After careful thought and consideration, this is the most relevant and important mass customization news for you this week.
IKEA using 3D printing & making
IKEA’s SPACE10 Lab is looking at digital manufacturing and making. The Lab had 3 architects look at using digital manufacturing to create objects that had a human touch. Joints, a lamp and other objects were made using CNC Milling.
The theme of creating digitally manufactured goods with a human touch is becoming a more prevalent one nowadays. Essentially digital manufacturing can perhaps give us individually made objects that are affordable. To keep costs low while giving these items a true personality would be a feat indeed. But, just because a digitally manufactured or mass customized product is unique and personal does it really have to look that way? Must it feel like an artisanal product? Isn’t there something dishonest about making a digitally manufactured good, look man made? Wouldn’t it be better to conceive of an entirely new aesthetic? We believe that there is a risk of a “digitally manufactured style” emerging where a new class of products looks very similar whilst they don’t have to be. Does the future even have to have a human touch at all?
Simultaneously the company is releasing its first 3D printed product, a selective laser sintered (Powder Bed Fusion) jewel or wall ornament. The hand shaped ornament is made out of polyamide and then colored.
It is exciting that one of the largest furniture companies in the world is looking more at digital manufacturing. We delved into IKEA as a flatpack pioneer earlier in an extensive post. We believe that it is inevitable that IKEA will turn to customization and mass customization eventually. The company is adept at value engineering and could have the scale and skill to get mass customization right. Once they do this, it would be a technology that they could roll out over much of their product portfolio. Especially in the many coatings and films that IKEA uses on its furniture it could find customization options that would work well throughout much of its portfolio.
PSFK Summarizes the Mass Customization Opportunity
In a very succinct post and a longer report PSFK summarizes the opportunity of mass customization.
“Manufacturers are able to deliver mass customization to a segment of one with the flexibility offered with capabilities like IoT, machine learning and advances in 3D printing. These capabilities are enabling new profitable mass customization business models that were not possible in the past.” Sanjay Ravi of Microsoft.
OpenScad based Free Customization Tool
Michigan Tech has been doing a lot of open source 3D printing research over the last few years with Professor Pearce and his team making quite an impact. One of their latest papers looks at using OpenSCAD for mass customization. OpenSCAD is a free and open source browser based CAD modelling tool. The tool is lightweight but powerful while the user experience and interface are quite complex. OpenSCAD is not difficult to use but for novices it is usually one step too far. You can use OpenSCAD to make models parametric however. The Michigan Tech team has done just that and build a free model customizer around this.
The aptly named Free Open Source Customizer Library works with OpenSCAD to let people build customized files that can be 3D printed. We think that such open source tools will in time have an impact on further enabling mass customization.
Care/of delivers customized vitamin supplements to your home
Care/of, a 70 employee New York and New Jersey based company has raised $12 million in series A financing. The company offers vitamins and supplements and customers can customize the right supplements for themselves and order online.
“Our product is personalized for each user, and that’s possible because we are digitally based..Consumers share some information with us through a quiz that takes a few minutes, and we recommend a set of supplements for them using an algorithm that takes into account clinical research. We’re really excited to be able to offer this level of personalization to our customers, and it’s not something that would make as much sense in a retail setting.”
We think that such a combination may make sense in retail if it were coupled with in store mixing or next day pick up. Customized goods like this could add excitement to an in store experience and build loyalty. It is clear that patient specific medicine, customized cosmetics and customized food and supplements are an interesting area. It is early days yet and no one has cracked these markets. We would expect many more companies to emerge in the coming years with mass customized goods in this arena. What is the utility to the customer of mass customized supplements? It seems logical that since we are all different, that unique supplements could provide us with better results. But, can a few minute long online quiz give a vendor enough information to make a supplement that is really higher performing than others? By what methods could an online or retail vendor obtain enough information to make unique supplements that are higher performing? Some combination with medical records or medical tests could perhaps be a solution?