Manufacture. Use. Recycle. Repeat.

JUST IMAGINE an apartment, an apartment without any cabinets, closets or any other furniture to store things. The only things in the apartment are the things you use every day. Things like a couch, a table or a bed. In the bedroom there is single sliding door with a display next to it. On the display you can select the clothes you want. There is a convenient list of your favorites. You select a pair of jeans and a shirt. A subtle whirring comes from the behind the sliding door. After a few seconds the display says simply DONE and the sliding door unlocks. You open it and you take out items you just selected. They look and smell brand-new, no wrinkles, spotless exactly as they were the day you selected them. You did change the size somewhere along the way. Everybody gains a pound or two unfortunately when they get older.

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You put on your clothes and walk to the kitchen. The kitchen is brightly lit and white. Again no cupboards or cabinets. There is a display sitting on the counter. You simply select “breakfast – alone”. A few seconds later you take your coffee mug and plate from the only cabinet. You make breakfast and enjoy the coffee. After breakfast you deposit the plate and mug in the recycle bin. A ritual you repeat every day.

You might wonder what the point is of this story, but it is my vision for the future of on-demand manufacturing. In this story I want to illustrate how a huge change will impact our daily lives. It is about products becoming temporary. You make them when you need, you discard when you are done. This may sound awful from an environmental perspective, but if you combine this with recycling the net cost is only energy. Given that energy is available in abundance – we just do not know how to capture / convert it to something we can use – such a process can work.

This future seems very plausible to me. But if this future will become reality, how it impact us, companies, brands, designers and trends? Will they still exist? How will they make money? Will there still be trends? Will local design become more prevalent? I spend quite sometime thinking about these lately.

In the past I wrote that I do not believe in a 3D printer in every home. I still feel that way. The future I write about in this post, is beyond 3D printing technology we see today. Today’s 3D printers are noisy, smelly, slow, expensive, inaccurate and unreliable. Some day all of that is fixed. And hopefully they fix a few other things along the way as well. It does not have to be a Star Trek replicator. That is ok. But when that day comes, I hope this future is possible.

- Robert