The Pop-up Factory is a production line that manufactured connected devices on the floor of the Solid 2015 conference. It was an experiment at Solid tests a manufacturing style pioneered by pirates. Below are posts that we gathered from amazing documentation done by David Cranor (Former CEO of FormLab). Enjoy!
Why building pop-up factory in Solid Conference?
Building hardware is hard, indeed. Until we have general purpose matter compilers, development of hardware products will differ dramatically from the development of pure software. But all of that is changing as the development process for hardware begins to look like the development process for software. That’s how these no-name Chinese companies do it with a small fraction of the resources that their Western counterparts have. In other words, these companies use radically dynamic allocation of expertise and open information flow to turn a profit on low-volume hardware, basing their designs on previous or modularized ones. Furthermore, when you consider that the kids in Tahrir Square were most likely not using $800 iPhones to connect to Twitter, but cheap smartphones created by Shanzhai companies, the movement begins to sound a whole lot more serious.
This radical shift in manufacturing is so exciting that we’ve decided to try it out for ourselves. We’re going to build a pop-up factory at Solid, right in the exhibit hall, to produce electronics live during the conference. Spools of raw electronic components and 3D printing resin will go in, and fully functioning electronic devices will come out.
A visit to Seeed’s Agile Manufacture Center
The electronics that will come out are Alike bands, social-networking wearables designed by Marcelo Coelho. We have partnered with Seeed Studio, Formlabs, Proto Labs, and ANT Wireless to produce 1,500 Alike bands — most of them in China on extremely fast turnaround, but about a third of them on rapid, lightweight manufacturing equipment in Solid’s exhibit hall.
Marcelo Coelho and I went to China to work with sponsor Seeed Studio’s Shenzhen facility in order to produce parts for more than a thousand Alike wristbands. Working with Seeed project manager Vivian Zhong, we set up in a conference room for the week to organize logistics for getting neoprene straps and assembled printed circuit boards (PCBA) produced and shipped. We also worked with her to source the components that will be used for the manufacturing demonstration in the Pop-up Factory itself at Solid.
In this video, Zhong shows us what’s going on in the factory, all the way from reels of components through various assembly and testing stations. Although the factory is working on many other projects in addition to Alike, we were fortunate enough to catch up to the Alike PCBA as they were in the testing phase.
This is a good video to watch if you have ever wondered what the actual process of bringing a connected device to life looks like. And Solid is a good place to go if you are interested in seeing a live demonstration of many of the technologies shown.
For result of pop up factory, check out the Keynote Panel video with Formlab, Protolab, Seeed Studio, and ilike.io.