The Transformation of Manufacturing in the 21st Century

This is a really interesting overview of a lot of what’s going on (small and large scale) for some makers called The Transformation of Manufacturing in the 21st Century by Lawrence J. Rhoades – The new industrial revolution will enable people to live where they like and produce what they need locally.

From open source hardware projects, 3D printers, to kits to companies like ETSY – this is good stuff.

The design freedom enabled by constructing objects in thin layers from particles with dimensions in microns will significantly reduce a product’s component-parts count. This, in turn, will reduce product weight by eliminating attachment features and fasteners and optimize functionality by eliminating excess material and wasted energy. The particles that are not needed for the part produced can be recycled to become the next–maybe very different–part. The metal in older, no longer useful products can be locally recycled to become metal powder feedstock for tomorrow’s production. Thus, inventory carrying costs and risks and transportation costs can be dramatically reduced, increasing savings in energy, materials, and labor.
Finally, because these processes are highly automated, the size of the workforce required to produce and deliver manufactured products to the customer will be greatly reduced. Consequently, low-cost, so-called touch labor will lose its competitive advantage in the production of physical objects.

The demand for innovative product designs will expand dramatically. And, because ideas will be delivered electronically, designers can be located anywhere. As design for manufacturing becomes less important, and because design superiority will be gained principally through understanding and responding to customers’ tastes, designers might want to be located near their customers.

Even if products are designed remotely, however, production will be done locally. Physical objects will be produced “at home” or “in the neighborhood” from locally recycled materials. Thus, cities will lose their economic advantage, and urban populations will be dispersed.

The Transformation of Manufacturing in the 21st CenturyLink.

What is open source hardware? – Link.

6 thoughts on “The Transformation of Manufacturing in the 21st Century

  1. monopole says:

    Thus, cities will lose their economic advantage, and urban populations will be dispersed.
    Yeah, sure. That’s why modern American cities are full of manufacturing plants. Cities exist for a variety of reasons the least of which is industrial production. Arguably the trend is to further, greener urbanization.

  2. bajazet says:

    Sounds like they’re selling rapid prototyping machines.
    But it doesn’t sound like reality; it sounds more like faster outsourcing. If I can install a machine to make my product in a place where the labor just has to know how to run it, then I need a supervisor and a couple of cheap laborers to bag it and send it over in container loads. Small unit numbers have always been made in small local places. But commodities are made in huge bulk and shipped out. Tell this guy to visit a grainger, costco or sam’s club to see a teeny-tiny portion of modern manufacturing in bulk.

  3. djol says:

    Sadly, it appears the author died less than a fortnight ago [] – 21st April. The article is an interesting and thoughtful read – and while a bit utopian, certainly a local manufacturing service, ala Kinkos, does have a huge disruptive potential.

    (And fellas – bear in mind, it’s always much easier to criticise than contribute.)

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