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Online community site expands its offerings

Since its debut in 2008, the virtual community known as has expanded to meet the growing needs of makers, designers and fabricators. A product of ShopBot Tools and Ponoko, the website promotes digital fabrication and serves as an online networking resource for industry professionals to communicate their design and fabrication needs and offerings with colleagues. The site itself is free to use and, once business owners find the service or client they’re looking for, the two parties can negotiate from there.

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Ted Hall, ShopBot founder, says while the site was initially designed to promote ShopBot product owners, it has since been improved to include fabricators using all brands of CNC routers, laser cutters, and 3-D printers. It also invites designers to showcase projects and offer their services.

“We think of it as a refresh in a way,” says Hall. “We have had a pretty good success with it for the first couple of years in the sense that lots of the participating shops that were offering their CNC services were getting some business. Not many were making a living from business off of the site, but we got reports of people who got good jobs and especially interesting reports of people who got a job that led to relationships that led to further jobs.

“Most of our work right now is reaching out to general public. We’re doing more advertising for the site, making it more user-friendly and offering more resources such as design ideas.”

New features also include profiles and pictures of fabricators offering their services; an RSS feed for fabricators to get instant notice of new projects up for bid; an “Inspiration Gallery” of projects ideas, and “Designer’s Area” for designers to promote their talents.

The site name is borrowed from moderator Tom Brokaw’s question, “Would our nation’s economic and environmental problems best be solved … by 100,000 garages across the country?,” during a 2008 presidential debate. Hall says that while the site hasn’t reached 100,000 participants yet, the expansion might help ShopBot meet that goal.

Contact: ShopBot Tools. Tel: 919-680-4800. or

This article originally appeared in the June 2012 issue.

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