Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Technology: The shape of the future - in 3D

exhib_future480.jpg "We have an incredibly strong science base in the UK, second only to America. We have a very strong technology base - manufacturing is not dead - and we have a strong design base but they don't work together as much as they can."

So said David Bott, director of Innovation Programmes at the Technology Strategy Board at the opening The Future Is Here, at the Design Museum.

He said: "When they do work together you end up with products that are fit for purpose and are more successful."

If seamlessness was the desired method of working then it was also the theme of the products on show at the Shad Thames-based museum, which focusses on emerging technologies that could be tomorrow's growth sectors.

Joints, hinges, sections and springs are things of the past. New materials that can bond without support structures, 3D printers and looms that weave carbon mean the shop  shelves will be groaning under unibody products.

Another theme has to be the consumer revolution with the boundaries between designer, maker and customer blurring.

Shared digital templates allow for custom-made products, from dolls to football boots.
Meanwhile, the reach of the net creates platforms for innovation including crowd sourcing, open source computing and networked manufacturing.

Design museum director Deyan Sudjic said: "Two hundred years ago, what happened in Lancashire's cotton mills and Cornwall's tin mines changed the world. Now it's the turn of Silicon Roundabout and the hactivists."

In 1870, the UK was the leading manufacturer in the world, now it is 15th, dwarfed by China and the US. Innovation, say the exhibition backers, provides a way to re-think our manufacturing base.

Curator Alex Newson said: "Small-scale makers and sellers have typically produced the type of objects that factories don't. But what if small companies, or individuals, began making objects that were previously only viable through mass manufacture?"

Universities minister David Willetts said: "The UK is home to some of the most innovative companies in the world and their designs are essential to keeping the UK at the front of the global race for manufacturing."

The Future Is Here, until Oct 29, Design Museum, Shad Thames, £11.75, designmuseum.org.