Businesses that share and sell excess capacity and use technologies to link buyer to seller are growing rapidly, as part of what Tim Fisher dubbed the sharing economy. He’s director of the Metropolitan Design Center at the University of Minnesota.
In the not-too-distant future, designers and engineers will be able to work on their CAD systems from any location and create customized parts and products for people around the world, he said. He spoke at the Symposium on the Sharing Economy held last month in Minneapolis.
“The sharing economy will wring out the excess production and over capacity of what we inherited from the
twentieth-century mass production economy,” he said. “Uber and Lyft recognized too many seats in cars driven around empty and making those seats available offered car owners and platform providers a money-making opportunity.”
Already some CAD providers are dabbling in this type of economic system. Solid Edge, for example, sells a subscription model that allows engineering companies to change the number of CAD licenses they receive on a monthly basis. The company could ramp up, for example, if work needs to be done on an urgent project, then cut back on licenses when that project ends.
The license model is one example of the collaborative, on-demand economy that goes hand-in-hand with the sharing economy, he said.
Fisher takes the idea even further. With shopping malls nationwide closing at around 10 percent a year, he envisions a future in which nearly every product is made via a mass customization manufacturing process—even one-on-on between buyer and creator—and where many of the products people use are what he called “handicrafts.”
“There will be a generational shift to everyone wanting to purchase everything online,” he said.
A customer might meet with a designer at a private office (or over the Internet) and have a hand in the design itself, whether the object is an article of clothing or a drainage pipe.
Or, goods can be produced in mass, then customized according to the end users’ needs, he said.
“You can mass customize apparel so it fits you precisely,” he said. “You can make it upstairs in the store for the price you’d pay for mass produced and shipped from China. You could then see and meet and know the people producing your clothing.”
Another example of that economy is the driverless cars that he and other experts predict will come to your home—following a text or the press of a button on an application–to ferry you to one location to another.
“The paradox is that the sharing economy is a capitalistic but it will revive a digital, high tech version of the handicraft,” he said. “It’s also Marxist in that it would put the means of production in the hands of ordinary people, some of them using the most advanced technology ever imagined.”
The idea will take hold with designers, engineers, and customers because it harkens back to the way humans lived, in tribes and small communities, for millions of years, Fisher said.
“The sharing economy resonates in ways that are very deeply embedded in our subconscious,” Fisher said. “Ninety percent of human history was spent in small tribal groups. The sharing economy is a reinvention of capitalism and a return to a village economy—a high-tech version of the one in which humans evolved. And it’s almost irresistible.”
Filed Under: 3D CAD World