The “How” Revolution: The Next Step in Democratization

gears-150-parcnewEvery few years or so, the technology industry is typically proclaiming the “next” revolution. OK, that actually may be every year.

But the current tide of developments truly warrants the term revolutionary. The democratization of product design, manufacturing, and even funding is on a path to impact our society and marketplace, altering our future economy. People have never-before-seen avenues and access to take their great ideas and independently make them happen. And it’s all happening incredibly quickly.

The affordability of 3D printing and direct access to virtual supply chains or a local TechShop is a boon to independent businesses, supporting their creation and success. Investment is undergoing its own transformation where crowdfunding is shifting the power to society instead of keeping it just in the hands of private funds or VCs.

Democratization is here and it’s creating a ton of opportunities. Yet how we make things is still very difficult.

There are emerging software platforms that support design, but they don’t quite take us where we need to be in terms of intelligence, accuracy, and usability for everyone. So an entrepreneur can take a design to the TechShop, only to find it’s completely incompatible with the machine’s capabilities or the final product fails or misses greater potential due to unknown flaws in the design.

When a boutique or crowdfunded product hits the mainstream, how to ramp up is challenging. For example, one PARC employee shared how he loves his Pebble watch and was one of the first to get in an order. However, even though the idea and funding were there for this company, the actual production lagged the promised delivery date. That’s because it’s still hard to actually make products on a large scale with the quality and precision that consumers expect.

The “how” is the next phase. In order to bring democratization to reality, we must make it much easier to manufacture and insert predictability. In particular, design automation is an important driver to verify designs are correct before they are ever physically built – and make this capability accessible to all. At PARC we are working on several new initiatives in this arena.

Like all true revolutions, the power shift is now underway and preferences are changing. Accessibility to design, funding, tools, and supply chains have taken root, growing deeper each day. The manufacturing industry and the ecosystem that supports it are on the cusp of disruption and ripe for innovation, and intelligent software has a lot to do with it. We are already seeing entirely new types of companies spring up to support this new maker economy, right here in the U.S. As we continue to move forward with the “how,” the revolution will truly be complete.

Learn more about PARC’s Design and Digital Manufacturing innovations.

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