Zach Kaplan is looking out for the little guys. In 2002, he launched Inventables, an extensive library of high-tech materials from manufacturers and innovators like Dupont and 3Form. The initial price tag on a subscription to the database—$70,000-$350,000—limited access to everyone but Fortune 500 companies, Kaplan says. So in 2010, inspired by the upsurge in DIYism and maker culture, he tossed out the sky-high membership rates and tossed all the information and products online—for free. "We wanted to democratize access to all this interesting research we've done over the last eight years," Kaplan says. The result is a prototyping designer's dream: an inventors hardware store where small quantities of samples can be purchased with the click of the button and the cash in your wallet (many materials costs less then $20). "When you're a really big company, suppliers will bend over backwards to do whatever you want them to do but if you're a small company it's see you later," Kaplan says. "Designers, artists, inventors, students—we think of them as little R&Ds. They have all the passion, energy, and drive. We want to get these materials into their hands." Click through our slideshow for 14 materials available on Inventables.com that have Kaplan's juices flowing—from rubber glass to translucent concrete.
January 11, 2011