Filtering by Tag: machines
From the video notes:
This project investigates chiral self-assembly with many parts in order to explore the aggregate behavior of simultaneous assembly and self-selection. 240 pieces are agitated to self-assemble closed molecular structures. The continual process shows the various stages of assembly from independent parts to fully assembled structures.
This work points towards a future of both tangible educational tools for scientific phenomena as well as new possibilities for industrial-scale assembly.
Skylar Tibbits has some pretty awesome stuff on Vimeo. This one is beautiful:
These things self-assemble into different shapes. Pretty awesome.
The funny thing about Jobs' 2007 iPhone keynote is that they hype-iest thing he said turned out to be absolutely true. The iPhone isn't a phone at all: it's a totally revolutionary general purpose device.
Indeed, Jobs undersells the product. He says it's three things - an iPod, a phone, and an internet communications device. In fact, the iPhone is far more than that. It's the most general purpose user interface that we had ever seen, and one that enabled whole new categories of interaction - ones that go well beyond "internet communications."
3D printers are a wholly different animal, and they attack the problems of their industry from the opposite angle as the iPhone did.
To me, a MakerBot is to manufacturing as Tinder is to mobile computing. The iPhone is the layer that we use to access Tinder - and hundreds of thousands of other apps. It's a platform that enables digital interaction. MakerBot is just a node in a manufacturing paradigm.
The MakerBot Replicator is a tool that can be used for a very specific purpose - laying down beads of PLA and ABS to form a physical object. All the layers above it - the CAD software used to design a part, the web interface used to share and transmit those design files, the slicer used to translate a solid file into GCode, the embedded circuits and software that the Replicator uses to interpret and execute GCode - those will be what's driving changes of massive proportion to the way we think about product development, fabrication and distribution.
I believe that the rise of 3D printing will - and has already begun to - necessitate much needed advances in general manufacturing. But it's what 3D printers are driving us towards that's the real cool shit. The printers themselves are just nodes.
So, the "Seminars on Long-Term Thinking" podcast is awesome.
Today I became engaged in a conversation about the future of manufacturing. It was in the context of my parts organizer spiel, which I tend to think (self importantly) is the basis of one aspect of a revolution of how we manage data on physical objects. My interlocutor - with a totally healthy degree of skepticism - questioned the breadth of what I was suggesting (which, dear reader, you're just going to have to imagine for now - I don't have the energy to describe it in full here). He pointed to the required complexity of a unifying theory for parts management, and asked to the basic premise that a single standard for parts data was necessary or useful. It was a totally fair line of reasoning, and one which I defended myself against in a marginal way at best.
It was a pure coincidence, then, that I returned home and listened to an excellent talk given by Chris Anderson about digital manufacturing. I'll skip right to the chase here: Anderson begins by describing the NUMMI factory, which was jointly run by GM and Toyota from 1984-2010, when it closed due to market pressure and disputes between its owners. What follows below are Anderson's words (emphasis is mine; photos are from google images):
That was ten, twelve years ago. And then Tesla bought that factory...for a song, and put in place another factory. This is what the Tesla factory looks like:
What you're seeing there looks superficially the same. You're once again seeing machines making cars. But the difference is that the NUMMI machines were custom - each machine did one job. And they were extremely hard to program, and very inflexible, and once you got the whole factory up and running, you didn't want to change it - you just churned it out, one after another. And every machine was different. The welding machines were different from the painting machines which were different from the stamping machines which were different from the sewing machines and the testing machines and the wheel-applying machines, etc.
What you're seeing [at the Tesla factory] is that all of the machines are the same. These are Kuka robotic arms, from Germany...but the point is that they are general purpose robots. Every car can be different. And today, the American car [factories], they could be making washing machines on the same line. These robot arms have these racks of different tool heads, and they can change their functions simply by going and grabbing a different tool, so they can be a welding robot or a bolting robot or a door-closing robot or a wheel-applying robot. And there is hardly a person to be seen on the floor.
What looks like a subtle difference - single purpose, specialized robots vs. general purpose robots - is actually transformative, because fundamentally what this allows is flexibility. And flexibility, I'm going to argue, is the key winning factor of the 21st century. Because flexibility allows you to move faster, it allows you to operate in smaller batches, and it allows you to personalize. Every Tesla can be different...So this is what digital manufacturing looks like on the industrial scale, and that's why this era of automation is different from the other ones.
Anderson goes on to discuss - with infectious enthusiasm - the Maker Movement, distributed fabrication, and his expectations for how manufacturing, creativity, and product development will change in the 21st century. I highly recommend his full talk.
The net effect, though, is this: We need - and I plan on spending as much of my career as possible addressing - more general purpose solutions to the problems associated with hardware development and manufacturing.
My focus on general purpose technologies is a large contributing factor to my wariness about the hype surrounding 3D printing. 3D printing is not a general purpose technology. And every bit of energy spent working on producing a better 3D printer just distracts from the tools that I believe will truly revolutionize hardware development and distribution. We need broader, more powerful tools - tools which interface with all manner of manufacturing processes, and which designers and consumers alike can plug directly into.
The pieces are all here. 3D CAD has trickled down to all manner of consumers. Prototyping tools abound as well - and here I mean not some crappy FDM machine, but services like Rapid Machining and Shapeways. Distribution platforms are there as well, from Shapeways to Kickstarter to Etsy.
What's needed now is to unite these all with a single layer. When all of these platforms speak the same language - and when Makers, designers, and consumers learn to do the same - then the third industrial revolution will begin to take shape.
I've got some thoughts about this tweet, by Tindie's Emile Petrone. I'll come back to it later.
In related news, I'm looking forward to visiting the Maker's Faire tomorrow - and not for the dime-a-dozen FDM printers :)