Tags: distributed manufacturing*

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  1. There has been a lot of debate about the real benefits of local production, especially that last-mile delivery is more harmful to the environment than the benefits it brings. In your experience, what is the ecological footprint of a product that has been globally designed and locally manufactured?

    Any production that is not hyperlocal ie. from materials sourced within a very short supply chain, has to find its way to the consumer somehow. With respect to environmental concern, the ‘last mile’ is a question of the existing production paradigm finding the most efficient and low carbon way to achieve its objective. I’m not sure that the last mile debate concerning the most carbon-efficient delivery by a globalised supply system can be compared to local production. Local production will have ‘last miles’ (and more energy used in transportation, depending on where the materials were sourced for the production), but in general, I’d be less worried about lots of last miles from local production, than many more tens of thousands of miles of transportation required with ‘remote’ production.

    It’s also worth noting that shipping is responsible for 17% of global emissions, but neither shipping and aviation are accounted for in international climate change negotiations due to the difficulty in allocating emissions ie. do they belong to the producing or consuming country? In general, local has many benefits, but it’s simplistic to assume local always equals ‘good’. It depends on so many things, for example, is the activity occurring in a water-scarce environment? How intensive is the production? Is the power source for the products generated from renewable energy?

    Life-cycle analysis (LCA) is one way of assessing the ecological cost-benefit of different methods of production, but it can get quite complicated. Descriptions can offer a sense of the impacts, however, measuring these and making the trade-offs is less clear and requires not only a lot of data but a lot of consideration and interpretation.

    Before even considering ecological footprints of production, one of the first things cities could do is look into ‘boomerang trade’ – the new economics foundation produced a report on this activity in the UK, where similar goods are being traded and transported across continents, or across the globe. There are also ridiculous examples, such as what I have dubbed ‘frequent flyer prawns’ – shrimp being flown to Thailand from Scotland, and then back because the labour needed to shell them is cheaper in Thailand.

    Trade used to be about genuine comparative advantage. If economics is supposed to be about the efficient allocation of resources, and this is what our systems of economics are incentivising, then we need new economics.

    Cosmo localism, or ‘design global, manufacture local’, certainly has some overlap with ‘glocalisation’, or the adaptation of globally marketed products to local culture, in that a shared global design can be replicated (or adapted then produced) locally. But by whom, and how?

    Glocalisation is about the top-down marketing of consumer products designed remotely, in a centralised way and then tweaked for local culture. Cosmolocalism, or Design Global Manufacture Local (DG-ML) is based on a different production logic, as explained by Jose Ramos and Chris Giotitsas in ‘A New Model of Production for a New Economy’:

    Traditionally corporate enterprises have solely owned the intellectual property (IP) they employ in the production of goods. They source the materials for the goods through national or global supply chains. They manufacture those goods using economies of scale in a set number of manufacturing centres, whereupon those finished goods are delivered nationally or globally.

    DG-ML is an inversion of this production logic. First of all, the IP is open, whether open source or creative commons or copy fair, so it can be used by anyone. Secondly, manufacturing and production can be done independently of the IP, by any community or enterprise around the world that wants to.
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  2. 3D Hubs seems to have developed a new strategy for distributed 3D printing.

    3D Hubs, if you are not familiar with them, maintain a worldwide network of participating 3D printers, each independently run by separate companies or individuals. Their network is extensive, now offering local 3D print services in more than 150 countries.

    But 3D Hubs faces steep competition from a number of other 3D print services, each attempting to innovate beneficial features for their clients, who could also be 3D Hubs clients.

    That innovation push has 3D Hubs experimenting with a new concept for them: hybrid distributed products. The first venture in this concept involves a pair of headphones.

    3D Hubs partnered with Eindhoven-based Print+, a Dutch startup focused on eco-friendly consumer designs - and specifically headphones.
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  3. Peer production has emerged as a new and relevant way of organising the work of distributed and autonomous individuals in the production and distribution of digital content. Increasingly, the adoption of peer production is taking place not only in the development of digital and immaterial content, but also in the design, manufacturing and distribution of physical goods. Furthermore, Open Design and Open Hardware projects are developed, discussed, manufactured and distributed thanks to digital fabrication technologies, digital communication technologies, advanced funding initiatives (like crowdfunding platforms and hardware incubators) and globally integrated supply chains. This new systemic dimension of work is possible, among other factors, thanks to local facilities like Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces (that can be generally called Maker laboratories), where individuals can gather and form communities with other people, designing and manufacturing together. Generally, these people are referred to as Makers and, while their existence is still an emergent phenomenon, it is widely acknowledged that they could exemplify a new modality of work. We investigated the knowledge, values and working dimensions of Makers in Italy with the Makers' Inquiry, a survey that focused on Makers, Indie Designers and managers of Maker laboratories. This research generated a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy, improving the knowledge of the profiles of Makers; an important step because Makers are usually defined in a very broad way. Furthermore, we investigated their profiles regarding their values and motivations, in order to understand how much Makers engage in peer production or in traditional businesses and whether their working condition is sustainable or not. Finally, we compared these profiles with data regarding traditional designers and businesses and the national context. Given the recent nature of the Maker movement, the focus of this article is on providing a first overview of the phenomenon in Italy with an exploratory analysis and with comparison with existing related literature or national data, rather than contextualising the Maker movement in sociological and political contributions. Far from happening in a void, Italian Makers have a strong relationship with their localities and established industry. Therefore, this is a recent evolution, where Makers work with a broader palette of projects and strategies: With both non-commercial and commercial activities, both peer production and traditional approaches. The activity of making is still a secondary working activity that partially covers the Makers’ income, who are mostly self-employed working at home, in a craft workshop or in a Fab Lab in self-funded or non-commercial initiatives, where technology is not the only critical issue. As a conclusion, we identified current patterns in the working condition of Italian Makers. The data gathered shows some interesting information that, however, could be applicable only to an Italian context. Nevertheless, the survey could be a starting point to compare the same phenomenon in different countries. Therefore, we released the survey files, software and data as open source in order to facilitate the adoption, modification, verification and replication of the survey.
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  4. Could a ledger of that type be useful for 3D printing?

