Manufacturing

3D Printing Affects Every Industry, Even Homebuilding

At Techonomy, we’re fascinated by the potential of 3D printing technology (also known as additive manufacturing) to transform domestic manufacturing by creating efficiencies and opportunities for producers both large and small, from industrial fabricators to DIY makers. For answers to all our 3D printing questions, we spoke with Terry Wohlers, industry analyst, author, and president of Wohlers Associates, Inc. He told us about the future of 3D printing, industry obstacles, and whether or not we will someday see entire houses constructed by 3D-printed layers of concrete.   More

Business Manufacturing

New Technology Clouds the IP Landscape

The tech trifecta of Internet, cloud computing, and 3D printing tantalizes investors and consumers with the promises of lower distribution costs, increased productivity, reduced prices, and the free movement of information. But, as RISD President and Techonomy 2013 participant John Maeda argues in a recent LinkedIn post, contradictions abound for those in the business of creating goods and information.   More

Manufacturing

The Next Manufacturing Revolution Is Not 3D. It’s Software

A major challenge to creating and filling manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is the ever-increasing skills gap. There is a widespread misconception that these jobs are low-skill. To the contrary, a large portion of U.S. manufacturing is complex, requiring a high level of expertise that is hard to find. Investment in improved education and training is surely needed to fill more jobs. But the long-term solution is to lower the barriers of entry to manufacturing work through technology—specifically by using widely accessible, easy-to-use automation software that grows revenues, increases efficiencies, and reduces costs for manufacturers and their customers.   More

Business Manufacturing

Could Crowdsourcing Make Better Cars?

Whoever designed my car doesn't drink coffee during their morning commute. Otherwise they'd never have put the cupholder in front of the gear stick. The manufacturer of my next car might actually be interested in my input. According to a report out this week from consulting giant PwC, co-creation is a growing trend in the automotive industry.   More

Cities Manufacturing

Chinese Companies Set Up Shop in the Motor City

A new wave of investment is happening in long-suffering Detroit. At first blush, that sounds eminently promising—the region, and the U.S. auto industry, is still rebounding from the recession, with mixed results. But the who and why paint a more complex picture. As part of their steady push into the U.S. auto industry, “Chinese-owned companies are investing in American businesses and new vehicle technology, selling everything from seat belts to shock absorbers in retail stores, and hiring experienced engineers and designers in an effort to soak up the talent and expertise of domestic automakers and their suppliers,” Bill Vlasic writes in The New York Times.   More

Government Manufacturing

How Do You Regulate 3D-Printed Guns?

Ethical technological question of the day: If technology is neither good nor evil, but simply a means to an end, what happens when that end has potentially dangerous consequences? Cody Wilson, a University of Texas at Austin law student, has developed a working gun—which he calls The Liberator—using a 3D printer, and he’s made the design available on his website, Defense Distributed. Wilson's home-made firearm becomes all the more striking as the cost of 3D printing drops precipitously, with low-cost printers poised to enter the mass market.   More

Manufacturing

Staples Brings 3D Printers to the Mass Market

Designers have used 3D-printing websites like Shapeways to manufacture and market their wares for several years now, while some intrepid DIY makers have taken production into their homes by investing in desktop 3D printers from New York-based MakerBot. But 3D printing machines have yet to make their way into mass-market retail stores. Until now. Last week Staples announced that it will sell the Cube 3D printer, made by South Carolina-based 3D Systems Corp., in select stores. Priced at $1,299, the machine sells for almost half the cost of Makerbot's Replicator 2.   More

Jobs Manufacturing

The Humanoid Robots Start Arriving

Steve Jurvetson, a VC friend of Techonomy's at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, ordered a humanoid "Baxter" robot from Rethink Robotics and shared these shots of taking it out of the box and plugging it into the wall. Right out of the box, Jurvetson programmed Baxter by moving its arms. On his first try, he taught the robot to move cups across a table, reporting that Baxter was able to persevere even as people placed cups in random locations on the table. "It learns what its hands can do by looking at them against the table as background," writes Jurvetson.   More

Business Manufacturing

An Online Matchmaker for Designers and Manufacturers

Repatriating U.S. manufacturing jobs isn't just about bolstering the economy. There are practical business problems associated with outsourcing production abroad. It's not uncommon for shipments of products made in countries like China to arrive with defects, which can be hard to rectify from the other side of the world. In a report on WNYC's New Tech City, Matthew Burnett, a small business owner in Brooklyn, says quality control wasn't the only issue he ran into when he used foreign companies to manufacture parts for his designer watch company—language barriers and time-zone differences hampered routine communications. When Burnett started his next company, a clothing line, he decided he only wanted to make his products in the U.S. That way he could order smaller batches and call up the factory directly if there were any problems.   More

Finance Manufacturing

With $30 Million, Shapeways Will Push 3D Printing Frontiers

Peter Weijmarshausen believes that 3D printing "is fundamentally changing the manufacturing ecosystem in its entirety." Several deep-pocketed investors agree. Weijmarshausen announced today that Shapeways, the 3D printing marketplace he heads, has raised $30 million in a series C financing led by Andreessen Horowitz. Existing investors Union Square Ventures, Index Ventures, and Lux Capital also participated in the round. Since its founding in 2007, Weijmarshausen says Shapeways has seen a drop in 3D printing prices, an expansion of printable materials, and users upload over 1 million designs.   More

