It is easier to ship recipes than c...

"It is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits” -- a quote attributed to John Maynard Keynes since June 2013 (

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 16.53.30

Urban Economic Development as Makin... Presentation given at a seminar by “La Fabrique de la Cité” on the creation of value for the city and in the city ...

Everyone is a Designer

Fab Labs, 3D Printing, the 3rd Indu...

I gave this presentation (or indeed a very similar one) to audiences in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and Aberdeen (Scotland, UK). A notes pdf is also avai...

Conferentie "De toekomst is Open"

Seminar: Third Industrial Revolutio...

Jeremy Rifkin foresees a "Third Industrial Revolution" that is triggered by the convergence of the development of the Internet and the emergence of re...

It is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits

“It is easier to ship recipes than cakes and biscuits” — a quote attributed to John Maynard Keynes since June 2013 ( at least 2008 ( Seems an unlikely Keynes quote, as the Keynesian “cake” typically is the economy.

Urban Economic Development as Making Unfolds Its Potential

Presentation given at a seminar by “La Fabrique de la Cité” on the creation of value for the city and in the city in Lille on 16 September 2014.

Fab Labs, 3D Printing, the 3rd Industrial Revolution – and Their Impact (Possibly)

I gave this presentation (or indeed a very similar one) to audiences in Neuchâtel (Switzerland) and Aberdeen (Scotland, UK). A notes pdf is also available for more detailed information and further reading.

Seminar: Third Industrial Revolution

Jeremy Rifkin foresees a “Third Industrial Revolution” that is triggered by the convergence of the development of the Internet and the emergence of renewable energies. This Third Industrial Revolution is based on lateral structures (networks, co-operation) – as opposed to the hierarchical (centralized, top-down) structures of the 1st and 2n industrial revolutions. His main message to policy makers is about energy and how energy production (and transport) will have to change (the “5 pillars”: shifting to renewable energy sources, particularly buildings, using new energy storage technologies, Internet-enabled energy grid, electric cars). And he also mentions manufacturing that will follow decentralization and adopt lateral structures: “A new digital manufacturing revolution now opens up the possibility of following suit in the production of durable goods. In the new era, everyone can potentially be their own manufacturer as well as their own internet site and power company” (Rifkin, 2011; 117).

This notion of being one’s own manufacturer has been around in the concept of Fab Labs and the idea of a “Maker Movement” since the early years of the 21st century. Mark Hatch, self-declared proponent of the movement and CEO of Techshop wrote the Maker Movement Manifesto. In this text he proclaims that “[m]aking is fundamental to what it means to be human” and paints a picture of a (white? male?) maker who is the opposite incarnation of a junior product manager at a Fortune 500 packaged goods company. He compares the tools in a maker space to “arms” (but then he is a former Green Beret) and believes that the maker movement “will help you become you”.

Sharing and and giving away are (at least according to Hatch) part and parcel of the Maker Movement. The Internet has triggered and builds upon Open Source Software (e.g. two thirds of web servers run on Linux, three quarters of web servers use Open Source Apache to respond to browser requests), and Open Source Software development is one classic example of real-world networked, collaborative structures. Ronen Kadushin, a Berlin-based Israeli designer, has been “doing” Open Design for close to a decade. He relates Open Design to the revolution in manufacturing – as alluded to by Rifkin and Hatch – but also to the “field day” in creativity that the Internet offered to other departments in design such as graphic and game design, but not to product design. His “Hack Chair” is to be read as a personal expression of (exploring the realm of) open product design and as a statement of a product designer freeing himself from the inter-dependencies of traditional, industrial product design, venturing into the arena of being his own manufacturer.

The Third Industrial Revolution with its Internet-based logic of operation and its distributed, networked structure could have a major impact on inventions, creations and designs and how they emerge, how they are materialized and how they get produced and distributed. The Maker Movement according to Hatch and Open Design according to Kadushin stand for a couple of radical declinations of this development of new practices in design. They are examples in a wider array of indicators that there is indeed, also in design and manufacturing, a desire to move away from the centralized, top-down structures of centuries past. It is to be expected, that traditional disciplinary boundaries will further being crossed and broken down even – not only within design, but across whole industrial sectors.