    I certainly think so.

    Imagine a 3D printed part that is used in an application, perhaps inside a machine or vehicle. This part could have an indestructible secure digital ledger associated with it for the lifetime of that part.

    What might you put in this super-ledger? Some ideas:

    The credentials of the designer
    The credentials of the maker
    The type of machine, and perhaps the specific machine on which it was made
    The list of materials used
    The specific batches and sources of materials used
    The date of production
    The date of usage
    The current owner of the part
    The past owners of the part
    The amount of usage withstood by the part to date
    The maximum stress, temperature or other factors incurred by the part to date
    The replacement date of the part (it’s useful lifetime)
    The status of the part; is it leased? Owned?
    How to find a replacement for this part

    And so on. You get the idea.

    For casual prototype parts, this may be of less interest, but
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  5. Molds are expensive because hot molten plastic is constantly being injected at very high pressure. This necessitates an extremely durable mold. The more pieces the mold will be used to produce, the more durable it must be.

    To withstand such extreme conditions, high volume injection molds are made from very hard grades of steel. The cost of a mold is determined by the hardness of the metal, the number of cavities, and the number of side actions required. It is usually wise to begin with a 1-cavity mold made of a softer metal.

    A single-cavity, low volume mold may cost a couple thousand dollars and be good for ten to twenty thousand units. On the other extreme, a mold with multiple cavities (I have seen molds with as many as 32) made with a hard grade of steel can potentially pump out millions of units. However, the latter will cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
    Design Rules

    Even the simplest product will need at least two molds. One mold for the front side of the enclosure and one mold for the back side. However, most products require around 4-8 molds. When developing your enclosure, try to minimize the number of molds required and you will drastically reduce your scaling costs.
    Certification Costs

    Okay, now back to the electronics portion of your product. You did not think you would get by without some significant expenses to scale the electronics did you? The primary scaling expense for electronics is their required certifications.
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  6. This provocation piece intends to propose a metadata infrastructure for Redistributed Manufacturing on top of which we could imagine new protocols and institutions for standards, regulation, licensing, quality assurance, insurance, and consumer rights. It intends to initiate a conversation around these institutional questions and allow us to make progress towards prototyping viable new frameworks and protocols. Please follow this project, a collaboration between Dark Matter Laboratories and Future Makespaces in Redistributed Manufacturing (futuremakespaces), at greymatter.cc.
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  7. To fully realise the promise of viable distributed on-demand fabrication, we need agile institutional infrastructure that can address questions of standards, regulation, licensing, quality assurance, insurance,
    and consumer rights. With the understanding that this infrastructure will need to be automated and data-driven we are proposing a metadata layer attached to components and products. Each part of the
    production process should be able to securely alter or append information to the metadata chain
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  8. Abstract: This article explores how autonomous workers/contributors, involved in peer-to-peer relations, can organise their productive efforts so that they have sustainable livelihoods. The discussion is guided by the concept of ‘open cooperativism’, which argues for a synergy between the commons-based peer production movement and elements of the cooperative and solidarity economy movements. To this end, we review the case of Enspiral, a network of professionals and companies that empowers and supports social entrepreneurship. We explore its values, operation and governance as well as the chosen strategies for autonomy and sustainability. Finally, some lessons are summarised for the cooperative and union movement, which point to open cooperativism as an integrated vision.
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  9. While these high-profile cases and thereby theoretical possibilities often attract the headlines, the real challenge is reimagining our institutional architecture to match the dream offered by emerging technologies. Just as the Victorians imagined new institutions such as what is now the British Standards Institution and renaissance Italy imagined the concept of IP and patents, we need to make sure that the rules of the game match the possibility of the moment.
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  10. Dressing to impress has an environmental cost as well as a financial one. From the pesticides poured on cotton fields to the washes in which denim is dunked, making 1kg of fabric generates 23kg of greenhouse gases on average, according to estimates by McKinsey, a consultancy. Because consumers keep almost every type of apparel only half as long as they did 15 years ago, these inputs go to waste faster than ever before. The latest worry is shoppers in the developing world, who have yet to buy as many clothes as rich-world consumers but are quickly catching up.
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    Most apparel companies know that sooner or later, consumers’ awareness of this subject will rise. That is a worry. Various furores in the 1990s and afterwards over the working conditions of people making goods for firms such as Nike, Walmart and Primark badly damaged brands. The clothing industry cannot afford to appear so ugly again.

    One obvious way in which firms can answer environmental concerns is to use renewable energy to power their facilities. Beyond that, they can cut back sharply on water and chemical use; and they can develop new materials and manufacturing processes that reduce inputs.
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