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Mass Customization Monday #9

With Mass Customization Monday the Twikit team sorts and sifts through the news, scholarly articles and social media to bring you the exciting and important nuggets of important Mass Customization News.

Adidas and Carbon to 3D Print a 100,000 shoes by 2018?

Adidas has announced that it plans to 3D print a 100,000 shoe soles of its Futurecraft 4 shoe by 2018. The german shoe and apparel company is doubling down on its Future Factories initiative where it is reshoring the production of shoes to Germany in highly automated factories. Adidas strategy here fits squarely in Industrie 4.0 and other initiatives to mass produce goods using ‘lights out factories’ using digital fabrication and automation in Europe and other developed economies.Adidas-Futurecraft_3D_shoe

The Futurecraft shoe with the 3D Printed sole.

If Adidas and other companies are successful in implementing these initiatives at scale it would be a sea change in global commerce. It could mean that many goods will now not be made in asia but instead be made in Europe and other places. Or perhaps Adidas and other companies could only do this local manufacturing for some of their goods. To give you an idea of the impact that reshoring large scale production could have, there are approximately four million people employed in Bangladesh’s garment industry and this industry is responsible for 81% of that economy’s exports. We have yet to see if digital manufacturing of garments and shoes will occur at scale but Adidas is rushing ahead to be the first shoe company to implement large scale production using 3D printing. Meanwhile other companies such as Nike, Under Armor and New Balance are undertaking their own 3D printing experiments.

3D Printed athletic shoes could be the next largest mass customization application to sell in the millions (after dental copings and bridges and hearing aids). If Adidas (or one of the other shoe companies) could produce truly individually sized shoes that were optimized for individuals then a better fitting shoe could result. By producing in Germany and selling directly Adidas could also offset any increase in production costs by not selling via retailers but directly. Things could be significantly heating up in 3D printing sneaker land in the future and we applaud the move these companies are making towards mass customized more functional and individual shoes.

Poltrona Frau brings Mass Customization to high end furniture

Poltrona Frau, the Italian high end furniture manufacturer is embarking on mass customization. The company is offering a 3D mass customization tool to its customers in collaboration with Protocube Reply. This 3D tool lets customers see and customize Poltrona Frau furniture. The 3D configurator on the website can now be used to visualize and customize items from the Pelle Frau collection. Poltrona Frau showcased its new mass customized configurator at Salone di Mobile this past week.potrona_frau_mass_customized_furniture

The Poltrona Frau mass customization app.

Companies such as Poltrona Frau, who do a lot of hand and custom work already for customers, can find it relatively easy to step over into mass customization. Rather than having to rethink an existing mass manufacturing operation they can tie the mass customization tool to existing custom operations. For such companies it is often more difficult to get to grips with online and online technologies and to walk the fine line with selling to direct or supporting distributors and resellers. Online mass customization technologies let the customer customize online but what then happens to the order if it is shipped to Austria? Does Poltrona Frau in effect bypass its Austrian distributor? Will it collaborate with them or pass the sale on to them? Mass customization is an interesting conundrum on the business model side as well. With it lead to manufacturers doing more things themselves and selling more online? Or will established companies continue to support retailers and distributors?

Printable mass customized food

An article by Jeffrey Lipton suggests that printable food may provide better health outcomes.

Millions of Americans suffer from diseases and conditions that require careful control of their diet as part of treatment. The current solution is to have each person customize their own food choices. Food production automation can enable consumer specific data to be easily integrated into the food as it is being prepared. This would improve the quality and utility of the food without a cognitive burden on the consumer. 3D Printing is an ideal family of technologies for enabling such mass customization of food. Current efforts in 3D printing food are focused on improving the artistic quality of food in the short term and consumer health in the long term.”examples_3D_Printed_food

Examples of 3D Printed food.

At Twikit we’re huge fans of mass customization. The mass customization of food is therefore something that seems initially very appealing to us. The idea that my health information would lead to the automate preparation of food that is the most nutritious for me personally sounds like it could provide significant health benefits. We must all also admit that we perhaps eat a bit too much red meat or don’t mind our cholesterol as we should. Technology aids us in many ways and food preparation has become significantly faster due to microwaves and other innovations. Compared to the generally unhealthy readymade meals, maybe 3D printed food could be an even faster but at the same time much more nutritious way of us getting our nutrients. But, isn’t all of our food mass customizable already? Is this a necessary technology? The paper gives a good overview of what is happening in 3D printing food and it is an interesting thing to consider. One could see health apps and information being shared and your menu being updated according to your health needs. But, no more cooking…ever?  



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