With industrialization, and then globalization, most cities in North America and Europe have moved away from local manufacturing. This has resulted in a disconnect between making and citizens, much like the disconnect with nature, and the animals we eat. As a “consequence manufacturing only takes a little role in the urban life in European cities today, shifting the focus on services rather than production.” That’s a problem on multiple levels and there are good reasons to bring back more local manufacturing, not the least of which being resilience.
Stepping away a bit from the urban aspect of Fab Cities and more towards the maker side, here’s a small DIY project that most of us probably didn’t know was possible, a simple handheld device that can identify the five most common plastics.
There are multiple ways in which technical innovation can spread out, probably the two most common are: something expensive gets cheaper and cheaper as it gets more popular, which means it starts as a luxury or relatively exclusive product. Second, it’s a cheaper way of making something, and as the technology progresses the products are more and more advanced, and increasingly expensive versions come on the market. Smartphones are an example of the former; originally expensive (and some models still are), they scaled various technologies like small cameras and GPS units, dropping prices for these components, until we now have $50 smartphones, even without a data plan.
A couple of years ago Radha Mistry, who leads foresight practice at Autodesk, presented a potential future for the manufacturing industry, a much more networked and flexible future. What if small towns impacted by local plant closures, with no jobs, no money, and a dying Mains Street were instead home to a new version of the industry? One modelled around “a network of configurable microfactories that leverages the manufacturing-as-a-service concept?”