LIVE BLOG: The Digital Factory ’17 at MIT Media Lab

LIVE BLOG: The Digital Factory ’17 at MIT Media Lab

I’m attending The Digital Factory event organized by Formlabs and Desktop Metal.

Morning exhibition floor and coffee.

The main stage keynote is about to begin.

Jon Bruner speaks about potential opportunities of digital factory.

Keynote by Carl Bass speaking about history, trends and promises of digital manufacturing. Carl Bass brought examples of design optimization and opportunities related to 3D printing, AI (artificial intelligence) and generative design.

Dr. Daron Acemoglu (@DrDaronAcemoglu) of MIT is speaking about economical aspects of new technologies. In particular about replacement vs enablement technology trends. According to him new replacement technologies aren’t dangerous as soon as they can bring a significant increase in productivity. The danger is actually coming from so-so technologies that replacing people, but not creating enough productivity growth. 

Suchit Jain of Dassault Systemes SOLIDWORKS speaks about trends in manufacturing – 3D printing, generative design, 3D printing electronic, connected products, AR/VP, one click manufacturing in CAD tools, manufacturing services and others.

Edith Harmon, Vice President of advanced products at New Balance talked about challenges of modern mass customized manufacturing – product complexity, demand for collaboration and challenges of Design to Manufacturing integrations.

Max Lobovsky, CEO of Formlabs speaks about challenges of mass production and unit economics in 3D printing.

Formlabs is introducing Form Cell – distributed farm of 3D printers operating autonomously and aiming to make unit pricing of 3D prints down.

Formlabs is introducing new printer – Formlabs Fuse, first SLS printer for the cost of 9,999$.

Ric Fulop, founder and CEO of Desktop Metal is introducing new products at Digital Factory.

Future development track starts from the Natan Linden about factory automation platform – Tulip. But first you are going to see how messy is manufacturing operations are today.


… and disconnect of IT systems from manufacturing shopfloor.

I specially liked the following slide showing how much of manufacturing IT budget is spent on manufacturing services.

Tulip is cloud-based platform for manufacturing operation management.

Nick Pinkston speaks about evolution of engineering and manufacturing tools to match the development of software.

An amazing presentation of Ilan Moyer shows Sharper – new handhold CNC tool allowing to work with physical tool exactly how we work with digital tools.

Jon Hirschtick, co-founder and CEO of Onshape speaks about evolution of design process and the need for agile development process.

According to Jon Hirschtick, files is a key enemy of agile design process.

and brings Onshape – new and unique full cloud database driven CAD tool working in a browser eliminating the need for traditional PDM and installing CAD products.

Getting back to keynote, PTC CEO Jim Hepplemann brings PTC vision in physical and digital convergence.

The future is not products, but systems of systems.

An interesting perspective on a new layer for Digital Technology to help manufacture stuff.

A very nice demo of PTC AR/VR technologies.

Discussion panel about investment in manufacturing companies  with Eric Paley (@epaley), Karen Kerr (@karenekerr), Brad Feld (@bfeld @epaley) moderated by Catherine Clifford @CatClifford of CNBC.

Director of center for bits and atoms Neil Gershenfeld speaks about longer vision manufacturing, differences between ‘analog’ and ‘digital’ models and future Lass’ law.

Neil Gershenfeld – how to manufacturer everything with 20 basic element and transformation.


Conclusion chat between Formlabs CEO, Max Lobovsky and Neil Gershenfeld.

Evening networking event. I had an interesting discussion with Brian Chan, creator of 3D printer lobster (done in Onshape) – I had a privilege to be introduced to Brian Chan by Onshape founder and CEO (Jon, Hirschtick).

What is my conclusion? I liked the event. Lot of interesting thoughts and observations. Here are my 3 favorite topics caught my special attention – 1/Tulip shopfloor manufacturing processes tool platform; 2/ New Balance – the need for collaboration between design and manufacturing is confirmed and absence of collaboration is very painful by  3/ Formlabs Cell is really cool; 4/ I don’t understand much in metal 3D printing and SLS printers :(… something to learn more about, but it sounds like another important steps in 3D printing evolution.

Best, Oleg

Want to learn more about PLM? Check out my new PLM Book website.

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of openBoM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased.


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