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Power to the people on product design

Richard Waters

Financial Times 

24 June 2014


David Stonehouse, technology and innovation expert at PA Consulting Group, is quoted extensively in a Financial Times article that looks at how the manufacturing process is being revolutionised by crowdsourcing and innovations like 3D printing.

David explains how crowdsourcing works in manufacturing. He says: “Part of this is about the democratisation of design, where people have got more access to design tools that are increasingly inexpensive. With the development of 3D computer-aided design (Cad) tools such as SketchUp on the web, and schoolchildren starting to play with 3D printers, everybody believes they can be part of the design process.”

David also points out that designers can set up a shop on the Shapeways website, and the company will 3D print the product each time an order is received. He explains: “I submit what I want and then a 3D printer or a manufacturer makes it for me”.  

David goes on to talk about a how he is seeing a spectrum of development, with “people playing in different niches across it, but it’s all about moving towards flexible manufacturing, customisation and then finally towards personalisation”.

The spectrum ranges from people printing out things such as low-resolution toys on their own 3D printers, to companies such as Shapeways which group several people’s designs together, print them out and mail them back to the inventor, and finally to large manufacturers using 3D printing for sophisticated parts that may be one-offs.

David goes on to talk about how all parts of this spectrum are in their early stages, but they will develop. At the top end, David says, “consumer product companies will invest in flexible infrastructure which is all driven by connected manufacturing. They will be using things like fuzzy logic and loads of smart sensors to be able to optimise their manufacturing process to get the cost structure down to something close to the same as it is today, but every product could be different.”

You can read the article in full here

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