If eventually everybody can (and maybe will) do everything – thus everybody else’s job – there will arise the question why we still would want job descriptions and education for specific jobs. I provisionally would argue, that indeed the job descriptions and the education for a particular job will become much less important. Factual and procedural knowledge can easily be found on the Internet. Specific skills (drafting, coding, sewing, playing the violin) will still require considerable honing. The key to new practices is not the body of knowledge and skills, however, but attitude and approach. It matters if an assignment is seen as the quest for a solution, a design issue, or a request for thorough analysis. It matters if the approach is one of expertise, facilitation, or contribution. When “iedereen = designer” (in terms of knowledge and skills), designerly thinking becomes the key asset. When anybody can be an artist, the critical perspective makes the difference.

References Rifkin, J. (2011). The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World, Palgrave Macmillan.

^Hatch, Mark (2014). The Maker Movement Manifesto. Rules for Innovation in the World of Crafters, Hackers, and Tinkerers. Sample Chapter. Available online at:

Rifkin, J. (2012). Beyond Austerity: A Sustainable Third Industrial Revolution Economic Growth Plan For the European Union. An Executive Summary of Jeremy Rifkin’s Keynote Speech for the Mission Growth Summit: Europe at the Lead of the New Industrial Revolution, hosted by The European Commission, May 29th 2012. Available online at

^Rifkin, J. (2012a). Industrial Policy Communication Update. A Contribution to Growth and Economic Recovery. Executive Summary. Available online at:

^Troxler, P. (2011). The Beginning of a Beginning of the Beginning of a Trend. Portrait of Ronen Kadushin. In: van Abel, B., Evers, L., Klaassen, R. & Troxler, P. (eds.) (2011). Open Design Now. Why Design Cannot Remain Exclusive, pp. 108-115. Amsterdam: BIS publishers. Available online at:

Links to the (full) videos

Open Knowledge Conference – Open Hardware

Frictions. Collaborative creation of knowledge vs. practices in trade and commerce. The example of Open Hardware
Coordinators: Peter Troxler (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences), Javier Serrano (CERN), Dannie Jost (World Trade Institute)

Dannie Jost, Peter Troxler, jose Serrano

from left: Dannie Jost, Peter Troxler, Javier Serrano; Photo © Celya Gruson-Daniel, cc-by

Knowledge creation is today, in the twenty-first century, a collaborative and ubiquitous enterprise.
Today’s technologies are complex and require the collaboration of many to produce machines that include both digital and physical components more commonly designated as software and hardware.
The distinction between digital and physical does not map smoothly into the distinction between software and hardware, and this has consequences for a world of trade and commerce that distinguishes between software, hardware, services, and goods.

Peter Troxler (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) will elaborate on the shift to lateral, networked structures in various fields (electronics, design, manufacturing, services) and the friction between these structures and traditional ways of protecting intellectual advantage.

Javier Serrano (CERN) will introduce CERN’s open hardware license, the reasons why CERN decided to develop that open hardware license, how it is implemented and used in a day-to-day context and what the the benefit of open hardware is to science and research.

Dannie Jost (World Trade Institute) will discuss one consequence of this conversion and collaborative nature of knowledge creation, the emergence of open source methodologies, in the management of intellectual assets.

The FabLab Reference List, 2.0

FabLab. Of Machines, Makers and Inventors.

FabLab. Of Machines, Makers and Inventors

The “Starting a FabLab Reference List” post has been mildly popular the past few years, time to write an update. Most noble excuse is that the book “FabLab. Of Machines, Makers and Inventors” is finally available to order from the publisher. It is a good source of more recent insights into FabLabs. A few chapters can also be found online:

That does not make the rest of the list irrelevant:


What’s Next for Open Hardware and Design?

