3D Brings Mass Customization Closer

By Catherine

Written by Catherine Bolgar

Two opposing forces dominate industry: cutting costs versus satisfying customers. In the future, those forces may be less opposed.

Shoes in shop window display

Mass customization has been the big objective ever since Stan Davis coined the term in his 1987 book “Future Perfect.” Up to now, industry has fallen short of promises to really customize products. But digital technologies and the spread of manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing are making more products customizable without adding huge cost.

Everything that’s digital is, in the end, very easy to customize,” says Frank Piller, professor of management at Aachen University in Germany and co-director of the Smart Customization Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Digital printing, for example, allows for customization too complicated or too expensive for offset printing.

Now, technology is improving and costs are declining for the next generation of digital printing: 3D printing. “It can be used for a larger range of materials. What you can make with 3D printing is extraordinary,” Dr. Piller says. “Companies can ask, ‘Now that I have this really flexible manufacturing technology, what else can I do with it?’”

On the B2B side, customization always has been necessary. Machine-tool makers traditionally had a large collection of catalog items and also a high-end engineer-to-order business. In between came mass-customized solutions, which have a predefined base of solutions whose options can be refined, Dr. Piller adds.

Very few industrial players outfit an entire factory with new machinery. “They have legacy equipment, so they need customization to interface that with new equipment, as well as for adding abilities their competitors don’t have,” he says.

To make the process easier, equipment tends to be modular, which is a common feature of mass customization. Customers have a variety of choice for a number of modules, allowing them to get what most closely fits their needs without the cost of an individually tailored solution.

Modular designs may allow for easy upgrades and add-ons, but they also risk opening a door for competitors to barge through. With an integrated product, “you have to buy it all from me,” says B. Joseph Pine, co-founder of Strategic Horizons LLP in Dellwood, Minnesota, and co-author of the book “Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition.” But forcing loyalty via integrated design is shortsighted. “The more modular the design is, the more you can deliver what’s best for the customer,” he says. “That’s going to be the winning play.”

3d printer printing white pieces

However, 3D printing and digitalization may change the need for modularity and allow truly unique solutions in the future, from machine tools to consumer goods, Dr. Piller says.

Rather than limit customer choice to the model, size and color of their shoes, a 3D printed shoe could be customized for fit as well. That might entail a one-time cost for a foot scan, Dr. Piller notes, but such a scan could then be used to make a collection of shoes.

While mass customization of consumer products hasn’t come as fast or as far as expected, one industry that’s coming around is apparel. “It’s for obvious reasons: every body is unique, so you can’t buy anything off the rack and get anything that fits anybody. It’s impossible,” Mr. Pine says.

There’s waste in the system,” he adds. Retailers discount, dump or recycle tons of unsold clothes. “They produced what people didn’t want. Mass customization allows you to produce on demand, so there’s less waste. It’s more environmentally sustainable. You eliminate shipping around the world stuff that you’re not selling.”

Rather than create a product in the hope that it will appeal to consumers, manufacturers using mass customization make a product they know a customer wants, because that customer has ordered it in the size and color the customer prefers.

“Instead of pushing what you have, the consumer pulls what he wants,” Mr. Pine says. Mass customization turns a good into a service. Goods are standardized but services are customized—delivered when, where and how a customer wants.

Businesses have to please a generation of individuals who are used to customizing everything—they don’t buy an entire CD of music, but just the songs they like, which they play in the order they like; they don’t watch broadcast television but stream the shows they want, when they want them. Facebook is a mass-customized platform—everybody has the same tools available on it, but each person makes his or her wall unique. Similarly, smart phones are a platform for mass customization because each person loads the apps he or she wants.

Technology is enabling customization to continue even after a thing is purchased. Sensors are being developed for all manner of products, from thermostats that adapt to how you use your home in order to help you reduce your heating bill, to lighting controls that allow you to create precisely the ambiance you want, to razors that adapt to the contours of your face.

This kind of customization is primarily in anything that can be digitized,” Mr. Pine says. “Sensors are going into everything.”

For more from Catherine, contributors from the Economist Intelligence Unit along with industry experts, join The Future Realities discussion.

The Cities of our Future

By Alyssa

Future city

It’s rush hour in the city. People make their way home after a hard day’s work. Driverless cars pass by as cyclists stream along purpose-built lanes, safe from motorized traffic and unpredictable pedestrians.

As the city unwinds into the evening, indoor sensors adjust the ambient temperature and turn lights on; televisions, radios and even baths are operated with a gesture from an armchair.

Outside, sensors monitor atmospheric irritants, ready to alert those at risk should dangerous levels be reached. A computer planning the city’s waste collection receives data about foul-smelling and full bins. Traffic systems constantly check and adjust, ensuring jams and accidents are a thing of the past. Unbeknown to its citizens, every function of the city is silently optimized to make life simple and efficient.

