Thoughts from the Wobbly Edge

Sunday, May 17, 2015

OpenDesk: Will it Work?

Spent the weekend doing some research and came across the OpenDesk website. They want to do to Ikea what Uber and airbnb are trying to do in their respective industries-- namely cut the middle man out. Though I'm not sure if it will work, it is intriguing.

The basic concept is pretty simple. Designers create furniture designs which can be downloaded from the Internet and pay to be built (CNC machine-cut) by a local service fabricator while paying a 10% royalty to the designer-- thus cutting the middleman out. The thinking is with no shipping, no inventory, and no traditional store markup, the products can be delivered quicker and less expensive, while also allowing for minor changes in customization.

My guess is it's not quicker and I bet it's certainly more expensive. I'm trying to have the Roxanne chair (above) quoted locally to see the cost and will report back on what I find. At this point I can't imagine a local service fabricator can be as cheap as the supply chain for IKEA. Most of their products are manufactured in China by the thousands, shipped en masse to a local store and sold at margins less than the cumulative markup of a local service fabricator plus the designer royalty.

Still, it is interesting and some of the designs are really nice. In fact I downloaded the machine path files for both the Roxanne chair and the Olivia table, and built 3D models in SketchUp to see how they went together. I then rendered in KeyShot the above image. The models were complete and fit together, but the documentation was less than stellar. Plus, for some reason, there are no OpenDesk models available at the SketchUp Warehouse. I wonder why? I wonder if it has to do with IP?