Blog posts


Case study: Smart Bending Factory – The customizing products plug-in company

Can metal shields be ordered on-demand and on time? Probably no one would think that this is very likely. However, one company can do this. The plug-in company Smart Bending Factory (SBF), situated in the Netherlands, developed and implemented a web-based portal through which customers can order their metal sheets and tubes on-demand through the Internet. It allows to offer one dedicated product almost at the production cost of a product from a series of 500 products. The three guiding principles for the SBF are community thinking and working, joint exploration of physical processes in a physical SBF and last but not least, applying the web-based SOPHIA technology.

The SOPHIA technology calculates how many parts are required, analyses all the characteristics of the parts, and how it can be manufactured. SOPHIA analyses the product design drawing to indicate for example whether the design is feasible and gives feedback. Thus engineers’ work can be focused on designing the product in an optimal way in line with the latest production machines. SOPHIA provides the customer with feedback about the design. It therefore often uses animated movies to indicate any problems or inefficiencies in the design. This enables the customer to make smart choices. Also, draft designs are uploaded in a very early stage, which makes the process increasingly efficient.

It implies that SBF allows for maximum flexibility and customer orientation, first-time-right mentality, while keeping the costs of the development to a bare minimum.

The ambition of the SBF in the region is that a large number of non-competing OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) in the metal processing industry are put together in a community environment for sharing knowledge, experiences, resources, and information, while exploiting metal product manufacturing process steps together. The broad goal is to stabilize, if possible increase the competitive position of the region and its companies.

Key reasoning is that it does not make sense that it is possible for consumers to order a product at home online at a web shop and receive the product the next day, while that is not possible for business customers for their metal products. Those business customers generally have to wait weeks. The SBF vision is to allow for on-demand 3D metal manufacturing.

SOPHIA software
Get real-time indication and choice
Manufactured in an SBF

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Case Study: Fablab TI, Denmark

Fablab TI is one of the cases of the MAKE-IT project where the lab’s internal features and relations and interactions with makers and their initiatives were explored to determine how these maker communities are organized and governed. What Makers do in the labs and their interactions with their peers and third parties, and the various ways this impacts on and adds value to society.

Fablab TI team

Fablab is funded and hosted by the Danish Technological Institute (DTI)—a non-profit self-owned organization of over 1000 specialists and 10 business units aimed at improving the exploitation of new technologies of SMEs via an interdisciplinary approach and advanced technical facilities. Fablab TI however, is fairly autonomous of DTI and is based on the work of the Inventor Advisory Service started in 1972, and where Danish citizens are offered free of charge support, advice and counselling of their ideas and products.

Lab management and personnel consists of:

  1. a core team of three persons
    1. the Head of the Inventor Advisory Service
    2. a Fablab Manager, and
    3. a Tangibility Manager
  2. 6 Inventor Advisors
  3. 1 student lab assistant
  4. 1 graphics student
  5. 1 journalist and storyteller

Within Fablab TI there is a strong focus on training the lab’s future core team from among its student body.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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MAKE-IT at the 18th ERSCP-conference in Greece, 2017

The ERSCP conference in Greece is one of the most remarkable conferences worldwide, which focuses on environmental key issues like sustainable consumption and production. The conference supports the exchange of thoughts, knowledge and experiences within the community and has over the years established a worldwide dialogue between researchers from different countries and disciplines. Scientists from all over the world share their research and practices about consumption and production and discuss new possibilities and solutions in thematic workshops during the conference. Main themes of the conference are for instance Circular Economy, Zero waste management, Advances in Sustainable Consumption & Lifestyles, Sustainability in Production & Design and Eco-Efficiency, Sustainable/Smart Cities.

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Case study: Show, exchange and inspire – the Tartu Mini Maker Faire

Tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, citizens and entrepreneurs – they all come together at the Mini Maker Faire in Tartu to show their projects, to talk about what they have learned, exchange and inspire visitors to become a maker. The idea is to gather all the people that can be defined as makers to trigger an awareness and emergence of the Maker movement in Estonia and in other Baltic countries. Since its beginning the Tartu Mini Maker Faire has constantly grown: the number of makers has doubled from 2014, where 58 maker teams were present, to 2015, with an average of 1000 visitors yearly. This year Tartu the mini maker fair was fully independent from the science festival which served the recent years as the organisational frame.

One could state that ‘Making’ and the Maker movement in general is associated to historical roots in Estonia. The deprivations during the Soviet Era encouraged people to re-use materials and be creative with scarce resources. “We really did not have many things around” (interview partner AHHAA). Still the progress of ‘consumerism’ has jeopardized this link – and the Maker movement is supposed to bring it back.

Tartu Mini Maker Faire is mostly focused on creating awareness about the Maker movement in Tartu when the term “maker” was not well-known prior the arrangement of the Mini Maker Faire. As such, it may also have the potential of getting a broader public involved with making and to promoting STEM and creativity among a broad public.


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Case Study: Create It REAL, Aalborg (Denmark)

Create It REAL is based in Aalborg, Denmark and was founded in 2009 by Jeremie Gay. Building 3D printers started as a hobby until Jeremie decided to quit his job to live out of this activity.

