YouBuild – Mass Customized Furniture

in Cabinets & Furniture

Imagine being able to go online and order high-quality, ready-to-assemble wood furniture, customized the way you want it. A local woodworking shop downloads your order, cuts the pieces, packages it with all the hardware and delivers it to your door.

That’s now a reality with YouBuild.

screenshot-youbuild-websiteThanks to innovative ideas like combining online shopping, distributed networking on the web, and the latest woodworking technology, we’re entering a whole new phase of buying and building the things we want.

Need a bookcase that’s exactly 33 1/4"wide and 12 3/4" deep? Check. Do want to stain it yourself or have that done for you? Assembled or ready to assemble? It’s customized DIY!

YouBuild furniture is just a first glimpse of how we’ll be buying all kinds of stuff in the future – customized and personalized as we wish.

Why YouBuild is the way of the future

I discovered YouBuild when I was researching new woodworking equipment for the custom cabinet shop I do CAD and design work with. Thermwood, the company behind YouBuild, manufactures the CNC woodworking equipment that makes this all possible and developed the software that supports it.

The concept is brilliant – and a perfect example of how we’re now able to customize all kinds of stuff to suit our personal use – even traditionally ‘mass produced’ items like furniture.

This innovative approach to networked manufacturing and marketing furniture is good for consumers, local small businesses and the economy as a whole. And it’s all enabled by the web.

Watch the YouBuild introductory video


Who can benefit from networked manufacturing?

As you can see from the video, the main benefit goes to consumers. Having the ability to custom-size a desk or bookcase to fit your home and determine your own degree of DIY involvement is huge.

So who else can benefit from this new way of manufacturing furniture?

Local Woodworking shops

Any cabinet shop with the proper equipment and software can supplement their regular cabinet business by joining the network as a YouBuild Cut Centre.

Local Designers

Interior designers can become an entry point to YouBuild furniture and earn a commission fee for helping clients choose furniture. Designers will also be able create new designs to add to the network and receive royalties each time it’s purchased by anyone, anywhere the network service is available.

Local Contractors

Contractors, like designers will be in a good position to guide their customers through the process of purchasing cabinets and furniture as well as providing assembly and installation services.

Local Retailers

Certain types of retailers, like building centres or niche decorating stores could also act as design centres and consultants, guiding customers through the purchase and coordinating the furniture with other finishes and accessories.

Notice the common element in those few examples? Yup, ‘local’. And that means real jobs at several different skill levels from assemblers to CNC machine operators and technicians, to retail sales staff.

Here’s another YouBuild video that goes into more detail.


Watch for more options in the future – such as more styles and materials, carvings or cutouts from personal photos you upload, and expansion into more sophisticated lines of cabinetry and millwork.

ABC’s of CNC

CNC is the acronym for "computer numerical control" – basically sending digital code to a machine based on computer-generated designs. I use CAD software to design cabinets and furniture – virtually building kitchens on my computer. The software can automatically layout the cabinet components efficiently on plywood sheets and determine exactly where all the holes need to be for drawer guides, adjustable shelf pins, etc.

When a design is approved and ready for production, I can send the digital instructions to a CNC router in the production shop. At that point, the shop crew just needs to place the plywood on the router table, press the go button and the router starts cutting and drilling. It can even automatically change bits and other tools it needs for each operation.

The real neat thing about all this is that the CNC equipment following my instructions could be in my garage, or a cabinet shop in Topeka, Kansas…or Bangalore, India…anywhere. And THAT’s how technology is changing the future of manufacturing.

Non-linear gears by tweakie.cnc CC BY 2.0

More on the horizon

As I said at the beginning – this is just a glimpse into where we’re heading in our networked world. 30 years ago, networked printers changed how we printed documents in the office. For the past decade we’ve been able to purchase personalized T-shirts, mugs and other printed items through online stores such as Cafe Press and Zazzle.

Now with YouBuild, we’re able to essentially ‘print’ furniture and cabinets on the closest available CNC router (currently only in the US). Soon, 3-D printers and other technologies yet to emerge, will enable us to design nearly anything in our home, and anyone – anywhere in the world – will be able to customize it to suit their needs, and have it manufactured and delivered by a local supplier.

Image: tweakie.cnc

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