Wikifactory Launches Beta: Social Platform for Collaborative Product Development

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Rapid prototyping was the first really big application for 3D printing, as it allows product developers to quickly get a realistic representation of their idea at the earliest stages of development. Many businesses rely heavily on prototyping during the design process for new products, but that’s not all; developing a new product takes a lot of time, effort, and collaboration. But there’s a way to make the product development process faster and easier – just go to Wikifactory, the premier social platform for collaborative product development. The all-in-one workspace just released its beta platform this week.

“In ‘startup speak’ it may be tempting to call us a Github for hardware, but by rethinking how products are developed we’ve created a new kind of tool,” Wikifactory’s Co-Founder and CXO Maximilian Kampik stated in a press release. “Wikifactory as a platform is an accessible way to collaboratively design, iterate, and develop complex products.”

The more complicated modern products become, the more collaboration is necessary between people with a variety of skills. Each part of a product could require a completely different production process to make it, and the process isn’t going any faster or becoming any cheaper when hardware teams won’t get with the times and keep relying on things like Microsoft Excel and Dropbox (she writes while looking at the Dropbox icon on her computer screen…)

Established last June in Hong Kong, Wikifactory aims to change this, as it was designed specifically for open source communities in order to connect product developers to useful tools.

Henk Werner, the Founder of Shenzhen-based hardware accelerator TroubleMakers, said, “We are able lead more effective, collaborative working sessions with clients and collect feedback from manufacturers within Wikifactory. We are able to collaborate more effectively with clients and manufacturers thanks to Wikifactory”

Wikifactory is growing fast, and now has offices in both Madrid and Shenzhen. It’s on a mission to empower product developers, as well as small- to medium-sized product companies, to ramp up their development: by providing a service that gives customers easy access to many affordable collaboration tools in one online process.

The company launched its public alpha in September and provided all of its tools free of charge to the founding members. No surprise, the platform was adopted by the open source hardware community not long after, and calls itself home to major making and 3D printing initiatives like e-NABLE and the large FabLab movement.

“Wikifactory’s vision is to bring true collaboration to the design and development of hardware,” the company’s CEO and Co-Founder Tom Salfield said. “We hope to make product design and development more fluid, faster and lower cost. With CAD/CAE visualisation tools, version control, a clean and clear UX, we already have a treasure trove of collaboration functions online for our community.”

The beta platform will be offering paid subscription plans for both teams and individuals looking to work together in a single, private workspace. The launch is specifically targeting the PLM market, which the Wikifactory press release states is projected to become a 60 billion market by the year 2025. Subscription plans will give customers affordable access to agile PLM tools.

Camilo Parra Palacio, Product Designer and Founder of OttoDIY, said, “Its powerful version control made intuitive for product designers.”

The Wikifactory platform offers all sorts of helpful product development tools, such as a version-controlled drive, a 3D viewer, an issue and documentation tracker, and multiple permission systems and community tools to ensure easy collaboration. We’ll break these tools down a little further below.

Version-controlled drive allows users to spend less time organizing and tracking everything, as you can securely store files in the cloud; this also means it’s easy to access, or restore, older versions of files. You’ll be able to track and manage changes to product data, and improve the transparency of the overall process. The 3D viewer makes it possible for anyone with a mobile phone or tablet to visualize over 30 CAD/CAE formats in the browser, as well as inspect and explode assemblies, without the use of plugins.

The issue tracker and documentation editor allows for faster iteration, as you can embed 3D models anywhere, assign tasks and labels, and fix issues more quickly. Users can collaboratively share and improve upon project documentation, and there won’t be any more “overly bureaucratic change requests,” as Wikifactory puts it. Additionally, you can limit access to sensitive work when necessary, keep supply chain data in your own workspace, and build a community around your brand.

“Sharing links to 3D files on Wikifactory is infinitely easier than worrying about file size restrictions in emails, and has made communication between our distributed teams a breeze,” said Juan Laforga, the Head of Production & QA for Shadow Robot Company.

Starting at just $7 a month for unlimited private projects and $25 a month for teams, Wikifactory, which currently has over 3,000 product developers signed up for the platform, is priced for everyone. It even offers free unlimited public projects, and has vowed to always support innovation in the open source community by providing its tools for public use at no cost.

Discuss this story and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.

[Images provided by Wikifactory]

N.B. 3DPrint.com Editor in Chief Joris Peels is on Wikifactory’s Advisory Board.

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