Jun 24, 2015 | By Simon

Thanks to developments in various manufacturing technologies, getting a large(ish) quantity of products made doesn’t necessarily require a formal factory order anymore; all that is needed is an agile ‘microfactory’ that consists of the bare necessities for producing a specific good.  

This week (June 23-25) at the Solid Conference at Fort Mason in San Francisco - a hardware and software conference - a 3D printing production line microfactory has been assembled to help highlight just how powerful these microfactories can be.  

The microfactory, which has been established directly in the expo hall of Fort Mason, includes a line of FormLabs 3D printers that will produce at least 500 unique, computationally-generated wristband enclosures as part of a limited product run in honor of the event.  

“In advance of Solid, we've been talking a lot about the exciting new world of fast, flexible, and agile global manufacturing,” said design engineers David Cranor and Marcelo Coelho, who curated the pop-up microfactory.  

“To really drive this point home, we’re setting up an unprecedented demo: a real manufacturing line that will turn raw components into fully–functioning wearable devices, smack-dab in the middle of Solid’s exhibit hall.”

The microfactory is currently producing Alike Bands, which are designed to connect people with common interests across social networking sites while also highlighting the potential for developing products for the Internet of Things by way of lean manufacturing techniques.   

“A real-time microfactory of this scale has never been attempted before at a conference like Solid,” said Cranor. “We are proud to partner with Formlabs in this unprecedented endeavour to demonstrate 3D printing’s vital role in the new world of agile global manufacturing where hardware, software, and the Internet of Things intersect.”

Designed by Coelho, a computational artist and designer, the Alike Band is capable of signaling the common interests of people through sensors and LEDs in the band.  Those in attendance can use the bands as an icebreaker for networking events as well as others involved in the IoT community at large.  

While the Alike Band is certainly an excellent example of a connected consumer electronic product that can be made in a microfactory environment, the pop-up also presents the power and flexibility of 3D printing itself - regardless of what is being produced.  

“This exhibit illustrates the real power of 3D printing,” explains Will Walker of FormLabs.  “We’re manufacturing 500 one-of-a-kind electronics for conference attendees to wear. This level of customisation is really difficult through normal mass manufacturing. We’re really excited to push the boundaries of how we think about making things and Solid is the perfect place to showcase this idea.”

For those who are in the San Francisco area, FormLab’s Ian Ferguson, who leads engineering at the company, will give a talk on product development on Thursday called “Around the block again: Tricks and tools learned in the trenches building a follow-on product”.  




Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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