Manufacturing

GE-Quirky Deal Opens Tech Patents to Almost Everybody

Independent inventors of consumer products are about to get access to the resources of a $245 billion industrial technology business. In a partnership with the Manhattan-based product-development startup Quirky, GE will open up a trove of more than 30,000 patents and technologies to Quirky’s crowdsourced collaborators. The goal is to create a co-branded line of app-enabled, connected devices that leverage industrial-grade technologies for use in the home in applications such as health, security, water, and air.   More

Business Manufacturing

Next Trick for Laser Printers: Manufacturing Electronics

Since Xerox researchers revolutionized putting ink on paper with the invention of the laser printer in 1969, the technology has been applied to "printing" DNA as well as 3D structures. Now the approach has a promising future in electronics manufacturing, with "ink" made from tiny fragments of silicon chips. New York Times reporter John Markoff describes in today’s Science Times how a new technique developed at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center will print computing power onto a flexible surface.   More

Energy & Green Tech Jobs Manufacturing

Deloitte’s Chris Park: 3D Printing for Cleaner and Leaner U.S. Manufacturing

Revitalizing manufacturing is essential to U.S. economic recovery, but it’s not clear yet how this new phase might look. One thing is certain: it won’t look anything thing like manufacturing did 15 or even 5 years ago. PARC CEO Stephen Hoover has spoken at Techonomy events about how innovations like 3D printing and crowdsourcing can drive a paradigm shift in manufacturing. But can a new American manufacturing approach also be eco-friendly? Techonomy spoke with Chris Park, a principal at Deloitte who helps clients with their environmental, social, and sustainability performance, about how next-generation manufacturing technology could reduce environmental impact and bring jobs back to the U.S.   More

Manufacturing

Dutch Firm Plans 3D-Printed Canal Boat

In a talk last January at Learning Without Frontiers, Ray Kurzweil speculated that one day 3D printers will be able to self-replicate by printing parts to make other 3D printers. Kurzweil, now Director of Engineering at Google and a speaker at last year's Techonomy conference, thinks 3D printing could have a paradigm-shifting impact on how we manufacture all kinds of things—from automobiles to the highways that they drive on. Fueled by this vision, students at the Singularity University, which Kurzweil founded, are working on creating 3D-printable buildings. Now, the Dutch firm DUS Architects plans to use a mobile printing facility called the KamerMaker to build the first 3D-printed canal boat.   More

Detroit 12 Manufacturing Video

Manufacturing’s Future and the Impact on Jobs

Daniel Howes, associate business editor of The Detroit News, moderates this session from Techonomy Detroit about how the technologization of manufacturing can create new jobs instead of killing them. Speakers include Amar Hanspal of Autodesk, PARC CEO Stephen Hoover, and Lou Rassey of McKinsey & Company.   More

Energy & Green Tech Manufacturing

Will the Car of the Future Be Printable?

We've already seen 3D-printed guitars, motorcycles, and even stem cells. Is 3D printing ready to disrupt the auto industry? It could happen sooner than you think. The Urbee 2, a lightweight three-wheeled, two-passenger vehicle designed to be constructed from 3D-printed materials, is the brainchild of engineer Jim Kor. Using ABS plastic and Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM)—an automated, additive process that prints all of the car's parts in about 2,500 hours—Kor and his team have created a prototype at the on-demand 3D-printing facility RedEye.   More

Manufacturing

3Doodler Turns Sketches into 3D Objects

The 3Doodler, a new 3D printing pen from the toy and robotics company WobbleWorks, lets users transform sketches into three-dimensional objects. The pen, currently in development thanks in part to a successful Kickstarter campaign, emits ABS plastic instead of ink. Once plugged in, the device lets you draw on a surface and peel away the plastic after it cools and solidifies. You can then build on an framework by drawing three-dimensional designs in the air. The company has demonstrated the pen by creating jewelry, fridge magnets, and a mini Eiffel Tower. If the 3Doodler delivers as advertised, back-of-napkin sketches will soon turn into impromptu prototypes.   More

Manufacturing

Making Robots Better Team Players

Humans are intelligent, yet unpredictable. Robots are programmed to be predictably logical. Can they get along? These days they don't have much of a choice, as robots increasingly perform human tasks and work with human teams. As reported in SmartPlanet, researchers at MIT are examining ways to establish trustworthy and efficient relationships between humans and robots, using a cross training approach to team building. Their research shows that teams in which a robot and its human partner swap roles on different days become more efficient.   More

Manufacturing Startup Culture

In Defense of Dustpan Innovation, Product Developers Protest

Outraged over ergonomic gadget maker OXO’s introduction of a $25 dustpan-and-broom design that closely resembles a two-year-old, $12 Quirky model, Quirky staffers staged a street protest in New York last week.   More

Manufacturing

Can Robots Be Job Creators?

In their recent comments on "60 Minutes," and at the Techonomy 2012 conference, MIT economists Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfssonn may have given the impression that robots are poised to swipe the jobs of U.S. workers. As reported in The New York Times, robotics experts assembled at the Automate 2013 trade show in Chicago offered a different outlook. Henrik I. Christensen, Chair of Robotics at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that while he agrees that automation could make certain types of jobs obsolete, it will also create new, higher-paying jobs. The International Federation of Robotics reinforced this argument with the release of findings from a report that predicts the robotics industry will help create 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs by 2020.   More