As of today, Create it REAL counts twelve international employees, which are mostly composed of men in their mid-20, with an engineering background. Create it REAL operates as a R&D centre, specialising in developing and adapting the technology behind 3D printing and creating platform solutions to reveal the full potential of 3D printers. They focus on 3D printing technology development, with key products being their software platform (REALvision) and the worldwide first real-time processor dedicated to 3D printing. This technology allows a printing speed 5 times faster than standard 3D printers. It also allows the encryption of 3D files which could solve Intellectual property issues in the future.

Create It REAL offer their platform to 3D printer manufacturers for integration into their own 3D printers and can also assist companies in building their prototypes to enter the 3D printing market. Create It REAL also participates in local and European projects with schools, working in partnership with Aalborg Municipality and teachers. They try to help students to develop their creativity and discover new technologies they may have to use every day in the future.

Create it REAL also spend a lot of time in working in different areas of 3D printing to tackle the industry issue and accelerate its development: food printing, Bio printing, new slicing algorithm (software used to prepare a 3D print) are key areas where R&D is important to move forward.

Counter-intuitively for an R&D centre, they nurture openness and publish their results to the wider public and showcase their work in exhibitions to address makers and 3D printing community. Create it REAL balances between openness and the competing market. “One of the reasons why I left open source projects was because I knew the architecture would be a problem for long-term development.” (Jeremie Gay). Still, some openness is yet needed to allow compatibility and flexibility. To navigate the uncertainty surrounding Open Source, Create It REAL made the choice of an “in-between”, where the option to open is left for future decisions. In parallel, Create It REAL is very open about the activities they are working on. Not being open source fosters innovation but by staying close to open source, it enables compatibility, flexibility and acceptance from makers.

Thus, Created It REAL seeks to find a middle-ground, the right balance between commercial activities and openness.

For more detailed information please have a look at our report and the Create it REAL website.

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Robot Battle’s Smashing Success

On 28 September, as one of the main events of the 2017 edition of the national Researchers’ Night Festival in Estonia, Science Centre AHHAA organized the second robot battle for engineering enthusiasts all over the country.

The robots held their matches in 2 categories, 10 in the lightweight category of 0-25 kg and 4 in the mid-weight category of 25 to 50 kg. Due to the popularity of the event, the fight time in each round of the battle was shortened from 3 minutes to 2 minutes and took place on a 6 x 6 m arena.

The battle proved to be spectacularly popular among festival-goers with more than 800  ticketed visitors squeezing themselves into the event location and another 100 being sent back from the doors due to cramped conditions in the room. Despite the low levels of oxygen and high levels of battle-related smoke, the crowd cheered on while the robots skillfully crashed into each other, trying to eliminate their opponents.

The audience’s favourite robot (according to the poll) was C!F!T!, a machine built by a group of engineers with the help of sponsors that managed to captivate the audience’s attention due to its lift-and-throw pneumatic weapon that proved to be unbeatable. For the same reason, C!F!T! also became the winner in the mid-weight class, being granted a 700 € prize.

In the lightweight class, most robots were equally durable but the triangular veneer- and metal sheet construction of a robot called Rüütel (’The Knight’) built by a father-son team showed its perseverence in every round and was crowned the winner of the class, happily taking home 500 € of prize money.

A robot that got the attention of the youngest audience members and did a brave comeback was built by an all-female team and called Malibu Barbie v 2.0. Fittinlgy painted bright pink and decorared with a Barbie doll, the robot did suffer some weapon triggering issues but finished all of its rounds with hardly any damages. Rumour has it, the version 3.0 is already in the making.
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Case study: Fab lab Barcelona – Southern Europe’s most advanced digital production laboratory

Fab Lab Barcelona is one of the cases that we have explored to understand how maker initiatives are organized, how makers improve their skills and how they interact with each other and finally, which values are created by making.

Fab Lab Barcelona is part of IAAC, an international centre for education, fabrication and research dedicated on developing architecture capable of meeting global challenges in constructing 21st century habitability. Besides the Fab Lab in the city of Barcelona, IAAC also provides research opportunities with its Valldaura Labs, a self-sufficient research centre, with a series of labs created to produce and test energy, food and things locally by using close by and available resources to develop technologies and knowledge for services and/or products in the future. The labs include:

  • Green Lab: digital fabrication lab making use of natural resources,
  • Energy Lab: lab for testing the Energrid project, which aims to meet the needs of the Valldaura Labs’ self-sustainable environment
  • Food Lab: food production is handled by researchers and students and makes use of organic gardens, orchards, edible forests products and farm animals.

Fab Lab Barcelona is the head office for the global coordination of Fab Academy programme together with the Fab Foundation and MIT’s Centre for Bits and Atoms. The Fab Academy is a distributed platform of education and research where fab labs around the world operate as classrooms, with students learning the principles, applications and implications of digital manufacturing technology.

The Fablab’s income derives from three main sources: educational activities (Masters Programme, Fab Academy, workshops); grants (particularly from the EU) and research grants; and from Fab Pro Services (provides access to professionals outside of IAAC).

