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#DigitalSkeptic: The Small Machine Miracle Near 34th Street

KOREATOWN, NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Dean DiPietro may be an skilled and demanding product engineer and designer, but he knows what a miracle manufacturing things with his own hands can be.

"Put a device that can accomplish something in the same room as engineers like us, and you are dispensing an illegal drug to us," said DiPietro, partner at Tomorrow Lab, the product design, engineering -- and suddenly manufacturing -- firm somehow shoehorned into a cramped seventh-floor office on 32nd St.

"If this is a city that claims to have the smarts, passion and money to solve the world's design problem," he said, showing off the debut test line of plastic injected parts made here, "then why not bring the solution for those problems closer to the designers designing and building the product?"

DiPietro and his partners, Pepin Gelardi and Ted Ullrich, are part of the new generation of New York City-based design and engineering firms trailblazing fundamentally new ways to design, engineer and increasingly manufacture an equally new generation of consumer and business products. The five-person Tomorrow Lab, and firms such as Brooklyn's Pensa and Manhattan's MakeSimply, are taking clever advantage of a growing family of low-cost manufacturing tools -- not merely ludicrously hip tools such as 3-D printers from red-hot makers such as Stratasys Systems and 3D Systems, but an entire family of surprisingly sophisticated, low-cost manufacturing technologies dubbed as "small machines."

These small machine riffs on traditional manufacturing systems such as plastic mold injectors, computer-numeric-controlled die-cutters and polishing tools in effect shrink entire factories down to a scale where even manufacturing novices such as Tomorrow Lab can aim at making complex consumer products all by themselves.

"These machines get far less in the way than our MakerBot does," said DiPietro. "There is enough here that anybody with a reasonable knowledge of product manufacture can get excellent results."