Pardon the delay - last week we were attending The Digital Factoryand presenting at Formlabs User Conference. There's a ton of significant, interesting developments and concepts from those two days that we'll be summarizing and posting soon.
- Mary Meeker's famous annual report on internet trends is out, and there are some interesting developments related to design on slides 61 and 71, showing how apparel manufacturers Allbirds and Stitch Fix are using a combination of customer feedback, reviews, engagement and sales data to tune or construct new products. As a semi-invisible crowd-sourcing methodology it's pretty interesting, but ultimately overall trends start somewhere, and this data can only be collected as a reaction to the prompt of existing products. That said, those kinds of nimble insights into ever-changing consumer behavior could be a tool for dealing with overproduction and wasted goods.
- A convincing argument that unlocking the potential of 3D printing has a lot to do with design - both in terms of the limited access to design and how we need to change our conceptual models for developing the form and function of a product if we are to make the most of additive manufacturing.
- Ian Bogost at The Atlantic on the self-indulgence of marketing-led design that often results in inferior quality goods selling at a steep markup: "Mahabis is one of many commodity manufacturers that present their ordinary wares as if they were complex, high-tech goods." This is one of the now fairly long-running crises of the so-called design community - yes, design is important but not every artifact is critical, and very often we serve people best by building good, simple, low cost things and getting out of the way rather than trying to conjure some bizarre emotional relationship between humans and the things they use to protect their feet.
- There are plans for a new advanced manufacturing/research center around fabrics in Lowell, Massachusetts, well-known for it's industrial revolution era significance in textile production. The placement of the facility is only partly based on the past though, UMass Lowell is a neighboring university with strong manufacturing and material science research efforts.
- A piece from Scott Kirsner at the Boston Globe covering the broad strokes of themes at The Digital Factory: how sensors, advanced software and high precision digital fabrication tools are leading to a very different kind of production model.
- The factory-direct sales model has become more complicated with fast, easy global trade. If goods that are unsafe are produced and sold elsewhere, the multitude of small sellers makes running a recall even more complicated, and legal actions to hold negligent producers accountable are difficult or impossible to carry out. BuzzFeed takes a look at how e-cigarettes, hoverboards and fidget spinners take viral trends into dangerous territory with hastily, shoddily built product flooding into markets.
- We've been working with the team at Franklin Robotics for a little while now and their first product, an autonomous weed-killing robot for the garden is now up on kickstarter. We're biased, but it's worth checking out for the cute robot gifs alone.
- China's efforts to engineer an economy of the future by heavily incentivizing robotics, AI, and electric vehicles has drawn criticism from global trade partners and according to Bloomberg is leading to entrepreneurs gaming the system, looking to soak up some of the stimulus money available without contributing the desired innovation activities.