The problems of choice

Here are two quick articles relating to choice:

This first one is a general overview, but I am interested in delving into the research at NYU on Creativity and Restrictive Choice

The research in this second article focuses heavily on the consumerism involved.  How do the choice experiments control our buying habits.


Ross Lovegrove and Digital Design

Ross Lovegrove discussing the state of design schools, and their lack of emphasis on important digital technologies.

I might be a little biased thanks to my background in architecture. Maybe it is due to the overall complexity of architectural design, but that industry was much quicker in endorsing algorithmic design to help in their design process.

“Print the Legend” Review and Discussion


Netflix has produced this excellent documentary focusing on changes in the 3D printing landscape from 2009 until today.  While I was hoping the documentary would focus more on the technologies and methodologies involved, the documentary did offer a suscinct explanation of the types of 3D printing.

Instead Netflix focused on  four major players in additive manufacturing today; the old guard of 3DSystems and Stratasys, and Desktop newcomers Makerbot and FormLabs.

Following around the leaders in each of these companies, it chronicled the trials and problems of starting companies, finding and keeping ones brand, while at the same time providing growth for your stakeholders.

For me the most interesting discussions presented were the loss of DIY culture at Makerbot and the issues of Propiertary vs. Open source.  As FormLabs was sued by 3DS for enfringing on Stereolithography patents.

In my thesis, I have will not be trying to reinvent the “hammer” or maybe the glue gun is better analogy.  However, I want to explore the way this tool is used in our culture and by which industries. Stratasys and 3D systems have had industrial products on the market for over 20 years.  But it has not been until the proliferation of desktop units over the last 5 or 6 years that 3D printing has become the “IT” thing.

Makerbot originally embraced the DIY culture and open-source knowledge, but as the company expanded it did what all companies must do and began to protect its assets for it shareholders (much to the chagrin of some founding members).

Additive Manufacturings main benefits are its speed and affordability at low volumes, this is in some ways counter to the current industrial system. But it affords itself to small lean businesses which can customize designs. Could these businesses act as industrial “tailors” heming our products to fit our individual needs and concurently re-sewing the industrial middle class back into existence in the United States.

A case for re-industrializing

While in the last couple a years we have a seen a resurgence of manufacturing in the United States, its growth has been slow to city centers, especially in the rust belt. While many of these cities have successfully (?) transitioned to service based economies, It is interesting to look at what different employment opportunities mean to a given community.

This article by Richard Morrill, highlights some of the dangers of service based economies.

Industry, Inequality, and Middle classes

A lack of low-skill, high-income jobs provided by manufacturing further stratifies our communities.

Manufacturing Trends due to 3D Printing

An interesting read in Forbes discussing key changes currently underway and projected to happen to Manufacturing due to an increase in 3D printing. I’ve pulled out these two bullet points due to their relevance to my thesis but the whole read is a good one.

“3. Low volume production. With conventional manufacturing, a company has to commit to creating tooling or molds before a single end use part can be produced. If creating a mold costs $50,000 and each incremental part costs $.50, then the very first part will cost $50,000.50!  This works out fine if you are producing millions of parts. But what if you only need 500? With 3D printing, there are no set-up costs whatsoever. Today, for production runs of less than 1,000 items, most companies will consider 3D production as a cost effective alternative. (Fast forward to the inevitable and not-so-distant future when prices for 3D printing production have dropped 95% or more, and “Made in China” tags are a collector’s item.)

4. Mass Customization.  Until recently, if you needed to have your knee replaced, a nurse would bring a box directly into the operating room and the doctor would select one of the five possible knee designs that she felt most resembled your knee. Today, your actual knee is scanned and a perfect replica is printed and ready for you prior to surgery. This is an example of mass customization – where large quantities of an item are produced, each one customized. Invisalign has built a multi-million dollar business producing teeth alignment devices using 3D printing to completely customize every single device. With customization comes premium pricing (aka the Starbucks skinny mocha latte frappuccino vinni vicci). Nearly every company I talk with is exploring how to introduce product customization to better serve customers and increase profits.”

As these machines use continue to rise the cost of the machines will continue to drop making it easier and easier for smaller manufacturing shops to convert to their use as well.