Localized manufacturing and the future of products

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Title: Localized manufacturing and the future of products
Author: Englert, Rob
Abstract: This paper proposes a new approach to manufacturing products: one that is environmentally friendly, ethically sound and economically viable. Localized manufacturing, and more specifically, Retail Manufacturing (RM) is the concept of retail outlets using advanced additive fabrication processes to print products on demand. RM will streamline many of the steps involved with transporting products to end users. RM will also allow greater end-user participation in the design process, giving consumers more control over product features and aesthetics with a higher level of customization to meet their unique user needs. RM will create and sustain well-paying technical employment opportunities, thus helping to revitalize middle class America. Fashion-oriented consumer products that can be enhanced through custom fits (i.e., in-ear headphones and sunglasses) are excellent candidates for RM. RM will happen; it is just a matter of when. Globalization, advancing technology, environmental concerns, new materials, and emotion will continue to be relevant to design well into the 21st century. Design has been positioned on the edge of a defining moment; one not seen since the turn of the last century when technology leaped forward with inventions such as the airplane, radio, phonograph, electric light, and the automobile. That technological boom sparked the birth of industrial design, just as current events will shape its future. Design as we know it is at an important crossroads, and we have to start thinking very differently about our future role to uphold the vitality of our profession in the years to come. A new model is necessary, and it is our duty as designers to reinvent the way products are designed, manufactured, distributed and sold. How are today’s advances in materials and technology shaping the things to come? How are current environmental and ethical attitudes going to impact product development? In the face of an all consuming consumer culture, what is the role of design? How has economic policy affected manufacturing methods, here and abroad? Answers to these questions appear in the pages that follow and were derived by documenting the past, examining the present and predicting the future. This document will begin with an overview of the current manufacturing model. The section that follows will explain how this model evolved by chronicling a brief history of American design and manufacturing. New manufacturing technologies that have the potential to impact the future of how goods are created, bought and sold will then be presented. A series of case studies will illustrate how the consumer landscape is evolving from a “mass” to a “micro” perspective. These real world studies will indicate the growing demand for localized, custom manufactured products, targeted to a demographic of one and the emotional component associated with consumer participation in the design process.
Record URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1850/7913
Date: 2008

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