Manufacturing

Programming Trees to Self-Destruct Could Save Energy

(Image via Shutterstock)

Mother Earth could benefit from the degradation of, oddly enough, one of her own, as scientists search for ways to deteriorate trees in order to improve industrial processes. New research shows that by weakening the walls of plant cells we can render them more susceptible to deconstruction during industrial processing, making procedures like pulping, paper-making, and biofuel production less wasteful and more energy efficient. To degrade plant structures, researchers redesigned the polymer that fortifies plant cell walls, lignin, using high heat and alkaline treatments to weaken bonds between molecules.   More

Analytics & Data IoE Manufacturing

Techonomic Top 5: Predicting War with Data, Biological Manufacturing, the IOE Economy, and more

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Every week we spotlight techonomic happenings on the Web and beyond, picking people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s got our attention.   More

Life Science Manufacturing

This Manufacturing Technique Will Make 3D Printing Seem Old-School

Cell image via Shutterstock

Getting living organisms to do our manufacturing work for us may be the next big shift in materials science. This Quartz article explains how it becomes not inconceivable that in the nearish future we will have biological materials helping us assemble solar panels, for example, or possibly helping work with a variety of different non-biological materials. The ability of living cells to help assemble non-living ones is a big breakthrough the article reports on. It suggests that future capabilities might even include things like tape that repairs itself biologically if it detects that its adhesive is weakening. Wow.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit

China’s Auto Export Drive Sputters in Detroit

(Image via Shutterstock)

A slew of year-end news about China’s auto industry is shining a spotlight on the tough times that domestic car makers are facing not only at home but also abroad as they grapple with tough competition and other market factors. Domestic nameplates like Geely, Chery, and BYD have steadily lost share in their home market over the last few years to big foreign names like GM and Volkswagen, but posted strong export gains as they looked to overseas markets to partly offset the declines at home. But now even the export picture is looking bleak, with the latest word that no Chinese car makers will attend the industry-leading North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Tucson

A Technoskeptic’s Take: Makers Are Suckers

Stewart Brand at the Techonomy 2013 conference near Tucson, Ariz.

Do-it-yourselfers with access to advanced tools and technologies are poised to democratize manufacturing, enable a bottom-up industrial revolution, reinvent retail, even remake America—at least that’s been the optimistic take. Evgeny Morozov offers a contrasting negative view on the so-called Maker Movement. In the context of a historical summary of the Arts and Crafts movement in early 1900s America, Morozov, a Belarus-born writer and Harvard history of science PhD candidate, suggests that modern "makers" are unwitting corporate pawns.   More

Manufacturing Startup Culture Video

Tesla’s Elon Musk to Would-Be Innovators: Just Try

Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick was in Texas this week to interview super-magnate Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial marvel behind Tesla Motors and SpaceX. Their wide-ranging conversation was part of the opening keynote at this year’s Dell World, held Dec. 11-13 at the Austin Convention Center. Kicked off by Dell Founder and CEO Michael Dell, Thursday’s keynote delved into Tesla’s rapid but sometimes rocky evolution, from the electric car company’s early struggles to get financing to its current market capitalization of over $18 billion.   More

Techonomy 13 Manufacturing Techonomy Tucson Video

180° Shift: (Unfortunately) Not Everyone is a Maker

Jordan Brandt discusses his role in the growing maker movement. Watch video and read the full transcript here.   More

Digital Manufacturing

Sensors Take a Big Step Closer to Human Touch

A smartphone screen can detect where it’s being touched. But the SynTouch sensor works the other way around: It detects what it is touching. SynTouch LLC, a Los Angeles-based startup that began in a University of Southern California lab, has developed what it says is the first sensor that enables robots to replicate human touch. The company has been named a 2014 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer for its main product, the BioTac, a fingertip that can sense force, temperature, and vibration—in some cases more accurately than a human finger.   More

Global Tech Manufacturing

Techonomy’s Kirkpatrick Moderates CFR’s 3D-Printing Panel

It's hard to believe you can manufacture your own toys and tchotchkes—not in a factory, but in your home. But companies including MakerBot and Solidoodle are already making it possible, selling low-end 3D printers to consumers for as little as $499. The printers spray liquified powders in thousands of layers to form almost any imaginable shape. And industrial models can even "print" objects made out of Titanium, glass, and many other materials.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit Video

Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson on Maker Culture

Etsy represents a new way of connecting handcraft makers to buyers, but it's rooted in an age-old tradition. As Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson put it, "We represent something really fundamental about humanity: the making of things." At our Techonomy Detroit conference, Dickerson explained what draws people into the maker movement, and how it's going global.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit Video

