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A startup from Shenzen promotes micro manufacturing, through a small-scale open source production system.
A small-scale open source manufacturing system: this is the vision of Seeed Technology, a startup from Shenzen, the Chinese district known for being the world’s assembly chain, a symbol of an economy based on massive production and low cost labour. The company has 270 employees and opens up its premises, with 3D printers and Internet-based technologies, to whoever comes with an idea for a product, such as the RePhone, a $39 modular smartphone that had a blast on Kickstarter last year.
“Today, lots of people are home-brewing their devices as they might do their beer – explains Eric Pan, founder of the startup – It’s our mission at Seeed to give these makers access to supply chains, tools, processes and materials.”
The first product of Seeeds Technology was an accelerometer sensor module. Today, the company helps small-scale makers with R&D, manufacturing, distribution and workshops. “Our three Ps are prototype, produce and promote – Pan says – And everything we do is based on open-source hardware. It makes things far faster, easier and cheaper.”
When Wired UK visited Seeed Technology’s facilities, a factory area was testing, assembling and packaging circuit boards and sensor units. “The factory floor produces 30 product ranges a day, and it takes 15 minutes to swap manufacturing to a new product – Pan says – The future of manufacturing will be more guerrilla style – people working in small teams like this, with semi-automatic tools.”
The advantages? Speed and flexibility. “Where PCH International focuses on 100,000 pieces, we focus on fewer than 1,000 – Pan says – In the future, it’s the demand chain, not the supply chain, that will matter. And maybe there will be no shipping, as manufacturing will happen near your street.”