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Automation and technology have definitely been changing the way we communicate, how we shop, how we date, how we get around. And it’s changing manufacturing, too. Should we be afraid? Silicon Valley has gotten a reputation of being a “disruptor” – and depending on who you are or what part of the country you live in, that term is either a compliment or an insult. This week’s guest pokes at that hornet’s nest. We visit Nick Pinkston at his startup Plethora, an automated factory right in the middle of San Francisco, and explore the potential impacts of automation on the future of jobs and manufacturing. Not everyone is fond of automation, but many will tell you it’s inevitable. And others still will argue, it’s saving production in America. As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh with a machinist as a grandfather and a production manager as a father, Nick has his own perspectives. We talk about the future of manufacturing, capitalism, and education. We learn about the cost structure of his business and the guts of what it takes to make digital tools more user friendly. Also, because Nick is regarded as one of the key connectors of the hardware industry, we get his counterintuitive advice for entrepreneurs thinking about starting a hardware company.

The views expressed on The Art of Manufacturing podcast are those of the guests, and not our sponsors or partners.

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About Nick Pinkston

Nick Pinkston is the Founder & CEO of Plethora – a rapid manufacturing service that gives you real-time design feedback and pricing inside your CAD software, and then produces your parts in a new kind of on-demand automated factory that programs itself to make your parts.

Previously, Nick started CloudFab: the world’s first manufacturing-as-a-service API, and also HackPittsburgh: a collective workshop for the makers of Pittsburgh.

Nick’s mission is to make developing hardware as easy software through better tools to accelerate the pace of invention and make it accessible to everyone. He also organizes the SF Hardware Startup Meetup and is heavily involved in building the hardware startup movement.