90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Third Digital Revolution: Making Things

Neil Gershenfeld runs MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and teaches the class “How to Make Almost Anything.” His students’ past projects include a dress that defends the wearer’s personal space; an alarm clock you have to wrestle with in order to convince it you’re awake; and a web browser for parrots.

“This is like the birth of the Internet, but it’s literally an internet of things.”
– Neil Gershenfeld

From that class came a new idea: a kit he calls a fab lab — a collection of about 10 tools, including a 3D printer, computer-controlled lasers and milling machines. Individuals can use the fab lab to make “almost anything.”

There are a few hundred of these fab labs now, including above the arctic circle in Norway, in rural India and in African villages. In the lab in Norway, locals created their own antennas and radios so farmers — who are no longer allowed to be nomadic herders due to land ownership issues — could locate their sheep and reindeer in the mountains.

Gershenfeld calls it the “third digital revolution.” The first was communication, the second was computation and the third is fabrication — making things. It will seriously disrupt, but not destroy traditional manufacturing, Gershenfeld said.

“Mass manufacturing will still stay, but it will by definition make the boring stuff because everyone gets the same thing,” he said. “This is like the birth of the Internet, but it’s literally an internet of things. It’s an internet where data becomes things and things become data. And we’re seeing the births of entirely new businesses where you go to market by shipping data and you produce on-demand where you consume.”

Neil Gershenfeld talks about fab labs:

Guest:


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    This is essentially an Open Source design process.  I am building an open source electric car that I designed, and I used a 3-axis CNC machine from a kit (a PhlatPrinter 3).  My car is called CarBEN EV5 and is shown in my avatar.

    Here’s my blog post on the construction process, so far:  http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/2013/04/carben-ev5-construction.html

    Thank you for this report!

    Neil

  • Pmaharg

    Power to the people-you, your guest and the subject of free form creation without mass production and blessed by imagination (run on, we do) was  wonderful.
    Spirit bless you both!!

    Patrick

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

July 21 Comment

Boxing Attracts More Than Would-Be Fighters

At the Ring Boxing Club, boxers range in age, are both men and women, and include an award-winning author.

July 21 Comment

Why Hot Cars Are So Deadly

An average of 38 kids die in a hot car every year in the U.S. We look at the science of why cars get so hot so fast, and why children are more vulnerable.

July 18 28 Comments

A Conversation With Immigrant Activist Jose Antonio Vargas

We sit down with the immigrant-rights activist, who has written extensively about the fact that he has been living illegally in the U.S. for years.

July 18 4 Comments

Will Israel Widen The War And Will Hamas Run Out of Rockets?

What will drive Israel's decision? What are the strategic calculations Hamas is making and how will it emerge from this conflict?