Peter Troxler and Tomas Diez (left) on Open Hardware and Design

Peter Troxler and Tomas Diez (left) on Open Hardware and Design

The Open Book is not the proceedings from the Open Knowledge Festival 2012 but some kind of post festum reflection. It contains “contributions from a variety of thought leaders” ( on various Open X topics: Open Data, Education, Software, … and Hardware. It’s available as a pdf from the above link since late february.

My contribution discusses “What’s Next for Open Hardware and Design”.

The Icons of the 3rd Industrial Revolution

Under the title ‘De revolutie in de maakindustrie’ I had the pleasure to open an afternoon packed with experts from that very revolution: Enrico Dini, italian architect and ‘the man who prints houses’, and Thomas Bossuyt who works as a sales engineer with LayerWise (the guys who printed that spring for positioning a telescope … and a first jaw implant).

Peter Troxler at ‘De revolutie in de maakindustrie’, RDM Campus, 21st February 2013. Photo: RDM Campus

I had the task to introduce that revolution in manufacturing which is indeed the 3rd Industrial Revolution, and the 3D-printer is its icon machine—as were the steam engine for the 1st and the conveyor belt for the 2nd industrial revolution.

My presentation was certainly a follow-up on earlier versions, such as the one I gave to an equally attentive audience at the MakLab in Glasgow the week before.

The discussion in Glasgow actually triggered me to add a few more illustrations of what the 3rd Industrial Revolution means.

I already used the the icon machine and the icon actor imagery—this time round I expanded the list to include social and urban developments, means of transport and aspects of the supply chain … probably more to come.

And here is the Glasgow presentation:

Personal 3D Printing

Today’s issue of ‘The Next Wave of Manufacturing’ is all about how hobbyist 3D printers are not living up to their promise … or is it?

My 3D Printed Yoda Bust
Kiet Callies / Foter / CC BY-NC

It is not a surprise that currently available hobby 3D-printers are a bit ‘finicky’, as Jessica Leber describes the printing process. I could not agree more, having seen people finicking around with 3D printers — a lot. But then, let’s be honest: extrusion technology has been around for twenty years (the initial Fused Deposit Modelling patent is from 1992). DIY 3D printers became available only in 2007 … and five years on they are sometimes ‘acting finicky’, but there are over 15 different models available (Make magazine reviews only 15).

I don’t follow Jessica Leber’s assertion that the objects a (hobby) 3D printer can produce are ‘fairly crude but quite small’ — 50 microns resolution is not crude, and 9 by 9 by 9 inch (22 by 22 by 22 cm) is not exactly small.

Jessica is right in pointing out that the materials still are a serious problem (not only in the hobbyist world). This is a general issue, not only a problem with thermoplastics, by the way.

The conclusion that ‘[t]he constraints of the at-home technology explain why the latest shift in consumer 3-D printing is toward centralized facilities not unlike photocopy shops’ is wrong in two ways. First, 3D printing shops like Shapeways, iMaterialize and local round-the-corner facilities (from 3D model in Zurich to Deezmaker in Pasadena, from 3D-U in Madrid to the figurine shop ‘omote 3D’ in Japan) have been around for as long as hobby 3D printers (Shapeways was founded in 2007—note the coïncidence to the first RepRap). Second, it is not exactly a surprise that new digital production technologies are popularized via ‘for rent’ or service facilities: copy shops, for rent digital audio studios and video cutting suites were the predecessors of home colour printers, Garageband, iMovie and the likes.

