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Selected Citations on Open Hardware and Distributed Manufacturing

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
4th September 2013


For the sources of the citations, go here:

* On the Guaranteed Income and Manufacturing Consentives, 1966

“The guaranteed income will, in fact, lead to the revival of “private enterprise.” Once the guaranteed income is available, we can anticipate the organization of what I have called “consentives”: productive groups formed by individuals who will come together on a voluntary basis simply because they wish to do so. The goods produced by these consentives will not compete with mass-produced goods available from cybernated firms. The consentive will normally produce the “custom-designed” goods that have been vanishing within the present economy. The consentive would sell in competition with firms paying wages, but its prices would normally be lower because it would need to cover only the cost of materials and other required supplies. Wages and salaries would not need to be met out of income, as the consentive members would be receiving a guaranteed income. The consentive would be market-oriented but not market-supported.”

- Robert Theobald, The Guaranteed Income, 1966

Personalized design and manufacturing machines will be an emancipating technology, creating freedom for people to work and play independently in ways that were previously restricted to an elite few. – Factory@Home report

* The Inevitability of Personal Manufacturing as new Industrial Revolution

According to Marshall Burns, previous emancipating technologies in human history were the book (enabled by the invention of the printing press), cars (enabled by new roads and gas stations) and now personal fabrication (enabled by 3D design software). What this random collection of technologies has in common is that they entered the lives of everyday people in a gradual way as the technology dropped in price, became easy to use, and accumulated a critical mass of applications, fellow users, or supportive infrastructure such as roads or high speed Internet. While mainstream adoption of personal manufacturing technologies is a few decades away, the manufacturing industry will experience the same forces that brought us YouTube, laptops, mobile phones and online retailers.

- by Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman

In the near future anything heavy will become intensely local while at the same time the limits to things that are ‘light’, ideas, philosophies, information will travel even further than today—literally and figuratively. This is a new paradigm for humanity and it has huge implications for the complete reordering of society. – Jason F. McLennan

* Why Localization is Inevitable in a Resource-scarce World

“It is an article of faith that global trade will be an ever-growing presence in the world. Yet this belief rests on shaky foundations. Global trade depends on cheap, long-distance freight transportation. Freight costs will rise with climate change, the end of cheap oil, and policies to mitigate these two challenges.

At first, the increase in freight costs will be bad news for developed and developing nations alike but, as adjustments in the patterns of trade occur, the result is likely to be decreased outsourcing with more manufacturing and food production jobs in North America and the European Union. The pattern of trade will change as increasing transportation costs outweigh traditional sources of comparative advantage, such as lower wages. The new geography of trade will not result from policy or treaties but from the impact of changing environmental conditions due to the growth of the human economy. … Many goods will be manufactured closer to where they are consumed, as supply chains become more regional and local.”

- Fred Curtis, David Ehrenfeld

Just as the democratization of information through personal computers was a key advance of the 20th century, the democratization of production through improvements in fabrication technologies will be a pivotal development in the 21st century. – Simon Bradshaw, Adrian Bowyer and Patrick Haufe

* Scale-Up From One

Scale up from one: Regular people and small manufacturing companies that lack investment capital will be able to set up low investment, “start small and scale up as it goes” businesses. Thanks to the low-cost Internet virtual storefronts, and the low cost of small-scale manufacturing for prototypes and custom goods, new companies can get started on a shoestring budget, yet sell their wares or services to niche, global marketplaces.”

- Hod Lipson & Melba Kurman

So, what can we do to prevent instability? The solution isn’t to formulate vague contingency plans or return to passive optimism. Obviously, that won’t work. No, the solution is to improve our resilience to these systemic shocks through a social and economic transition that follows this simple formula: Localize production. Virtualize everything else.- John Robb

* On the distributed, commons-based making of food

“The emergence of commons-based techniques — particularly, of an open innovation platform that can incorporate farmers and local agronomists from around the world into the development and feedback process through networked collaboration platforms—promises the most likely avenue to achieve research oriented toward increased food security in the developing world. It promises a mechanism of development that will not increase the relative weight and control of a small number of commercial firms that specialize in agricultural production. It will instead release the products of innovation into a self-binding commons—one that is institutionally designed to defend itself against appropriation. It promises an iterative collaboration platform that would be able to collect environmental and local feedback in the way that a free software development project collects bug reports—through a continuous process of networked conversation among the user-innovators themselves.” – Yochai Benkler

