually, to install massive lines of equipment into a warehouse. He's always busy on, say, Christmas, because a warehouse can typically just barely manage to afford to shut down for 16 hours on that day (or other holidays) since the warehouse employees want to be at home with their families. If there are problems with the installation (and there always are, because tolerances on everything are so tight) then they have to be resolved right there in a crazy short timeframe.

I wrote some PLC software for him back right out of high school, to manage a heat element for a shrink wrapping portion of a particular line. We got a certain input from the other components in the line (so the spec said) to specify how long we needed to run before cutting, in milliseconds. Their specs lied, and they weren't sending us anything remotely like a serial data stream specifying the time before cutting, so while everyone was installing the hardware I had to derive from the data stream we could see what the timing needed to be and 'test' it (more 'run some plastic and cut it and measure it' tests than unit tests, yes?). It was super stressful, but it was also insanely fun. Once the install was done (16 hours on the dot, loaded the code as the timer ran out) the machinery started and has run uninterrupted for on the order of 12 years now. Most people aren't aware that this is the sort of thing that goes into modern manufacturing :)

> And worst of all, most of the equipment will be collecting dust 95% of the time unless someone has just the right Kickstarter project for them.

Cloud manufacturing?

If Kickstarter crowdsources funding, why not crowdsource manufacturing, too? Especially considering the increasing proliferation of 3D printing and the like.

I'm sure that many DIYers, hackerspaces, etc., have the ability to manufacture small batches of a wide variety of products; QA and final assembly could be done further up the chain, as a component of distribution.

Ponoko [1] has been trying to do this for a little while now but they're still a long ways away from being mass production.

[1] http://www.ponoko.com/about/the-big-idea

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