The big surprise in the article—or the big disappointment—is that Jessica Leber in no way questions where the digital models for printing would be coming from. THey are downloaded from the Internet, apparently. The article portrays home 3D printing as a consumption activity. I doubt it is. If Jessica Leber would have looked at Thingiverse (the one platform really devoted to a 3D printing community, not like Instructables that recently has been bought by a Autodesk, a (3D) modeling application developer) she would have noticed: 2112 things in household, 1616 things in art, 1476 things in hobby, 1097 things in toys, 644 things in fashion, 349 things in learning, …

I also would have expected that an article from MIT Technology Review would at least raise if not address the question how hobby 3D printing relates to ‘professional’ 3D printing—at least as a reference to what they published a few days ago (The Difference Between Makers and Manufacturers). Also that article only asked ‘can the maker movement really produce more than iPhone covers and jewelry’ and never asked ‘what can the real manufacturers learn from the makers’ or even ‘where could manufacturing go if it embraced making’ and ‘where could making go if it embraced manufacturing’.

Those are the relevant questions that lead to the future—not an MIT-instigated artificial war on the old-fashioned amateur vs. professional fronts. You’d better listen to Charles Leadebeater…

The Next Wave of Manufacturing

2012 has literally been the year of all sorts of New Industrial Revolution prophecies. Jeremy Rifkin has popularized his idea of the Third Industrial Revolution and the shift to lateral power at the ‘Mission Growth’ conference in Brussels. Chris Anderson has written about the maker movement and how this would would be the New Industrial Revolution. Peter Marsh has written about the fifth revolution in The New Industrial Revolution: Consumers, Globalization and the End of Mass Production. Even myself, I have become research professor on the revolution in manufacturing.

Hollem, Howard R / Foter / Public domain

MIT’s Technology Review has started a new series on the Next Wave of Manufacturing. I’ll be re-blogging this series here, trying to give it a European perspective.

The first two editions were on the topic of technology (3 Jan) and machines (4 Jan). The technology piece argues, that manufacturing needs to be close to development, because “[w]ithout understanding the details of production, you can’t really design the most competitive products”. Hear hear! one is tempted to say. Integrated product development and concurrent engineering come to mind, principles we’ve been taught as crucial to modern manufacturing back in the 1990s: designing manufacturing and product support processes together with the design of the product. They have been embraced by the space industry, and the automotive industry. The disappearing wage differences between China and Mexico and the risk natural disasters pose to global supply chains (the article cites the Japan earth quake and tsunami in 2011 as an example) only give more weight to this argument. So the question really is ‘[i]f labor is not the differentiating factor, you need to ask, “What can be?”‘. If the answer is manufacturing technology then there are two factors that limit an economy’s ability to actually make use of that technology: one is the cost of capital investment to buy the technology, and the other is the availability of technology-savvy personnel to operate and maintain it.

Consequently, economist Ricardo Hausmann argues, that the US would need to become a big producer of the machinery of the next wave of manufacturing and do something about the knowledge export: ‘the retention of the high-skilled people who come here to study and then don’t stay’. The really interesting information in this interview, however, is the link to the Atlas of Economic Complexity. In a nutshell, this atlas ‘measures’ the variety and interconnection of knowledge available in a country by studying imports and exports of products. Goods like ‘medical imaging devices or jet engines, embed large amounts of knowledge and are the results of very large networks of people and organizations’, they are produced by complex economies. Simpler goods like wood logs, coffee, cheese or tulips ‘embed much less knowledge, and the networks required to support these operations do not need to be as large’, the economies producing them are less complex. In the complexity ranking of the atlas, Japan, Germany and Switzerland have been the three most complex economies for decades; the US is currently (2008 data) number 13, the Netherlands number 23, Mexico is number 20, India is 51, Brazil is 52. Last on the list are Papua New Guinea, Congo, Angola, Sudan and Mauritania. I feel I’ll have to spend some time with this atlas…

Further topics of the series on the Next Wave of Manufacturing will cover:

  • 3-D printing
  • Energy requirements and resources
  • Robots and mergers and acquisitions
  • The political debate
  • Q&A with Carl Bass (president and CEO of Autodesk)
  • The military perspective
  • Made in America
  • New materials
  • More of Made in America
  • The impact of the Internet
  • New disciplines and their manufacturing requirements