Rodney Brooks on Cars as Robots

How many people have operated their own robot? A lot more than you might think, Rethink Robotics founder and CTO Rodney Brooks would say. "I tell everyone, 'You're driving around inside a robot, and 10 years from now it's going to become an even smarter robot,'" Brooks told us at our Techonomy Detroit conference. "Cars are the epicenter, actually, of robotics." Brooks also elaborated on how easy-to-use robots are in a position to transform the manufacturing industry, making it more efficient, more localized, and less generic--a potential boon for cities like Detroit.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit Video

Roboticist Rodney Brooks on How Automation Helps Makers

Rodney Brooks, founder and CTO of Rethink Robotics, joined us at our Techonomy Detroit conference to talk about the intersection between robotics and the maker movement. Robots like Rethink's Baxter offer small industries a tool to make workers more productive. But because Baxter operates on a software platform, it also benefits from users who think of new functionality and specializations for the robot. "There's going to be some kids out there who come up with some ideas that we would never have thought of in a million years," Brooks said. Those users may in turn use Baxter for smaller scale, maker oriented production.   More

Business Manufacturing

Quirky Brings Innovation Expert Doreen Lorenzo on as President

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The Manhattan-based invention machine Quirky just became a little more inventive. Former frog design President Doreen Lorenzo joins the four-year-old product development company as president today. Lorenzo, known for transforming frog into a global innovation firm during her 7 years as president there, was a speaker at the Techonomy conferences in 2011 and 2012.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit

TechShop: Democratizing Manufacturing and Creating Personal Industrial Revolutions

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“It took the U.S. and Europe 150 years to go through the Industrial Revolution. Now, you can go through your own personal industrial revolution in 90 days.” At least that’s what TechShop CEO Mark Hatch told Yahoo! Small Business writer Adrienne Burke (also a regular contributor to Techonomy). TechShop is a membership-based DIY workshop with six locations around the country, each with about $1 million worth of advanced machinery and software. Members pay just $125 dollars for monthly access to a plethora of design, prototyping, and manufacturing tools.   More

Business Manufacturing

TechShop Seeks Big Bucks Using JOBS Act

A TechShop maker cuts metal on a flowjet in the Detroit facility.

With the public announcement of a $60 million investment offering this morning, TechShop is among the first to attempt to leverage eased fundraising regulations made possible by the JOBS Act. An 80-year SEC ban on general solicitation and advertising for certain offerings was lifted today as a result of the act. TechShop CEO Mark Hatch, who spoke at Techonomy Detroit 2012, told us Friday that the company is seeking $30 million in a Series B Preferred stock offering to support corporate overhead, and $30 million more in loans to fund construction of at least 11 new local TechShop facilities, support the new location in Pittsburgh, and relocate the one in Menlo Park.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit

How the Maker Movement Is Reinventing Retail

From left, Lou Rassey, Matt Clayson, Chad Dickerson, Marleen Vogelaar, and K. Venkatesh Prasad

The jury is still out on whether the maker movement could bring about a new American industrial revolution. But anecdotal evidence suggests it is well on its way to reinventing retail. Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson and Shapeways co-founder Marleen Vogelaar joined Detroit Creative Corridor Center director Matt Clayson and Ford’s open innovation guru K. Venkatesh Prasad for a “maker movement” discussion moderated by McKinsey & Company principal Lou Rassey at the Techonomy Detroit conference.   More

Detroit 13 Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit Video

A New Age of Manufacturing

Zachary Karabell of River Twice Research interviews Rethink Robotics founder Rodney Brooks about the evolution of manufacturing in a technologized economy. Watch video and read the complete transcript here.   More

Detroit 13 Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit Video

Can the Maker Movement Re-Make America?

Matt Clayson of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, Etsy's Chad Dickerson, Ford's K. Venkatesh Prasad, and Marleen Vogelaar of Shapeways join McKinsey's Lou Rassey to discuss the impact of the maker movement on the U.S. economy. Watch video and read the complete transcript here.   More

Energy & Green Tech Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit

Remaking Detroit Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts: A Car Guy’s View

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As a consumer, it is easy to take for granted the innovation needed to create automobiles that are more appealing, leave a smaller environmental footprint, and are manufactured more efficiently. But for industry insiders immersed in the operations of delivering products, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. By a quirk of fate, having moved from the Silicon Valley to work in Dearborn 17 years ago, I wear a lens of both an outsider and an insider that offers me a unique vantage point on the remaking of Detroit: I can see how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.   More

Manufacturing Techonomy Detroit

Can 3D Printing Revive America’s Middle Class?

Shapeways Shop Owner Stijn van der Linden of Virtox designs holds the popular selling Gyro Cube.

3D printing has been posited as the catalyst of the next industrial revolution. To make a difference to America’s middle class, whose median annual household income has dropped by more than $4,000 since 2000, the technology will have to bring about an economy as bustling as the first industrial revolution. Fewer than one-third of Americans believe economic conditions will improve next year. Could 3D printing turn things around?   More