Productivity and digital fabrication

In Britain productivity measured as output per hour worked has fallen 1.1% since 2010, despite the fact that the percentage of the population in work has risen substantially, and this applies to both service sectors and manufacturing sectors of the economy. Compared to other countries Britain has a relatively low level of productivity, in Germany it is 31% higher, and in France 32% higher, if the economy is to recover and start to grow this productivity gap will have to be closed.
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Reshoring – a change of culture.

Early in 2013, the All-Party Parliamentary Manufacturing Group (the APMG – a cross-party coalition of UK Parliamentarians and manufacturing industry organisations)  examined examples of reshoring, to try and understand what cultural barriers there are to doing certain parts of the manufacturing process in one country above another. What they saw following a selection of case studies and testimonies  was how closely linked to narrative and culture the reshoring phenomenon appeared. Less important, perhaps, than simply the economic rationale around cheaper labour costs abroad.

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Low cost 3D printing market will explode next year when key patents expire

The majority of 3D printers in use today employ Fused Deposition Modelling, or FDM, technology, they can build small prototype components out of PLA or ABS plastic. However, the surface finish and the fine feature resolution leaves a lot to be desired, and certainly does not match the quality of most conventionally   manufactured plastic components. FDM technology also has the limitation of only being able to build components out of a very limited range of plastics, most metals and ceramics are impossible.

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Some thoughts on FabLabs

Last weekend I was trying to make something in my little workshop squeezed in at the end of the garage. There was not enough room, it was freezing cold, and I did not have the right tools. I eventually succeeded with a bit of improvisation, but the experience started me thinking about how one could overcome these problems.

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Machines that make machines

There was a time not so long ago when somebody could make virtually all the things they needed with a small range of tools, and these same tools in the hands of a craftsman could be used to make another identical set of tools, or even totally new tools, using just a few raw materials – steel, wood, and brass. The tools were essentially self-replicating, and the quality and diversity of the things they were used to make were dependent upon the knowledge and skill of the craftsman using the tools.

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Are personal 3D printers proper tools or just toys?- Continued

The tests I have run on the RepRap Huxley 3D printer I built earlier this year have shown that the device is capable of being used as a serious tool in a home workshop. With production accuracy of around 0.3mm this is fairly typical of objects made in such a workshop. This accuracy is about the width of a fine pencil or scribe line, indeed the measuring tools in a home workshop, such as a digital caliper, will have a maximum resolution of .01mm and others such as rulers more typically 0.5mm.
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Are personal 3D printers proper tools or just toys?

A lot of the people who have been talking and writing about the advent of personal 3D printers like Makerbot and RepRap have dismissed them as toys used to create plastic gizmos. One of the questions I wanted to examine when I built a RepRap Huxley a couple of months ago was to see if these allegations were true or false.

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Importance of the home workshop

Using tools to make things is a skill we should all acquire, and in my opinion it should be part of everyone’s basic education. However, learning these skills should not be confined to the school classroom, it should be something that is part of everyday life. The use of tools to make things and improve our lives is what makes us different from most other species, and the successful use of tools has made us what we are.

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The Personal Technology Era

Just about thirty-seven years ago, when I was still a student, I remember buying a copy of the US magazine Popular Electronics  and being captivated by an article describing the soon to be launched Altair 8800. I must have read that article dozens of times. From the very first word I knew I must have one, my very own computer, to use whenever I wanted and to run whatever I wanted, the end of having to apply for time on a clunking ASR33 teletype terminal linked to the mainframe at Uni.

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Hardware is turning into software

Today, if an inventor has a good idea for a product there is no need to build a factory, or sell the idea to a manufacturer. Instead all the tools of manufacturing production that the inventor needs are available as outsourced services. The factory can become virtual, managed from the screen of a laptop, all the inventor needs is the skills, inventiveness and creativity to use these tools and services and of course the capital to finance production.

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