Derek Singleton has written a good overview of some good examples of the mass personalization of manufacturing in a recent posting “Anyone can be a Manufacturer” and an earlier one “Three ways to bring Crowdsourcing into Mainstream Manufacturing”. They are IMHO well worth the read and following some of the links.
The only significant omission to me. which many seem to miss, is the area of 3D scanning that enables us to capture existing objects in the form of full 3D models which we can then modify and adjust to suit our individual needs and situation before “manufacturing” at a click of a button. Perhaps Derek will write more on this topic as well. For now you can see some good examples such as Autodesk’s 123D series of apps for more on this critical component of the Snowflake Effect on manufacturing for the rest of us.
As I’ve been saying in my articles and speaking engagements the last few years, one of the biggest and best examples of how the ubiquitous Snowflake Effect is fundamentally disrupting the present and shaping the future is what I think can rightly be called the Third Industrial Revolution wherein each of us as individuals become empowered to create or manufacture our own “stuff”.
This revolution is very pervasive and diverse in that sometimes we will literally have a one click manufacturing plant on our desktop along the lines that can already be seen with some of the early 3D printers available. At the other end of the spectrum it will simply yet powerfully mean that we will play a more and more key role in the design and production of products we create with the assistance of others and higher end services and the myriad of points along this entire DIY (Do It Yourself) spectrum. I think this will likely proceed along lines similar to how photography and photo printing have evolved where they were initially the domain of experts only to where we used to just take photos and send our film off to be developed and turned into prints to where we now either just click and immediately see the photo results on extremely high resolution screens or hit the print button and soon have a near perfect photo in our hands.
As we begin to similarly capture and print real and complex objects with the simple click of a button we become more intimately involved in the whole process from the initial idea of “Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have one of those.” or “I wish ‘they’ would make something like this.” to the modification and improvement of the object to make it “just right”, just for me, just for now and almost instantaneously have that in our hands.
The instant gratification and production of more “stuff” does NOT excite me and is in fact one of the concerns to be dealt with as we move into this brave new world. What I am VERY excited about is the degree to which this will in fact involve each of us more directly and intimately in the whole idea-design-test-create-improve cycle. Think of all the learning this will inspire in us all! Think about how much more we will understand the materials and energy that go into producing things and the power this new awareness will bring to many as to how to consume less, reuse more and get more out of life.
How much “stuff” do you have in your life that you don’t use because it never worked well, never fit you properly, never did what it was supposed to do? Imagine if every “thing” you have is just right, just for you. Imagine the new skills and knowledge you will need to have and want to have to live life well in this new snowflaked world. As with all powerful new innovations and discoveries the advent of personalized manufacturing will bring with it equal measures of risks and benefits and it is up to each and everyone ONE of us to choose how we will shape and use these new tools and enablers going forward.
We may curse snowflakes while shoveling billions of them from our driveway or when our car is skidding on compacted ones on roads, yet the almost spiritual beauty of fresh fallen snow and the intricate perfection of each and every unique snowflake evokes emotions deep in our souls and reminds us what a profound gift uniqueness is. It may be difficult at fist to see such beauty in something as ‘ugly” and conforming as manufacturing has historically been, but these are the traits of the previous forms of manufacturing and why, for me at least, the rapidly evolving Third Industrial Revolution is so powerful, so exciting and yes, so beautiful.
Think about it. What will you do as these capabilities are put into your hands? What new skills and knowledge will you need to have to use them wisely and for best benefit? What new services and support will you need? How will use these new capabilities for greater good both for the world overall, yourself and the rest of the world’s snowflakes? As you ponder these kinds of questions, if it doesn’t make you equally excited and scared then I’ve done a very poor job of explaining this. Hopefully better writers like Derek will help to do a much better job and set off that spontaneous cognitive combustion within you as you have that the Aha! moment of recognition and set of in pursuit of your relentless curiosity to learn and practice more.