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Mass Customization Monday #17

This week the Twikit team also dug and sifted through the vastness of the internets to bring you nuggets of pure mass customization gold.

Drag and Drop Design for Robots

3D printing and other digital manufacturing technologies in effect make the world plastic. Things can be created, changed and remade. One would now need considerable CAD or 3D modeling skills to do this properly however. This is why this new tool Robot Calligrapher from CMU is so interesting. People can drag and drop parts to create their own simple robots which can then be 3D printed and assembled. This video explains how Robot Calligrapher works.RoboDesign

Software is the one part of the 3D printing equation which can take the technology and turn it into one that millions of people can use. By raising the abstraction level and making it simpler to design, the CMU team is taking a significant step forward in democratizing the creation of robots and use of 3D printing. We believe that for all mass customization initiatives ease of use and superior UX is the main driver that would unlock mass adoption.

Ballerina Makes Custom Leotards

This article talks about retired ballerina Jordan Reed who makes custom leotards by hand and sells them via her Etsy shop. One person at home selling to the world. This is a very powerful potential path to sustainable businesses for many individuals. At the same time competition for such businesses will be fierce.



Not many will be able to find custom success as Jordan Reed has. Jordan limits her production to 80 leotards a month as well. This artificial scarcity is something we’ve mentioned before and is being tried by many brands worldwide through limited editions. Jordan’s motivation for limited production runs is new to us however. She simply wants to have enough money to live off and wants to minimize her time on the business. By stopping orders once she has reached her monthly limit of 80 leotards she keeps her product exclusive and ensures that she has lots of free time. This kind of ‘design your own life’ approach is sure to appeal to many individuals. Concepts such as craft, making and artisanal are fast growing in popularity. By escaping from the ‘rat race’ and joining a growing number of artisans she has an enviable position. Is her business sustainable? What would help her business while keeping her authenticity? Will she still be doing as well in a number of years? We don’t know the answer to these questions but we do think that there are many business opportunities here. If there is pent up demand for many to become digital craftsmen, what tools will they need to succeed?

Can Cimpress Dominate Mass Customization?

Investor website SeekingAlpha asks if Cimpress can dominate mass customization. Cimpress is a $1.78 billion revenue group that owns Vistaprint, Albelli and other online print services. Focused initially on business cards and paper Cimpress hopes to extend its paper mass customization business to other things as well.


The paper printing business is still very much fragmented and it would seem that scale would give one player a significant advantage globally. Does it then automatically follow that this same company could extend its reach into almost every product category? Cimpress has an understanding in print and how to offer mass customization paper products online. Their focus and size are unmatched. Simultaneously they have lots of small competitors but few larger companies directly competing with them. If they continue to outperform and drive down costs they may dominate the online paper business. Other interactions and software user experiences are needed for other product categories however. The company would need to acquire these skills or properties to extend its reach.

The company is active in tshirts, mugs, photo albums and many other product categories. It would be interesting to see to what other product categories the company will expand to. With so few other giants in their business we would expect Cimpress to continue to do well but the mass customization race has not yet really begun. This article sees mass customization as the future of retail and mentions a number of players including Amazon which has filed for a patent to offer mass customized clothing.

Automotive Grade Linux to lead to custom software experiences in cars?

AGL or Automotive Grade Linux is an open source implementation of a Linux operating system for cars. Toyota has announced that its Camry models will come equipped with it. So far infotainment systems have either been developed by automotive companies themselves or by Apple and Google. Apple and Google walled garden’s give those companies a lot of control over the monetization of in car apps. AGL is a way for automotive companies to control their own ecosystems and perhaps monetize them. Will AGL or Apple win the in car software wars?

This is a titanic battle with many implications. For our area of interest it may mean that apps could be able to give people custom car experiences through the infotainment systems. Through deploying Linux car companies have tapped a large number of developers who could create apps for their cars. Rather than one single navigation system or dash it is conceivable that different ‘flavors’ of interior and experience could be made for different kinds of people. Software will play a key role in the future of the automotive industry and Toyota seems to be embracing open source to compete.


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