Exploring the New Industrial Revolution

In the second of two Innovation Forums at Autodesk University 2013, five speakers explored the New Industrial Revolution and how technologies such as additive manufacturing, 3d and 4d printing, advanced robotics, the maker movement and bio-driven design that are rapidly changing how the world around us is designed and fabricated.


The session was hosted by Jen McCabe, Hardware Sorceress for the Downtown Project and Vegas Tech Fund, who spoke about the impact of crowdsourcing and crowd funding, now, “a viable way to start and grow a new hardware business.”   She used the example of Kano, a $99 build-yourself computer that has attracted over 9000 backers on KIckstarter and which she plans to build with her five year old nice as a Christmas gift as an example of this trend.


Ben Kaufman, CEO of Quirky, spoke about their efforts to change the product development and launch process.  “The best ideas come from the living room,” he said, and cited examples of Jake Zien and his pivot power invention, to which over 700 Quirky members contributed active ideas and assistance to bring it to market.  “We’ve created a whole line of products based off of Jake’s PivotPower idea. Now, Jake’s a millionaire, and every time a PivotPower sells at Target or another store those 709 people get a profit, in real time. “    Kaufman also spoke about Quirky’s partnership with GE that has brought a whole new line of connected products to Home Depot.


Mark Hatch, CEO of Techshop, discussed some of the ways that Techshop is helping drive new industrial revolutions by giving access to new tools and technology to a broad audience of users.  He cited the example of the new Detroit-area Techshop that was funded in part by Ford Motor Corporation and is open to the more than 30,000 engineers who are living in the area, most of whom are not working actively as engineers at Ford.  “Since the Techshop Detroit opening, Ford has seen a 55% increase in high quality patentable ideas.  More than half of those are directly attributable to opening our shop to Ford employees.  Right now there is a product idea that came up at Techshop that will probably go onto cars their cars – and this came from engineer who worked in marketing.  There was no long product development process, just a smart guy with the right ideas and access to tools.”


David Benjamin, founder of The Living, showed work that his firm has done to use Autodesk Project Cyborg to explore, “A new design approach — to generate, evaluate, evolve, select and produce.  We can now harness incredible biological systems and to make and apply them at a different scale.  Biological systems are already computers and factories.”


The final speaker, MIT Researcher, architect, designer, computer scientist and TED Senior Fellow Skylar Tibbits showed new examples of his on BioMolecular Self-Assembly and human scale 4D printing.   “There is a design space and a design boom happening.  DNA and biological materials become the building blocks,” said Tibbits. “Powered by Autodesk and others we’ve been able to generate things that we would never have been able to generate before.  We can go a step further and simulate things…optimize things.  And code can communicate with machines so we can physically make things that we couldn’t have made before.”