Project of the Day: Bottega21, for digital manufacturing in Italy

Bottega21 (B21 from now on) is a Common, cooperative, peer production project and a – currently being equipped – physical center for enabling a new concept of manufacturing, creativity and design.

B21 is an initiative to promote social and cultural change towards a new way of conceiving spaces and working methods as well as a training and participation tool for the communities in which thes Bottegas will arise.

It is currently led by Giovanni Marco Zaccaria and Jacopo Amistani in Padua, Veneto, Northern Italy

The following is translated by Simone Cicero:

“Bottega21 aims to embody a dual aspect: both manufacturing and learning, being an Italian fashioned incarnation of the Fablab. In parallel with production B21 aims to create a new concept of participative learning. Schools where people can be trained and learn in a completely different way on several topics ranging from Extreme Manufacturing to Art of Making and Creative Thinking.

It is essentially a Framework for skills and abilities that aims to help people to express themselves: in it’s economic form it’s a community owed cooperative enterprise.

In fact, workshops (the english equivalent for Bottega) have been a great engine of economic, political, and artistic development in Italian cities for centuries. At a time when there was a clear distinction between art, crafts and production, they represented the very authentic shops, the training centers for culture and research. They helped to create the productive and cultural landscape that led Italy to play a major role in the world.

We called this initiative Workshop (Bottega) since those were the all-Italian FabLabs (as this is a hugely discussed topic these days) that contributed to the flowering of arts and sciences during the Renaissance and helped to spread the name of Italians “makers”; We put 21 since this is the century in which we live with its particular needs, possibilities and challenges.

B21 is inspired by digital culture thinking, including Commons-based peer production methodologies, OpenSource Hardware movement, the FabLab concepts, as well as the recent advancement we see in Extreme Manufacturing thanks to Open Source Ecology and WikiSpeed.

B21 promotes the use of modern production technologies outside their standard contexts, the goal is to adapt the space and concepts behing the Workshop to the the needs and challenges of the XXI Century.

To this regard are we are studying production and distribution patterns that are highly resilient and environmentally friendly: The Hub Production Grid as physical infrastructure, the Liquid Manufacturing at the organizational level and the GATE as distribution system.

In alternative to the industrial age assembly lines and to the de-personalization of mass production, the movement offers the culture of manual work and of the artistic gesture in the creation of an object. The development of human capabilities generates welfare, culture, progress and knowledge: against homogenisation of culture, B21 advocates an approach to production that is “sustainable”, and that re-evaluates and rethinks our very same lifestyle basing a new one on the needs of individuals in their human relationships, rather than on the frenzy of mass consumerism.

Bottega21 is a creativity incubator that operates against the strong limitations of individual initiative, to unveil and promote talent. It seek to promote personal self, at the same time puishing to let personal endeavors to contribute passion, techniques and creativity of individuals for the growth of the community.

Bottega21 is based on the belief that a “maker” economic and productive system is a viable alternative to current production perspectives for the gradual achievement of a healthy and sustainable economy, not only from an ecological point of view but also from a striclty social one.

With the two previous industrial revolutions, production centralized in the cities causing a mass migration and drove lifestyle quality down.

New technologies and ways of thinking, are paving a new way, to a common production system that would allow a real change from cities to actually decentralized rurbane (mixed rural+urbane contexts), autonomous and sustainable communities.

Dimensions B21 looks for are both the local and the global.

This is reflected in the production model B21 seeks for: on one hand, small production companies – local nodes descending from a mix of the Italian tradition with the FabLab culture – to meet the needs of the local communities that in the future are likely to become more environmentally friendly and resilient; On the other hand, all the local nodes shall communicate and cooperate among themselves and become a Liquid Factory able to cope with stocks of production of variable magnitude.

Formally, the main assumption of the model, can be expressed as:

– total cost of centralized mass production > Total cost of the diffused maker production … with total costs = economic cost + social cost + environmental cost.

While it is clear that a system composed of small units of production cannot exploit scale as a large monolothic manufacturing plant can do, on the other hand, the benefits of such a decentralized , localized system are equally clear: optimize and minimize the overall cost of production, taking into account also social and environmental costs associated with it – the typical negative esternalities of the mass production paradigm.

In addition, each of this nodes will provide autonomy in the context of local economic activities including arts, crafts, personal manufacturing , self-construction, recycling, education and even entertainment: Liquid Manufacturing has no fixed costs to be amortized, and this has a huge impact on the business model.

Furthermore the Liquid Factory does not need to push unwanted products in the community irrespectively of demands: on the contrary, it’s a virtual infrastructure that activates only when demand, defined in quantity and type thanks to the GATE (from the Italian: Gruppo d’Acquisto Tecnologie Ecosostenibili – that we could translate as Sustainable Technologies Procurement Group) is present.

All items distributed by the GATE are designed in an open source manner by and for the community. In particular, GATE includes all Open Source Ecology GVCS (Global Village Construction Set) machines: a kit that includes technologies for power generation, machinery for agriculture, sustainable construction, crafts and manufacturing.

The social and economic implications are significant: with the current level of technology we can produce goods and services that, until recently, required an entire industrial complex and relevant capital.

Now small, autonomous, networked microfactories can produce virtually everything: we want to apply Benkler’s shared knowledge paradigm to the real world, making *shared production* real, finally switching from competition to cooperation.

Since a maker future, is a sustainable future.”

Founder Jacopo Amistani summarizes the status of the project:

“Current works are now finishing the conversion of the first prototype of the CEB Press, a machine of the Global Village Construction Set KIT (it will be done by the end of May 2012) and start to make the first of it with the EC Standard certificate in a couple of weeks (we intend to spend about 4000 Euros).

As of today We are also searching for some Business Angel or venture capitalist but also organising a Indigogo/Eppala crowed-funding for the start up of the B21 first Hub in Italy (in Padua, Veneto, Northern Italy) .”

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