Created by the same young British designers behind Wikihouse, OpenDesk is a set of open source furniture designs that aim to bypass shipping and transport costs by keeping manufacturing local.
After an OpenDesk design is downloaded, users can take the design to a CNC mill, get it cut out, take the parts home and start building. “We chose to go open source initially because we wanted to get positive feedback from people on what they thought of designs and ensure they could fabricate for their own personal use if they had access to a CNC mill,” Nick Ierodiaconou, OpenDesk director and lead designer, told Gizmag.
The design team decided to launch the OpenDesk platform once they had created their own furniture designs, giving them the opportunity to track the spread of downloads and ensure that designs could be made by different fabricators around the world.
“With OpenDesk we are specifically interested in building up a network for the distributed making of furniture (and other products), focused on a model which connects digital designers to digital fabricators,” says Ierodiaconou. “For the moment we are focusing on CNC, but our plan is to branch into other forms of fabrication such as 3d-printing in the coming months.”
The OpenDesk range currently features six items including the Desk, Café Table, Meeting Table, Edie set, Edie Stool and Edie Table. Each OpenDesk download has a unique web URL which allows users to take photos of their process and share their experience online, offering insights or tips along the way. The OpenDesk construction system is based on the use of wooden fins that lock together to form a robust furniture structure, without the need for power tools or nails. The user can also choose their own type of material, which may depend on what local makers offer. Currently in the UK the use of FSC certified birch and plywood has been very popular.
“In terms of ease of assembly, you can choose how involved you want to be in the making of your OpenDesk, from download and mill yourself, to self-assembly to a hands off fully assembled service,” says Ierodiaconou. “However, OpenDesk is actually more a Freemium model - in the sense that you can also choose to buy an OpenDesk from a local maker, at which point you commit to pay the maker their fixed quote, the designer a fixed royalty of their choosing, and the platform a fee, all of which is transparently communicated to you.”
Digital plans from the OpenDesk series are available for download online and a network of global fabricators can be found of the OpenDesk sister site, FabHub. The designs are also currently on display at the Design Museum London as part of “The Future is Here” exhibition, running until October 2013.
Whether this approach delivers value for money will of course depend on the cost of sourcing material and labor in your neighborhood. That aside, OpenDesk is an indication of the shape of things to come in the manufacturing sector as access to fabrication methods such as 3D printing becomes more widespread.