SOLide - Home SOLide - Home  
Pjotr, titanium 3D printed pen

Since 1998

RapidPRO Innalox

The developments from a historical perspective

I have published the text below in several places. The article considers various developments in historic perspective and describes where opportunities currently exist.

How it used to be
The steam engine and the Industrial Revolution went hand in hand, and the chip and the following industrial revolution had a lot to do with each other as well. The first revolution used mechanization, the second one used automation. Mechanization led to identical objects that were used by many people. The distance between the manufacturer and the user intensified, and they became the producer andconsumer. Automatization reinforced this aspect. Mass became even more massive, as well as more global. The domains in which mechanization and automation took place, only partly overlapped. Therefore products continued to be produced in enormous amounts, instead of the return of the craft (with space for individual input). The freedom that automation presented did not lead to significantly more diversity in product supply.

Back to the old days?
New technological possibilities, including ‘additive fabrication’ (I will get back to this) and new insights, have led to something that lies somewhere between the old and the new situation: customization of personalization (I will get back to this too). A lot of products are still made in very large quantities. The individual however does have more influence than before. The Internet plays an important role in this, in which the individual consumer can configure objects as desired and attune these to his own preference. More often small companies focus on their core business and individuals contribute to the origin of new products as well. Their collective way of working is known as open innovation.

More power for the individual consumer
Getting consumers to contribute to the design of separate mass products is no sinecure. Product-bound tools, including injection moulds, do not allow such variation at all. Additive fabrication is more frequently seen as a good alternative. Product-bound tools are in this case unnecessary. Grains or droplets of plastic, metal or ceramic are brought together, sort of like drops of ink that together form a letter, except for in this case, things are formed three-dimensionally. Additive concerns the addition of material. ‘Subtractive’ implies the elimination of material (like, for instance, removing metal) and some materials are deformed (like stretch forming).

Other times, new opportunities
Additive fabrication offers, in combination with the Internet, a continually growing amount of possibilities to accommodate the wishes of individual consumers. It must be noted that additive fabrication is still costly and is therefore still only competitively applicable in moderation. The appendix however shows several examples of successful applications. New, faster and less costly solutions are constantly being presented as well.

It may cost a bit ... if it is up to the customer
It has appeared from research conducted by Frank Piller that the consumer is prepared to pay a lot more for a product designed by himself (see picture below). Experimental subjects designed their own watch by choosing from dozens of variants for each part. This did not involve additive fabrication, but it did include a very large number of possibilities combination and variation.

Not easy, but possible

Of course an interaction as stated above requires a completely different design of all kinds of issues. The manufacturing in this case is mainly ‘guided by customer order’. This principle goes hand in hand with big adjustments. SOLide can assist you with these aspects. You may find opportunities on this site. Perhaps you have become interested and you would like to look into these opportunities with me. Please do not hesitate to contact me.