“Material industries are finding that the costs of duplication near zero, so they too will behave like digital copies. Maps just crossed that threshold. Genetics is about to. Gadgets and small appliances (like cell phones) are sliding that way. Pharmaceuticals are already there, but they don’t want anyone to know. It costs nothing to make a pill.” – Kevin Kelly

* Karim Lakhani on Communities driving Manufacturers out of the design phase

for any given company – there are more people outside the company that have smarts about a particular technology or a particular use situation then all the R&D engineers combined. So a community around a product category may have more smart people working on the product then the firm it self. So in the end manufacturers may end up doing what they are supposed to – manufacture – and the design activity might move to the edge and into the community.” (www.futureofcommunities.com/2007/03/25/communities-driving-manufacturers-out-of-the-design-space/)

Both the capital and marginal cost of making products has trended consistently and rapidly down as manufacturing tools become both cheaper and more versatile, so that the capital cost of an object is increasingly not in the capital equipment required to manufacture it, but in the effort required to design it. – Terry Hancock

* Steve Bosserman outlines what is most appropriate for local distributed manufacturing

“Strong candidates for a locally distributed manufacturing approach include ANYTHING that is agriculturally- based like food, feed, fiber, and biofuel production, much of housing and building construction including the manufacturing of inputs used in that industry, localized electric power generation using non-bio sources like wind, solar, and geothermal, and production / manufacturing of materials, components, and assemblies that use locally sourced raw materials and draw upon open-source, relatively easy to learn, appropriate technologies that can be applied in a wide range of situations– not just a single product.”

“Before long, “user-generated content” won’t refer only to media, but to just about anything: user-generated jeans, user-generated sports cars, user-generated breakfast meals. This is because setting up a company that designs, makes and globally sells physical products could become almost as easy as starting a blog – and the repercussions would be earthshaking. ” – Jeff Bezos

* Eric von Hippel on Manufacturing around User Innovation Communities

“Threadless has tapped into a fundamental economic shift, a movement away from passive consumerism. One day in the not-too-distant future citizen inventors using computer design programs and three-dimensional printers will exchange physical prototypes in much the same way Nickell and cohorts played Photoshop tennis. Eventually, Threadless-like communities could form around industries as diverse as semiconductors, auto parts, and toys. Threadless is one of the first firms to systematically mine a community for designs, but everything is moving in this direction. He foresees research labs and product-design divisions at manufacturing companies being outstripped by an “innovation commons” made up of tinkerers, hackers, and other devout customers freely sharing their ideas. The companies that win will be the ones that listen.” (quotes and paraphrased by Inc.)

“When intellectual problems become distributed, the search for solutions becomes collaborative and the research agenda is driven not by multinational shareholders but by the passions of the participants, you get not just better results, you get different results.” – Alec Steffens

* Frank Piller on User Manufacturing

“User manufacturing is enabled by three main technologies: (1) Easy-to-operate design software that allows users to transfer their ideas into a design. (2) Design repositories where users upload, search, and share designs with other users. This allows a community of loosely connected users to develop a large range of applications. (3) Easy-to-access flexible manufacturing technology. New rapid manufacturing technologies (“fabbing”) finally deliver the dream of translating any 3-D data files into physical products — even in you living room. Combining this technology with recent web technologies can open a radical new way to provide custom products along the entire “long tail” of demand. User manufacturing builds on the notion that users are not just able to configure a good within the given solution space (mass customization), but also to develop such a solution space by their own and utilize it by producing custom products. As a result, customers are becoming not only co-designers, but also manufacturers, using an infrastructure provided by some specialized companies.” (mass-customization.blogs.com/mass_customization_open_i/2007/11/webinar-the-nex.html)

* Flexible Manufacturing and the Maker Movement

Two future forces, one mostly social, one mostly technological, are intersecting to transform how goods, services, and experiences— the “stuff” of our world—will be designed, manufactured, and distributed over the next decade. An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack, and customize the products they buy. And what they can’t purchase, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralized to lightweight and ad hoc. These trends sit atop a platform of grassroots economics—new market structures developing online that embody a shift from stores and sales to communities and connections.” (iftf.org/node/1766)

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