Fablab Barcelona is led by its director, Tomas Diaz. It follows a horizontal management structure, where group leaders have the final responsibility for their respective working group.

Fablab Barcelona is embedded in a network with neighbouring Fablabs, thus the lab shares expertise and services with smaller labs supporting access to digital fabrication for citizens.

The value and impact of Fablab Barcelona is seen in multiple ways: in changing opinions and behaviours in the sense of not only empowerment through making something of your own, but also being in touch with a community of people who are just like you; and education and human capital.

For more detailed information please have a look at our report and the Fablab Barcelona website.

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Are makers social in their endeavour?

Are makers social in their endeavour? This question is addressed in the paper “Makers’ ambitions to do socially valuable things” (Unterfrauner & Voigt, 2017), presented at the Design for the Next Conference in Rome and now published in The Design Journal (free copies are available here).

The study in based on a cross-case analysis of ten European maker initiatives and 30 semi-structured interviews, which have been analysed by qualitative methods. In the article we summarise aspects of social making and present examples of maker initiatives that prove to be social in one way or the other in the sense that the invention is beneficial for others or for the community.

We discuss in the paper the value of making and the role of openness and sharing and in more detail crucial social elements of making, i.e. education, inclusion and environmentalism. You can find the paper and the presentation we used in Rome down below.

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How can we understand collaborative behaviours in Maker projects on platforms?

Makers very often work in collaboration with other people, and several times they share their work online as open source (software, hardware, design, …). I’ve been researching how people work collaboratively especially in Open Design projects for several years, and now a bit also in MAKE-IT as well, especially in how these collaborative behaviours could be understood in connections with platforms and especially Collective Awareness Platforms (CAPS).

Makers (and designers and engineers and …) could engage in Open Design in several ways: designing projects, discussing projects, discussing Open Design itself, building platforms that host Open Design projects (like Fablabs.io, the open source platform of the global Fab Lab network)… and so on. These are among the many activities that could be done in the Open Design world and that have an influence on it, and platforms have an increasingly strong impact on these collaborative behaviours. Understanding collaborative processes by makers on such platforms is also an important steps towards understanding platforms in general. For these reasons I wrote a paper for the Design for Next conference (and published in The Design Journal) and a software library that tries to answer to this research question: how could the analysis of social interactions over time on such platforms improve the understanding of design-related collaborative processes?

Understanding this would enable us to advance our understanding of how platforms connects and influence makers and designers in their collaborative work on Open Design, and to provide support to the activity of Maker and Design researchers and of reflective practitioners as well. In this case I focused on analysing projects managed with the Git software and GitHub platform, which are very popular among software developers especially but also among makers. These tool and platform have been investigated with several approaches, papers and softwares, but not with makers, designers and Open Design as the main focus. Furthermore, it’s hard to find reusable software from these researches so that it would be easier to replicate them, especially for reflective practitioners (you would need to have some programming and data science skills, but several makers already have them!). For this reason I developed a software library in the Python language, since it is arguably the most popular language for data science, and therefore anybody can use the library for extracting data about collaborative behaviours on Git and GitHub; the analysis is up to you, with the tools that you prefer. This is therefore not only research, but also innovation as in disseminating research results and tools to make them available to everybody.

I called this library platform_analysis since its aim is to analyse interactions over time in several platforms; for the moment it works with Git and GitHub, but it will be soon extended to other platforms. The library extracts the data from projects and returns a graph of time-stamped interactions that can be then analysed with social network analysis: interactions can be then analysed for the project as a whole or as they happen through time, and we can see therefore how participants collaborated in a project, in which kind of interactions and when. This would enable researchers and practitioners to understand what is happening in such projects and platforms.

This is one of the software applications or libraries we are releasing from MAKE-IT (we will publish more of them soon!), available for discussion and development in a GitHub repository and for the installation as a Python module. This is based on a couple of previous experimentations and tests, now finally fully integrated and structured in a complete software library that is then much more structured, complete and easier to use for all the researchers and reflective practitioners (designers and makers) for analysing their projects!
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Other Horizon 2020 CAPS projects about Makers, and the OpenMaker call for projects

MAKE-IT is not the only Horizon 2020 CAPS project to work with the Maker movement, other projects are addressing it with different perspectives. For example, OpenCare empowers care receivers to design and prototype bottom-up solutions to specific care problems. The European network of makerspaces, Fab Labs, etc. makes these solutions distributed, as every prototype devised can be reproduced, tested and deployed anywhere in the world.

Making Sense aims to explore how open source software, open source hardware, digital maker practices and open design can be effectively used by local communities to fabricate their own sensing tools, make sense of their environments and address pressing environmental problems in air, water, soil and sound pollution (beside MAKE-IT, IAACFab Lab Barcelona also participates in this project).

OpenMaker aims to create a transformational and collaborative ecosystem that fosters collective innovations within the European manufacturing sector by connecting makers and established companies and drives it towards more sustainable business models, production processes, products, and governance systems by bringing together manufacturers and makers. It is especially important to note now the call for the OpenMaker Pilot Support Scheme

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