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Mass Customization Monday #25

Daintily as orchidist watering his plants, diligently as metal detectorist scanning the ground for Roman coins, bravely as a herpetologist exploring a new wetland, gently as lepidopterist netting butterflies and precisely as a trainspotter; we have found for you discoveries of our own. Reader, read on, to find the mass customization news of this week.

Sally the Salad Robot

Chowbotics is a startup that is aiming to introduce robots to food service and production. Their first product is Sally the Salad Robot. This robot can make mass customized salads in thousands of different combinations. The robot can make a seven component salad in under a minute. Sally is meant to be a dispenser robot and customers can pay directly with a credit or debit card. The team also hopes that there will be a market for Sally in fast food outlets.

Sally the salad robot

Sally the Salad Robot.

By applying robotics to mass customization the Chowbotics team have unlocked a potentially low cost way to mass customize a particular food. Whether as a vending machine or countertop at a McDonald’s we will be seeing many more innovations such as Sally. Between ordering screens in restaurants, self driving cars and other increased automation we may yet see significant impacts in the labor market from developments in robotics. Increased robot use could threaten the jobs of many blue collar workers. Over successive waves of automation people have often fretted that machines would put people out of work en masse. Generally these worried have been unfounded. Jobs simply changed. This time it may be different however. Robots coupled with AI can perform a wide range of tasks while industrial automation equipment continues to become cheaper. Many factory and service jobs could be replaced by automation over the coming decades.

Levi’s and Zegna customized jeans

The Robb Report informs us of customized jeans by Zegna and Levis. Levis Lot No 1 jeans are made for you by a Levi’s tailor. You can choose your jeans fabric, buttons, thread and stone wash. The Lot No. 1 jeans cost around $750 per pair. Zegna’s made to measure line offers horn as a button material and is expertly tailored for you in Italy for $895 for a pair.

Customized Jeans

Customized Lot No. 1 jeans from Levi’s.

High end custom casual wear is continuing to grow as a trend. When will this kind of thing be available for all however? Could you see a company such as Zara’s Inditex making this a reality for millions of people at lower price points? Implementing mass customization in jeans would be a considerable initial investment. But, better fitting jeans may really bring in well paying customers on the high street. 3D scanning or other fit technologies would have to be commercialized in order to make the fitting process completely digital, automated and cheap.

3D scanning


A Vitrus body scanner by Vitronic.

Companies such as Vitronic already have body scanners on the market which can take measurements. So this part of the chain seems possible at least. Software would have to be developed that could easily turn the scans into patterns. This in turn would then be coupled to an automated machine to produce the clothing item. Start up Sewbo is trying to do just this by stiffening fabric first and then getting a robot arm to position them for sewing.



The sewbo method


The Sewbo method of fully automated sewing.

The technology tool chain for truly mass customized clothing seems to be forming. It will still require patience and R&D but it seems that some coding and engineering seperate us from truly mass customized automated production of individually made to measure clothing. Who will take the plunge needed to make this a reality?

Machines that break jeans Lazer blaze


The Tonello Laser Blaze can “create vintage effects, like wear and tear in specific areas, whisker fading and rips with the action of a laser beam.”

While researching the story above we came upon a truly niche family of products. In the garment finishing industry a wide array of machines are used to color and treat clothing. In jeans, a worn look has been fashionable for decades. There are a whole host of semi or completely automated solutions that can give clothing a worn look. Lasers, water jets, mechanized brushes and scratch machines have all been developed to wear down jeans. We just thought we’d share this find with you because on some level it is utterly fascinating that there is a complete industry that breaks clothing in order to make it fashionable.

Jester Watch Uses Interchangeable Parts for Custom Colors 

Customized watches

Just some of the color combinations you can pick for your Jester watch.

Jester Watch is a new company that sells and inexpensive $35  quartz watch via its website. The company has an online customization tool where you can select the color of the bezel, case, dial and buckle. These custom color choices will then be individually assembled for you and shipped directly to you. watch configurator

Jester Watch’s online customization tool.

The company started when founder Christopher Lloyd Owen found a supplier offering a wide array of colored interchangeable parts. He then convinced this supplier to assemble them on demand for Jester Watch’s customers. As a business we admire the simplicity of Jester Watch. The right supplier coupled with an easy to use color customization tool and a very low price point. Many companies exploring customization aim high in terms of pricing. Jester shows us that you can offer a lot of variation and a fun product for a very affordable price as well.

ME3D Insoles to be made with HP 3D Printing Technology 

HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printing technology has been much anticipated. Outdoor insole company Superfeet will be using HP’s technology to 3D print custom insoles. These insoles will be fitted in store using 3D scanners and will then be custom 3D printed for $150. customized soles

A rendering of Superfeet insoles.

Insoles is shaping up to be the next area where 3D printing will see broad adoption. The business case for mass customized 3D printed insoles is strong. The technology is also nearing the functional usefulness for this application. We would expect a plethora of new 3D printing initiatives focusing on 3D printing insoles over the coming years.


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