City jungle

This is a common vision imagined for smart cities of the future: efficient, responsive hubs consisting of vast, interconnected technological systems. But can and should technology alone have the power to tackle one the most acute challenges of our time: how a soaring population can live sustainably on Earth.

By 2050, the World Health Organization predicts that 70% of the population, or 6.4 billion people, will be urbanites. Many of these will live in cities that are decades or centuries old, built for vastly smaller populations with very different needs. As these new metropolises gestate and grow, they risk becoming sprawling, inefficient sinks, wasting precious resources such as land, water and energy, and becoming harder to manage logistically.

Now a diverse range of disciplines are stepping up to help solve these challenges, aided by a suite of digital tools that allow scientists and city planners, for example, to see and explore the futures we are creating and their effects on their inhabitants and the planet as a whole.

Ingeborg Rocker is one of those leading this charge.  As the head of the GEOVIA 3DEXPERIENCity project at Dassault Systèmes, which aims to create holistic, virtual models of cities, Rocker believes that to build for the future we need to take a new approach to designing our cities.

small planet

Traditional planning is built on the idea that efficiency is achieved by standardizing every element. Make every road, streetlight, junction and building the same and you drive down costs and make cities easier and quicker to build, expand and repair.   But, much like medicine has come round to the idea that no two humans are alike and therefore need personalized care, Rocker believes that no two cities can be considered the same. Instead, she says that cities need to be viewed and planned as living entities, where every element and every citizen is part of a whole. Changes – no matter how small – cannot be made without examining their impact on the entire organism and its environment.

Studies of the interaction between people and systems have revealed patterns that are anything but standard,” says Rocker, who is also an associate professor of architecture at Harvard University. “If we analyze the patterns and interactions between people and systems – such as transport and waste management – we can develop cities that are still robust while also being highly efficient and sustainable – but in new terms.”

This approach is at the cutting edge of architecture and could lead to a reimagining of the discipline, focused not just on the resulting structure but also the impact a building will have on the planet’s resources. New technology like that in the 3DEXPERIENCity project allow urban planners to digitally study and test ideas, empowering them to constantly consider the impact urbanization has not just within the invisible boundaries of their city, but also on the entire planet and its resources.

“Even the most remote regions of the Earth are affected by urban lifestyles. In the name of sustainability, we must seek new ways to limit the impact urban growth has on our entire geosphere,” says Rocker.

green wall

Discover more about new ways we can develop our cities!  The video below not only gives a glimpse into new technology that city planners can leverage, but tells an interesting story about a project MIT’s SENSEable City Lab ran to track the path and impact of trash across the US.

YouTube Preview Image

You can also read more about in an article that also looks at ideas like Hollywood’s role in envisioning the future.

NOTE: The video and article were first published as an Advertisement Feature on bbc.com running from 27th June 2014 to 5th September 2014, and was created by the BBC Advertising Commercial Production team in partnership with Dassault Systèmes.

How Our Demo at IMTS Will Shape How You View Machining

By NC

Hi, I’m NC Kishore, Senior Technical Specialist at DELMIA. This blog is the first of many Manufacturing posts that you’ll see from me on the topic of Machining.

Let me ask you this. When you think of machining, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it images of your high school shop teacher’s class or simply the stark environment where machine tools are cutting, shaping and drilling metals, plastics and more? Today’s modern machine shop can be, and is, so much more. We would like to show you why that is at the Dassault Systèmes booth at the upcoming International Manufacturing Technology Show (IMTS).

IMTS Machining

The 4th Industrial Revolution Has Started. See It At IMTS, Booth E-3125.

At the booth, you can expect to see a Single Source for Speed—an Industry Solution Experience for industrial equipment companies that need to manage their entire product development process – from idea to design, production and servicing – across all geographic locations. Our DELMIA representatives will be there to support this experience with our own DELMIA Machining demonstration.

We will be featuring the 3DEXPERIENCE for Machining. During our demo, find out why DELMIA Industrial Equipment Machining enables manufacturers to program, simulate and optimize machining processes through tight integration of tool path programming with machine tool simulation. Come see how NC programmers, for example, can identify and resolve errors in tool paths earlier and reduce programming lead times. With capabilities to capture and reuse best practice knowledge, NC programmers can program smarter and faster while maintaining the quality of the programs and precision on parts machined.

Does this sound like something you would like to see? Let me know in the comments below.

Just be sure to join us at IMTS 2014 September 8 – 13 at the McCormick Place in Chicago and stop by the Dassault Systèmes  Booth, #E-3125 for more information on DELMIA IE Machining.

If you would like to continue the technical conversation on machining, go where all the experts are. Join the conversation at the DELMIA Machining Community!



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