The Changing Face of Manufacturing


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This article written by Amit Mirchandani, MD, Lucid Design and Chief Creative Officer, Kuliza, was published in issue 07 of Social Technology Quarterly.
Summary: 3D printing and the Internet are enabling manufacturing to become more customizable and local. It thereby has the potential to disrupt conventional and large-scale models of manufacturing.

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The Changing Face of Manufacturing

  1. 1. Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 07 453D printing and the Internet are enabling manufacturingto become more customizable and local. It thereby has thepotential to disrupt conventional and large-scale models Amit MirchandaniCredits: 3D OceanThe Changing Faceof ManufacturingCommunitiesHerein lies the dilemma of getting productsto customers today: it takes a lot ofenergy to make, it uses materials thattake a lot of energy to collect, the factorystruggles to achieve the scale with so muchcustomization. It takes even more energyto transport and in the end it all ends upcosting too much – both in terms of moneyand the environmental toll it takes.Enter a Paradigm ShiftTeenage Engineering is a Swedishcompany that designs and sells a range ofsynthesizers. It is a small company offeringinnovative and offbeat products and hasa loyal fan base of musicians and soundartists around the world.Recently, it launched a range of accessoriesfor their popular OP-1 synthesizer. Theseallow one to create a variety of additionalAt the time of the Industrial Revolution,manufacturers began to make mass-produced products for consumers to use.Using vast amounts of energy and enormousmachines housed in large factories, theywere able to stamp, shape, mould, contort,and wrangle various materials into particularshapes. These parts came together to servea function. It was a far cry to imagine evenone of these machines living in our homesand inconceivable to have the multiplemachines one would require to make thevarious parts of an average product.Skip forward to today, when brands andmanufacturers are two separate entities.Consumers are all over the world andthey want things fast, they want thingscheap, they want things in custom sizesand finishes to suit their requirements andpersonal styles.
  2. 2. 46and unexpected sounds and functionsby twisting, turning, cranking, linking andcombining the knobs that exist on thesynthesizer coupled with a software upgradethat activates those functions. The cost ofthe knob attachments, cranks, and rubberbands range from $8 to $16, however fanswere disappointed with the cost to ship oneof these products, which ran upwards of $25to locations outside of their base in Sweden.The company responded by uploading 3Ddata files of the products on their website.If you own a 3D printer you can print theproducts for yourself. If you do not you canprint them at (a 3D printingcompany based in the US) at a fraction ofthe cost and get it shipped locally to US fansalso for a fraction of the cost!I see a shift in the brand-manufacturer-consumer relationship paradigm here.Moreover, Teenage Engineering haspioneered a new form of productmanufacture and delivery. One in whichthe manufacturing happens locally at amuch smaller and customizable scale, thevalue of the products are not determinedby the cost of the finished-shipped-retailedgoods, but the intellectual property thatthey provide for your use. What you will bepaying for is a license to use their IP. Thisentire customization and delivery methodwill facilitate itself over the Internet. Youcould even imagine a try-before-you-buymechanism in which you print out somethingto see whether it fits, works, enhances orsatisfies your requirements and style.Enter Home 3D PrintingCubify is a website offering 3D printable filesto download for free or to buy, 3D printingcapabilities through the cloud, 3D creationapps and a 3D home printer called the cube.You can even become a Cubify artist andupload 3D files for products you want to sellon their site for royalties.Cubify describes their 3D printer’scapabilities as, “(it) prints in 3D... whichmeans that instead of putting ink onto aflat surface like regular printing, it builds upmaterial in three dimensions to create a realobject. It melts plastic filament, then drawswith it in a very fine layer. It then buildsanother fine layer of plastic on top of thisone, and then another, and another, buildingyour idea in slices from the bottom-up untilyou have a plastic object ready to hold.Think of it like dispensing frozen yogurt froma machine: you can build up your cone to bepretty big! 3D printing on a Cube is like that,only lets you make way cooler shapes withmore detail, and isn’t edible.”There are no limitations with what you canbuild, except for that it must fit into the printarea. You can print in 10 different coloursin a special type of ABS plastic that is safeand recyclable.
  3. 3. Kuliza Social Technology Quarterly Issue 07 47Also, with their 3D creation app, you cangenerate 3D files that you can print at homeor by using their cloud powered industrial3D printers.These capabilities will change the natureof products, what functions they arecapable of and how we will create, use anddispose products. I see the ability to recyclematerials and change the functions as yourneeds change. I also see a replacement ofthe conventional product supply chain withbig savings for the environment in transport.Enter the Future of 3D printingNASA has floated a concept whereby a 3Dprinter could be sent into space. It wouldhave the capability to salvage asteroidsor space junk or use material sent fromEarth. These materials would then be putthrough the 3D printing process to build aspacecraft, space station, space telescopeor satellite outwards from the 3D printer!This would save tremendous resources andopen up the design capabilities of objects inspace without the constraints of having tosqueeze them into a rocket or build them towithstand earth’s gravity.This idea is still several years away, but theproject has received funding to see whetherthe concept makes business sense.What this means to people living back onearth is the ability to launch all projects - bigor small - such as a toaster or a completehouse - from a 3D printer with salvagedor virgin materials. The printer will notonly build part of itself, but the equipmentrequired to get any job done, to actual partsthat will make the completed product youare trying to build. Starting at the printer andbuilding outwards from it. There will only besome assembling required!ReferencesBrandon, “3D Printing, The Future of CustomerService?”Astro Studios,08 Nov 2012.“Cube 3D Printer.” Cubify.Hsu, Jeremy. “NASA Turns to 3D Printing for Self-Building Spacecraft.”Tech News Daily.Tech MediaNetwork,13 Sep 2012.Photo CreditsTop Left: Teenage EngineeringLeft: CubifyBottom: Unlimited Tethers