Thursday, September 15, 2011

Forbes: Will You Soon Be Able To Make Amazon's Kindle At Home?

This Forbes Article looks at how our future will be shaped by "Digital Fabrication":

Now the economics of large-scale production runs carried out overseas are about to be further undermined by the possibility of making, selling and delivering millions of manufactured items one unit at a time, right next to the customer.
Igoe and Mota point out that digital manufacturing is beginning to do to manufacturing what the Internet has done to information-based goods and services. Just as video went from a handful of broadcast networks to millions of producers on YouTube within a decade, a massive transition from centralized production to a “maker culture” of dispersed manufacturing innovation is under way today.

It also offers up some ideas for large manufacturers to prepare for this new world:
Lessons for Large Manufacturers
Igoe and Mota have the following suggestions for manufacturers:

• Prepare now for the capabilities you’ll need when some of your products are digitally fabricated. By 2020 if not sooner, every auto dealership and home improvement retailer will have a backroom production shop printing out parts and tools as needed. Manufacturers that figure out how to make their wares out of printable composites, investing now in the requisite changes in materials, could have a considerable advantage.
• Establish a hybrid product line that mixes complementary mass-production and individual-production items. For some objects, digital fabrication will allow you to shorten product life cycles and make rapid improvements.
• Counter reverse engineering with open innovation. Digital fabrication will inevitably enable amateur enthusiasts to knock off and alter commercial products in their garages. Manufacturers now face a choice between engaging in eternal court battles with their own customers or assimilating this new culture of sharing and remixing it into their design and production processes.
 Help in the development of new and better materials for fabrication. Independent fabricators are eager for materials, and they are experimenting fervently. Forward-thinking manufacturers can form powerful partnerships by making their scrap materials available for experimentation.
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