• Another way that 3D printing is unlocking some interesting design possibilities:  the continual development of methods to perform so called 4-D printing (essentially parts that can change their shape in a predictable, designed way, after printing). Like printing metals and topological modeling, it's not going to be a key part of mainstream products straight away, but it will have huge impacts on things like sensors and apparel, and that could lead to the technology crossing over into the mainstream sooner than we think. 
  • Big companies keep getting disrupted by problems with "the stack" of products and services - a good read on the subject from Christopher Mims at the Wall Street Journal. We think the relatively recent trend of big companies acquiring (mostly small) design consultancies is an attempt to solve this problem - the latest is IBM acquiring a digital marketing firm (maybe inspired by the big and immediate backlash to their poorly thought out "hack a hairdryer" campaign to encourage women in STEM careers). 


Feeding the Future: 






  • A factory in China has replaced 90% of its human workers with robots. It's improved production rates and reduced defects, good for the factory owners but a worrisome signal for China's human workforce. The march towards a service-oriented economy has been steady, but manufacturing still employs a huge chunk of the population. Given the shaky performance of the markets in China as manufacturing growth has slowed, we wouldn't be surprised to see the government introduce policies to limit the speed at which robots can displace humans. 


Up in the Air: 

  • Lufthansa has partnered up with Chinese drone maker DJI. It won't be the last incumbent aviation business to team up with a fast-moving drone startup. In our opinion, Lufthansa picked a winner with DJI which has been more prepared to embrace a variety of commercial applications and pursuits compared to many U.S. drone makers which have been content to focus on consumer applications or pick a single industry o(agriculture, defense, etc.). 
  • Sometimes the present feels more like science fiction. Kids using drones to pull themselves along in the snow


More next week.