REMODEL: making physical tools digital with the help of the community

In February 2017 Twentyseven, as part of Thürmer Tools, became the first to join the REMODEL program, as collaboration with the Danish Design Center (DDC). Since then we have been working on the development of an open source platform to turn physical tools into digital designs that can be customized and manufactured with 3D printing. This is part of a long-term vision where digital technologies will play a key role in the disruption of supply chain management and in the way products are designed and distributed. As we are now at the final stage of the program, we would like to share some thoughts about our journey.

Background

We often hear about digitalization, disruptive technologies, and exponential changes, but rarely we find a good explanation for what is going on. Something to pull the strings and connects dots. How will a small company be affected and what can it do about it? How can these trends be embraced, incorporated into a successful business model and adapted to the current wave of change? In fewer words, how do we do this?

These are exactly the questions that the DDC had in mind when designing the REMODEL program, a tool to help small manufacturing companies to implement innovative solutions based on open source platforms. The REMODEL is built upon a solid research carried out by the DDC for a whole year in 2016. The investigation concerned key aspects of the latest technological development especially in relation to current methodologies for designing and creating products: is the future of manufacturing open-source? This is hard to tell, but for sure we don’t want to be left behind and we accepted the challenge with great excitement.

The program

The REMODEL program was designed by the DDC and it consists of four different phases: one phase a week. Each phase corresponds to a set of tasks and each set of tasks is revealed only after completion of the previous phase. Each phase has to be documented with a short video and pictures of the session and then sent to the DDC. After a few days, we would receive the new material for the next phase. The DDC provided us with all the necessary material to carry on the different phases, plus some really good documentation to guide us and get us started.

Getting our hands dirty

Overall it was a great experience and we deeply enjoyed the process. All the planning was made in advance by the DDC so that the team could focus on the important details, for example discussing design issues. The interactive nature of the sessions plus the strict time schedule pushed us to move forward instead of being caught up into endless concept re-iterations and although we worked only a couple of hours per week on each phase, we feel that we’ve made a huge step forward. After handing in the outcome of a phase, there was no looking back. All we could do was waiting for feedbacks and focus on the new exercise.

 

This process put an emphasis on the importance of a well-structured plan, especially when approaching some unknown areas, with uncertain outcomes. Having a clear direction, guided by experts, is fundamental to the success of an idea, but most of all, at least for us, this is a necessary step towards the assessment of a new concept. One of the limitations of working in small teams is often the limited working capacity and competences reaching only selected areas. However, by following this program, we were able to challenge ourselves and explore different outcomes and possibilities without feeling too committed to an idea.

Next steps

So, right now we have reached the final stage of the program and we generated a low-tech business model draft. This has a focus on small manufacturers and privates and it includes several key elements, such as an online platform, a community of designers and engineers, design and printing services. The next steps will involve the preparation of a more detailed plan and cost analysis to see whether we can bring this idea into real life.

We suggest you stay tuned because you’ll hear more of this in the future!

Author: Greta D'Angelo