By choice or by force, many business are quickly turning into free. Default price in many services tends to be zero, and this situation which at first affected music, books and other items, easily reproducible by digital means, now starts to have an effect on physical items too: this was one of the impacts of the transformation of atoms into bits, and this will be one of the consequences of the transformation of bits into atoms. The free circulation of files on-line and the spread of digital fabrication join to create a new background where obtaining a particular object won’t be necessarily related to its purchase, as it could be made for free.
In his book <<The Curve: From Freeloaders into Superfans>>, Nicholas Lovell analyzes in detail this new business context where free products are taken for granted, and proposes solutions for those who are searching for a way to gain their earnings in the current situation. In Lovell’s book, you can find a very interesting and up-rising thesis: you can earn benefits from a free-of-charge business model, the key is just to understand what can you give without cost, who your customers are, and what are they willing to pay for.
The year 2005 was full of big shocks: Hurricane Katrina, Indonesia big blackout, Avian Flu… and amongst all this, it was born a big invention, one with potential enough to solve many shocks in the future: Arduino. It was born in Ivrea, Italy, originally as a tool for students who needed cheaper hardware for their electronic projects. But there it was the seed of the next revolution: Open Hardware. The spread of Arduino has been immensely broad, enabling people throughout the world to develop a vast number of inventions which wouldn’t have the chance of existing without this “magic board”. In 2005, it was not hard to imagine free software, but to envision open hardware you needed to be really a visionary.
And the visionary was Massimo Banzi, cofounder of the Arduino project, who conceived an open-source platform to make electronics universally available and, most of all, to create a community strongly engaged with this vision. As an icon of open- source and Maker movements, we felt privileged to have the chance of talking with him during Fab 10 Barcelona and asking him for some ins and outs of Arduino wave.
P.N. When you started with Arduino, did you imagine it would grow as much as it has grown ?
M.B. No, no, no. It started off as a tool for my students, to teach my students. They are Design students, so they are very clever, very intelligent. They design the products that we use everyday, products based in technology, in electronics. I needed something that it would allow them to learn about electronics very quickly, so they could actually make, you know, imagine the products of the future. We made it for them. And then, obviously, afterwards it became useful for other people, artists, musicians, and makers in general, and then kids. So there were a lot of different groups of people that found the system that we started, it was useful enough and worked.
P.N. So you gave the tool and people put the ideas, was it something like that?
M.B. Yeah. The tool was designed for a specific group of people, and then it turned out to be useful for many people. I think this is important, when you design something for a group of people, don’t try to invent something for everybody, because if you try to create something for everybody, actually nobody likes it. When you try to design something for a specific group of people. Then other groups of people could say OK, this is interesting and useful…
P.N. We can not please everybody.
M.B. No, no. I think you should design things for specific types of person, and then if it gets more universal, that’s great.
The Fab City Symposium took place on Monday 7th July, as part of the Fab 10 Barcelona Conference. Throughout this one-day event, noted speakers shared their experiences and insights on a range of issues related to digital fabrication, focusing on the role that technology, policy and society have to achieve self-sufficient and productive cities. Circular economy was also an important issue that some speakers addressed. The event was kicked off by Antoni Vives, Deputy Major of Barcelona, and Tomas Diez, head of Fab Lab Barcelona.
We were eagerly looking forward to hearing Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, and main leader of the Fab Lab movement. Of course, we weren’t disappointed: with his clear and condensed style, he explained the essential features of Fab Labs, their impact on society and economy now and in the future, and the roadmap of Fab Lab movement for the next years. Very aware of the transforming potential of these laboratories of fabrication, he emphasized their role as a tool to change the way we understand our relation with the day-to-day life and the objects around us. From democratization of fabrication tools to machines making machines, from programming of functional materials to the emergence of the personal fabricator, his speech guided us step by step by the road Fab Labs and Digital Fabrication will go through.
Open Source is a rather controversial issue, a central one in the debate about the new relations of production, and those who fight against it or stand up for it spend big doses of intellectual energy to prove their point. In such a crucial struggle, Peter Troxler is a renowned and respected leader of the Open Source thinking. As an independent researcher of Open Source business models, he has opened to many of us the doors to a new way of set out intellectual property relationships, and consequently to raise again the subject of how to develop a world with new intersections between producers and consumers.
During the last Replic_age Fest he made a brilliant speech about the meaning and consequences of the developing Third Industrial Revolution, that we summarized in a separate post. After his talk, he was so kind to give us some minutes to ask him some questions to discuss further some of his ideas. He was unaffected and clear, exuding authenticity and frankness.
P.N. You have made a deep insight on what it starts to be known as the Third Industrial Revolution, and you are a well-known promoter of Open Design… How do you consider that designers should interact with other field specialists in this new context?
P.T. Personally, I collaborate with designers and many different professionals from other areas (engineers, etc.) generating new movements and consciousness. Fab Labs are an excellent places for this kind of cooperation. But individual initiatives are also very important.
Last day started with Cardboard Furniture and Projects, an eco-friendly and innovative furniture design company based in Madrid. They explained how new technologies enable new products. In such sense, the base material of their products is a more rigid, lightweighted and strong kind of cardboard called Re-board that they cut using tools like a Zünd digital cutter. They produce on-demand and in small scale highly resistant and adaptative furniture for home, office, fairs and exhibitions.
Directly inspired by the noted Italian designer and Open-Source furniture pioneer Enzo Mari, the Madrid/Roma based company mmodulUS invited us to hack furniture and enjoy the co-creation experience. Advocates of new sharing economy, they make modular and reconfigurable furniture for people willing to participate in the creation of their own day-to-day spaces.
On Saturday, the Design & Digital Manufacturing event Replic_age started with Martín Sáez from the Belgian company Materialise. Counting with more than 20 years of experience in business, they gave us a solid and realistic vision about professional 3D printing, emphasizing the idea of that 3D printers are being used from a long time in industry.
Next on stage was the Dutch independent researcher Peter Troxler. He is an ideologist, a theoretician of Open Source, mainly applied to Design. He delivered a magnificent Lecture brimming with persuasion and deep considerations. Troxler stressed the importance of a sense of responsibility within the Maker Movement, as we shall go beyond the simple consumerism and banality. Open Source was outlined not only as a good faith answer, but also as a reliable business option. Also, he brilliantly explained the basis of the 3rd Industrial Revolution, condensing the main ideas from a wide intellectual corpus written around this concept. In short, Troxler exhibited in front us us the multiple elements which act in the creation of this new context: from the tight relationship between renewable energies and communicating technologies as Internet, to the new cooperation relationships and useful development. He was so gentle to grant an interview after his speech, that we will publish in a later post.
After a short break, the artist potter Jonathan Keep came on stage. He explained detailedly how he achieved to make porcelain pots using 3D-printing techniques. Since such printers for clay didn’t exist by then, he even had to make his own, using pieces of several sources. He designs by coding trying to emulate the way Nature works.