Together, these new technologies allow manufacturers to develop products collaboratively, and share designs globally. Products can be made that are highly responsive to user needs but also the places where they’re made, used and recycled. Local makers or micro-factories can service local markets for goods, optimising production for locally available materials. Customers can be engaged to varying levels in the design or production of goods, through online personalisation, or by participating in final assembly or finishing.
We call this possible future Redistributed Manufacturing. The projects we’ve selected here each point towards that future in some way. In all cases they only partially meet our criteria for truly redistributed manufacturing, and in many cases they aim to tackle several different aspects of the whole system. Our approach has been to draw out one aspect of each project that we believe is its most distinctive contribution towards this future.
We’ve used these criteria to guide our choices:
Mass market potential
- The project aims to provide a product that has comparable quality and resolution to that of a mass produced equivalent. Where the product is currently niche, we’re looking for the intention to scale up to mass market potential, or for the tools or processes to be reapplied in another mass market context.
- Designs and instructions are likely to be distributed digitally.
- Tools are not exclusively digital production technologies but they will play a major part in most projects.
Locality – at scale
- The intention to have multiple sites of production located near to demand is a key part of the conception of the product and baked into the design, manufacturing process and documentation. These are not local businesses, but distributed businesses.
- It supports or creates a new market for products produced locally that displaces an earlier market for centrally-produced goods, e.g. through a cultural movement, changing consumer values, or buying behaviours
- While there might be a standard or exemplar design/s the project allows for instances to have local variables (needs, resources, infrastructure and conditions) factored in.
Personalisation and participation
- Products can be customised by or for the end-user, either by having open and modifiable designs or by using customisation tools.
- Responsibility for the final product is shared by the designer, maker and end-user
- Value is shared equitably by the designer, maker and end-user and any platform that facilitates this.