Ponoko is basically a mash-up of a high-end laser-cutting service and an Etsy-like online marketplace.
Why do you care?
Tricia, they have 9 delicious colors of wool felt, including fuchsia!
Everyone else? It's a great way for the masses to access reasonably priced laser cutting services, or for a graphic designer to turn lovely 2D concepts into real 3D object.
Why is it green?
It's not necessarily green, but there are some nice eco-materials (felt, bamboo) in addition to the usual delicious candy-colored acrylic sheets. A well designed laser-cut product also allows for a very efficient use of materials and less waste (note the coiled coasters that get two coasters from each round disk). The most interesting green opportunities lie in the micro-manufacturing angle, with the "factory" located near the designer or the consumer and the designs created on demand.
What if I can't use CAD?
Check out their newest service, PhotoMake. This allows you to upload a hand-drawn sketch. You still have to be computer literate, but it's easier than learning CAD. Imagine taking some inspired doodle created in your notebook margins and turning it into something physical.
The downside to all this goodness?
I offer up a caution from my student days: Access to a laser CAMM can make a designer lazy. Just because you can build it out of flat laser-cut pieces doesn't mean that you should.
Bottom line, if you're quick with CAD and already have a laser-cutter in your shop (or on your speed dial), this might not be for you. But if you want to make some simple prototypes or sell your work, this could be a good venue. Either way, it's a really interesting idea, and the storefront is a great way to connect designers and potential customers.
I'd love to see them expand their selection of materials to include more recycled ones.
So, has anyone used Ponoko? If Tricia or I do a test drive of the service, we'll post a follow-up.
Images from Ponoko (designers listed below)
Lamp by Li-RongLiao
Rings by Isette
Coasters by DEFPOTEC and Tee