The Now Economy is a meme of many trends, not least of which is the import of mass customization and rapid prototyping’s role in the manufacturing cycle. In the middle of this Slate article is an excellent example of this vision:
Do-it-yourself design will get really interesting when inventors are able to sketch something out and then hold the thing in their hands within a matter of minutes. Today, rapid-prototyping technology—that is, 3-D printers that can instantly crank out a physical copy of anything you design on a computer—is available only to elite design firms. It’ll get cheaper within years. Meanwhile, “original design manufacturing” companies overseas are becoming expert at quickly and cheaply cranking out MP3 players and laptops to specs set by brand-name firms like Virgin or Sony. Put those trends together, and it’s easy to envision an offshore service that will take my personal design for a music player and crank out 10 copies. Presto: the Clive brand MP3 player! Think of it as vanity electronics—casemodding on a superfast, global scale.