One small step

In a short break between meetings today I saw from my PLM related twitter stream that Dassault has reached an agreement to buy social media analytics firm NetVibes.  As much as I hate to say it….well done Dassault.  Of all the crazy little acquisitions that you've done over the last few years, this one is spot on.  Although the press release was filled with some pretty confusing messaging (the post on the netvibes blog is a little clearer) I think their is both a long term and a short term payback for Dassault in this acquisition. 

In the short term, the Dassault team will be able to get a better handle internally on their brand in all the social circles going on out there.  What they choose to do with this newfound information is another question, but as my childhood hero used to say "knowing is half the battle".  Additionally, they will be able to use the good buzz they find out there to better promote what they are doing to the emerging "social class" of product engineering and manufacturing users.  Their solidworks group, never one to be late to anything, is already promoting a Netvibes dashboard for their user event that lets potential attendees as well as those who have to view the event from afar see all that's being reported through various social channels.

In the longer term, the Netvibes acquisition will give Dassault a key piece of the social production vision: connecting user feedback / ideas from social channels with product development.  This is potentially the first step to commercializing what many have been talking about for a while – the adoptions of open source software principles for physical product development.  As Dave Winer put it on a long ago podcast "users and developers partying together".  Or it could turn out to be another one of the crazy little acquisitions.  The competitor in me hopes its the latter.  The engineer in me hope that we'll all get to take part in having some small part in imagining the products we use.

Asus and Intel jump on to social production bandwagon

OK, it may be a bit early to call it a bandwagon, but Intel and Asus are dipping their toe in the social production public swimming pool with the launch of  Much like the Mazda3 facebook social production experiment, the WePC effort is all text based.  I’m still waiting for someone (anyone) to do something with the crowd that gives them some 3D tools.  Even 2D sketching would be a step up.  There’s only so much you can communicate about your idea in 250 words of text.

When are really usable, easily distributable tools going to be available for the masses to truly start designing, rather than just talking about their design?  I know we do some things that are approaching this, and there are some other efforts from our competitors, but none of them seem to quite hit the nail on the head.  What’s seems strange to me is that the production side is getting closer to support the crowd that the design part, what with 3D printers as cheap as laser printers when they first came out.  This seems backwards to me since the social production model that will work will be based on manufacturers working with the crowd to pick the best design or design elements, not 1,000’s of individuals pumping out products on their desktop and flooding the market with choices that ultimately will make the buyers less satisfied.

Need more input

I’ve done a few posts and saved a lot of things to over the past few months about the output side of social production.  Everthing from small contract manufacturers that will make product in very small runs based on digital models to desktop 3D printers that create your product right in the comfort of your very own home.  It occured to me a few weeks ago that I might be focusing on the wrong side of the equation: the next real leap of social production in the manufacturing space will more likely be triggered by innovations on the input side.

How did I arrive at this conclusion?  When I moved into our new house (3 years ago…) the exhaust fan / light in the kids bathroom wasn’t working.  I removed it almost immediately, but the hole in the ceiling finally got spurred me to action a few weeks ago.  I went to the parts I had removed and realized that none of them had any identifying marks – no stickers, stampings – nothing!  I took the parts with me to a few hardware stores and couldn’t find anything even close.  Giving up on the store route, I thought I would give the internet a try – but how to find something that has no part numbers or even a company brand?  Well I couldn’t come up with anything based on what I have now, but what if I had a 3 D scanner that I could drop the part in and then do a geomstry based search to find parts that were close to what I had.  I know that some auto companies do this today: they scan parts they get from suppliers to make sure they are close to the models they sent out (in some cases they found that the parts were perfectl matches…except they were mirror images of what was ordered!).  Think of the possibilities for the replacement market and aftermarket:

  • Scan in what I have today as an envelope and ask someone to design something to do a job that fits on what I already have.
  • Scan in a broken part and find replacements
  • Send scans of a clay model to have something created in metal, wood, etc.

So now I need to start to look into cheap options to scan in 3D.  In theory this should be even cheaper than printing in 3D since it should all be lights/IR/lasers and there really aren’t any consumables (ink, pastic, etc) involved.  I also wonder if the same thing happened in the dektop publishing market (desktop manufacturing now?) – did scanning take off before printing or vice – versa.

Map on the future of making


The Institute For The Future

has outdone itself again and put together a killer visual map that ties together all of the major trends that are coming together to shape the future of the stuff we all use:

An emerging do-it-yourself culture of “makers” is boldly voiding warranties to tweak, hack, and customize the products they buy. And what they can’t purchase, they build from scratch. Meanwhile, flexible manufacturing technologies on the horizon will change fabrication from massive and centralized to lightweight and ad hoc.

download alive online
Their maps are always good and this one doesn’t disappoint. download wanted dvdripdownload missing in america

Letting 1,000 Leonardo's bloom


This is one of those reports that ‘had me at hello’:

The next ten years will see a re-emergance of artisans as an economic force

I am only about halfway through the report (only could get in so much over lunch), but is a great read for anyone looking to get an overview of the enablers for the coming shift to social production of manufactured goods, especially in the second (Lightweight business infrastructures) and third (Borderless Business) sections. It’s an easy and worthwhile read. Highly recommended.

Mass Customization & Open Innovation News: Great Report on User Manufacturing, Mass Customization, and How a New Infrastructure is Providing New Opportunities for SMEs

(As a side note, the quality of reports linked to by the guys at Mass Customization & Open Innovation News continues to rise. A report they posted on last week was a great summary of several of the top books on social production including the Wealth of Networks and Democratizing Integration. What’s more the second part of that report built a great bridge from social production to another topic of interest for me: Second Life. So, great job guys…although Amazon may be coming after you since my pace of ordering books from them has gone way down since I have spent a lot of time reading reports you have linked to rather than books from them. Link to that report ).