What's next after technology

Fabbing: The Next Industrial Revolution

Maker Movement

Analogous to the hackers of the PC revolution, the growing maker scene in the USA is the spearhead of the movement. She has been meeting in California since 2006 at the Maker Faire, a kind of World Inventors Congress 2.0, which has meanwhile trained offshoots in Canada, Africa and Korea. The last flagship show in May 2012 at the San Mateo County Event Center attracted over 100,000 attendees. The scene ranges from traditional hobbyists and screwdrivers who manufacture everything themselves in the classic do-it-yourself manner, from tuned toasters to life-size dinosaurs, to hard hackers, whose ambition is to create their own computer hardware and - Developing and adapting peripherals.

The latter are currently experiencing a considerable influx due to the development of the "Arduino". This "Electronic Prototyping Platform", developed by interface designers in Northern Italy, is based on open source rules. Entire global value chains can be directed and controlled by individual individuals and from a laptop, customizable, freely and easily equipped with sensors, LEDs, electric motors, etc. This makes the Arduino, which can be bought in the basic version for as little as 20 euros, at the heart of many in-house hardware developments up to market-ready products in small series. Even more experienced laypeople can use it to build a web-enabled moisture meter according to instructions, which notifies them via Twitter when the houseplants need water. More ambitious hobbyists have already fabricated an open source Gameboy with it.

However, the ultra-pioneers of the movement have already turned their backs on hardware and are directing their energies towards “wetware”, biological materials, microorganisms and DNA. Organic hacking is the new magic word. Hobby Frankenstones, who call themselves “Bio-Punks”, are challenging the institutions of cutting-edge research for their monopoly on synthetic biology. They buy the laboratory equipment for this cheaply on Ebay, and they get the gene sequences, so-called “biobricks”, from the same laboratories that otherwise do the sequencing on an industrial scale for professional researchers. So far, no viable organism designed by amateurs has left the tinkering room. The level achievable today, as recently also found out by science editors of the FAZ in their own experiment, lies, for example, in the isolation and analysis of individual gene segments of one's own genetic material.

On the other hand, there are full-bodied announcements from biohacking visionaries such as Freeman Dyson from Harvard University: "Domesticated biotechnology, once it is available to housewives and children, will bring us an explosive variety of new living beings instead of the monocultures that large companies prefer." And continued: “Designing genomes will be a personal matter, a new art form that will be as creative as painting or sculpting. Only a few of the new creations will be masterpieces, but many will bring joy to their creators and enrich our fauna and flora. "

Whether any of this will ever become a reality seems questionable. The fact that people are thinking about it and experimenting with it at all shows, however, that no area is safe from hackers pushing forward today. And no industry is immune to ambitious amateurs and DIY hobbyists interfering in their business area.

Distributed Manufacturing

The next industrial revolution does not mean that a new form of high-tech subsistence economy will replace industrial mass production. The scenario that the new competition for corporations grows out of garages, hobby basements and backyards - and also produces there - is just as unrealistic as the popular short-circuit that one day we will have all 3D printers on our desks that print our goods Spit out daily needs. Today's manufacturing processes are too complex for this, the performance of home 3D printers is too limited, for example they will fail in the foreseeable future due to metal processing, and the surface quality also leaves a lot to be desired.

The first FabCafe has just opened in Tokyo's hipster district of Shibuya: While you are drinking your Frapuccino, you can print out the CAD data records you have brought with you on a USB stick as objects. But the scenario that there will be fab shops on every second corner in the future, like copy shops today, is probably too short-sighted.

What is flourishing and growing, especially in the USA, are joint workshops that, based on the model of co-working spaces, offer a workbench and access to the machinery on an hourly or daily basis. The TechShop chain already has five locations across the country, and more are being planned. Equipped in a similar way to the FabLabs, they offer members access to CNC laser milling devices, 3D printers, devices for assembling electronic boards, processing carbon fibers, etc. In addition to hobbyists, individual or small teams manufacture highly specialized products in small series. The quantities and sales of these virtual companies are often too large for the garage, but too small to really set up your own company with its own machine park - that's why they are located in the TechShops at exactly the right time.

Chris Anderson himself has a stake in a company that makes unmanned drones for non-military purposes, which were developed in the TechShop in Menlo Park: “What distinguishes these small businesses from the cleaning or corner shop that the majority of the Forming small businesses in the country is that we are global and high-tech, "writes Anderson:" Two-thirds of our orders come from outside the US. We are competing at the lower end with arms suppliers such as Lockheed Martin or Boeing. ”The wave has not yet fully arrived in Europe, even if the Betahaus in Berlin already has a joint workshop with the“ Open Design City ”and the thing factory in Cologne will soon even have one wants to turn an even bigger wheel.

What is also becoming apparent is that entire global value chains can be directed and controlled by individual individuals and from a laptop. The virtual one-man factory combines local production with specialized remote services and support services: “The tools for factory production, from electronics assembly to 3D printing, are now available to individuals in compact units. Anyone with an idea can set assembly lines in motion in China, ”writes Chris Anderson. Domestic 3D printers are mainly used for the design of prototypes, as was previously the case in the R&D departments of corporations and medium-sized companies. The production from small series to mass-produced items is outsourced to offshoring centers via platforms such as Alibaba.com, also following the example of the corporations. The entire fulfillment, from shipping to invoicing, can now be conveniently outsourced to third-party providers.

Specialized web platforms such as I.materialise.com, Fabberhouse.de, Sculpteo.com, Razorlab.co.uk or Formulor.de offer everything from laser cutting services to more complex 3D printing processes such as stereolithography and laser sintering, with which objects with a smooth surface can be produced and metal can also be processed. Many of the providers have integrated a web shop on their website through which the items and designs can be sold to third parties. In the shop of Shapeways.com, a subsidiary of the Philips Group, you can find jewelry, trinkets and iPhone cases as well as a range of gadgets, technical accessories and car spare parts.

Fabbing Society

The business model of Ponoko.com, a startup originally from New Zealand, is based on a large number of these offers. Ponoko aggregates local suppliers and contracts product designers, buyers, material suppliers and local manufacturers into a four-way deal. Ponoko himself calls this "distributed manufacturing". “We are trying to spread 'Made in China' all over the world,” says David ten Haven, one of the founders: “We are in the process of building the factory of the 21st century.” The Wikipedia entry on Ponoko reads that only slightly more cautious: "Many believe that such distributed on-demand manufacturing could mean a major paradigm shift in the manufacturing industry." What is meant is: Production does not move from China to the desk at home - but it does move closer to a production facility on your own doorstep. This has implications for material cycles, logistics routes and the entire economic structure.

Distributed manufacturing means moving away from globalized long-haul economic chains towards decentralized production, stronger regional economic relationships and closed material cycles. In their book “From Personal Computer to Personal Fabricator”, Andreas Neef, Klaus Burmeister and Stefan Krempl, three researchers from the z_Punkt institute, write about the disruptive power of this paradigm shift: “A decentralized production landscape will inevitably lead to a new economic game, one, Whole New Game 'in which the roles between developer, producer, retailer and consumer are redistributed. Production and consumption move closer together and the customer becomes an active part of the value chain. The industrial business models will be turned upside down in the fabbing society of the future. "