The Future is Here: Design Museum declares A New Industrial Revolution

By Rhiannon Starr | 25 July 2013

Exhibition review: The Future is Here: A New Industrial Revolution, Design Museum, London, until October 29 2013

© Luke Hayes
“The Future is Here”, declares the Design Museum, as it showcases the innovative digital technologies which are beginning to transform traditional manufacturing processes.

According to a recent survey, however, British consumers are not yet clamouring for such futuristic-sounding technology as 3D printing. This show is a platform to introduce visitors to the potential of additive manufacturing techniques (more commonly known as 3D printing) such as Stereolithography (SL), Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) and Fused Deposition Modelling (FDM).

Additive manufacturing involves building objects by fusing together or “printing” successive layers of powdered, softened or liquefied material. The revolutionary nature of this technology is, in short, that 3D printers can be programmed to manufacture almost any object from a digital blueprint.

This circumvents a huge expense in traditional production lines: the investment in specialist machinery and tools to build each different type of product.

3D printing could successfully challenge the long-established economies of scale because product development can be faster and more flexible.  Consumers will be able to engage in the design process of their product, even within mechanised mass-production.

The Future is Here exhibits additive manufacturing technology in action alongside the work of designers who already utilise it to create innovative products.

There are a colourful range of sunglasses, designed by Ron Arad for pq eyeware, which are built entirely from nylon powder. The frames hinge as a result of scores in the material, which eliminates the need for additional metal components.

Visitors can also admire sculptural fashion accessorises by Catherine Wales, whose bespoke designs can be printed on demand to fit any body shape.

The exhibition presents the ideas of crowdsourcing and micro community manufacturing – practices in which a network of individuals collectively designs items.

To demonstrate this democratic approach to design, the museum collaborated with MADE.com and invited the public to design and vote for a new piece of furniture. The stylish Love Bird sofa, which features in the exhibition, has been selected through crowdsourcing, peer-production and social networks.

Karl Marx once suggested that those who control the means of production also control political power. These digital technologies might not offer collective ownership of production, but they could conceivably offer a genuinely collective design process.

The Future is Here seems barely to scratch the surface of these possibilities, so it may not offer much insight to those with pre-existing knowledge of the field. For the rest, it is an educational and exciting round-up of this burgeoning new technology.

  • Open 10am-5.45pm. Tickets £11.85/£7.50. Book online. Follow the Design Museum on Twitter and use the hashtag #FUTUREISHERE.

More pictures:

© Luke Hayes
© Luke Hayes
© Luke Hayes
© Luke Hayes
© Luke Hayes
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