Perché ho chiesto a Passera e Profumo un FabLab in ogni città

Articolo originariamente pubblicato su CheFuturo

Ne sono certa, ci sono tante cose che possiamo fare per innescare la rivoluzione di cui abbiamo bisogno. L’articolo di Massimo Banzi è un’altra prova del fatto che l’innovazione in Italia non sia un fantasma. Anche io qualche giorno fa ho lanciato una proposta all’interno della discussione pubblica per l’Agenda Digitale Italiana: creare un Istituto per la Manifattura Digitale. Il suo compito? Finanziare e pianificare per i prossimi 10 anni l’apertura di laboratori d’innovazione focalizzati su open design, manifattura sostenibile e artigianato digitale. Potete commentare l’idea e votarla se siete d’accordo.

So cosa volete chiedermi: ma in un paese come l’Italia un istituto del genere serve davvero? Sì, perché investire su creatività e tecnologia rappresenta un’opportunità che non possiamo ignorare ma, allo stesso tempo, non è un’impresa facile. L’entusiasmo con cui vengono raccontate le storie di innovazione e startup a volte ricorda un po’ la retorica dei “due cuori e una capanna”. Nel caso delle startup, si parla spesso di due computer e una scrivania, le uniche infrastrutture – oltre alle ore di lavoro – che hanno permesso la nascita di aziende milionarie. Bene, in realtà non bastano, serve anche un piano concreto.

Quando guardiamo le storie di successo spesso abbiamo la tendenza di concentrarci sul risultato finale senza soffermarci a sufficienza sul percorso che ha portato al traguardo. Dopo tutto, siamo ben consapevoli del fatto che la formula giusta non si può trovare in un weekend. Pochi sanno che Angry Birds, il videogame blockbuster per smartphone creato dalla Rovio, è il 52° tentativo di gioco in 8 anni da parte dell’azienda, che ha rischiato la bancarotta. O che Pandora, la piattaforma di internet radio, è stata presentata a più di 300 finanziatori prima di trovarne uno disposto a lanciarli.

Continue reading Perché ho chiesto a Passera e Profumo un FabLab in ogni città

Un marchio open source per una moda sostenibile, aperta e partecipata

Articolo scritto per la rivista Loop e tratto dal mio intervento a WorldWideRome

Openwear al World Wide Rome

Nel 2010 Johanna Blakley, direttrice di un think-tank sui media all’Università della California, ha rivelato di fronte a una platea nutrita della Ted conference che, l’industria della moda, a differenza di altri ambiti del settore creativo non produce valore a partire dalla protezione della proprietà intellettuale: non solo la maggior parte dei capi e accessori venduti non sono coperti da copyright, è proprio questa mancanza di protezione che permette al sistema di essere profittevole.

Grazie a questa libertà infatti, aziende diverse sono in grado di replicare capi creati da brand conosciuti in copie più economiche e di renderle disponibili a prezzi più accessibili, ovviamente senza copiare anche il logo#. Quanto più velocemente gli abiti indossati sulle riviste patinate e esposte nelle vetrine delle vie del centro senza cartellino del prezzo, diventano indossabili per tutto il resto della popolazione, tanto più velocemente, più volte l’anno, diventa necessario gettare i capi acquistati nei mesi precedenti perché “non sono più di moda” perdendo la loro aura di “coolness” ed esclusività. In economia questa strategia applicata su molti prodotti, specialmente tecnologici, è chiamata obsolescenza indotta e la trovate spiegata in modo chiaro in un documentario disponibile su YouTube intitolato “Obsolescenza Programmata – Il motore segreto della nostra società dei consumi”.

Nel suo intervento però la Blakely non si sofferma sulle conseguenze di questo sistema, sulle sue esternalità negative, ossia gli effetti che l’azione di tali soggetti economici ha sul benessere di altri soggetti non direttamente coinvolti. In questo caso ci riferiamo ai lavoratori dell’intero sistema moda, periferici o meno, e agli equilibri ecologici del territorio.

Qualche anno prima, nel 2005 San Precario insieme a un gruppo di precari/e (freelance, micro-imprese e collaboratori) impegnati a lavorare durante la settimana della moda si sono presi la libertà di sfidare la sfavillante vetrina della Camera della Moda facendo sfilare una finta stilista, all’interno del calendario ufficiale.

Continue reading Un marchio open source per una moda sostenibile, aperta e partecipata

Markus Kayser: Sun and desert in the industry of tomorrow

Markus Kayser

Article originally published on Digicult – Articolo originariamente pubblicato su Digicult

 

“I see no future without technology, but even future without nature, they must find a balance at some point.”

This is the statement by Markus Kayser, German designer with a studio in London, who with his latest project Solar Sinter, has won the Arts Foundation Fellowship 2012 (http://artsfoundation.co.uk/Artist-Year/2012/all/318/Kayser) for the Product Design category and was shortlisted for the prestigious Design of the Year 2012 sponsored by Desing Museum of London (http://www.designsoftheyear.com/category/genre/product/product -2012/page/2/).

With Solar Sinter, Markus found a meeting point between technology and nature, going behind the process of creation of objects: sun, heat and sand. In addition to the marriage between technology and nature, he has also found a link with the history and the origins of the creation of glass objects, which have appeared in Egypt since ancient times. The idea is simple: the sand in the Egyptian desert is mainly silica, ie when heated to a certain temperature it melts and is transformed into glass, once it has cooled down. In industry, the process that transforms the powder into a solid through the heat is called sintering and in recent years has become a widely used process in the 3d printing, in which plastic or metal are heated and fused with a laser to gradually compose, layer upon layer, a three-dimensional object previously drawn on computer. The solar sintering created by Markus uses as raw material the desert sand and as heating source the sun, powered by a game on lenses.

In 2010 he began to experience right in the Egyptian desert his first machine, Sun Cutter, that uses solar energy transforming it, through a spherical glass lens, in a sort of laser connected to a system driven by a camera, which allows you to cut the raw material first in 2D with a thickness of 4 mm. Sun Cutter allows to obtain very thin and rough objects, halfway between artificial and natural, because this result is due to both the technological process, but also energy and therefore subject to natural weather variations. The objects obtained, although with the same shape, are unique.

Reading the latest research in terms of 3D printing or SLS (Selected Laser Sintering), in which are used materials such as plastics, resins or metals to quickly obtain prototypes, to evolve the design of the Sun Cutter, Markus has decided to use the desert sand and natural sunlight, things which certainly are not missing in the Sahara desert, as inexhaustible sources for the creation of glass objects. The Solar Sinter was developed about a year ago and after two weeks of testing in Siwa – Egypt, the result was truly amazing and has opened the discussion on the potential use of this machine, future development simply by returning to the origins of the process, industrial if so it can be called.

The Solar Sinter, it shows not only how the sun and sand become an energy and raw material nearly limitless energy for the production of glass objects, but also it makes us look to the desert with new eyes, to imagine it as the ideal factory of a future not dominated by scarcity. With the prestigious prize of £10,000 allocated by the Arts Foundation in London, Markus was able to further develop his project The Solar Sinter Mk2, which he is finishing in the desert, this time Morocco, in these days. During the lastSalone del Mobile (Design Week), Markus was guest of the show held at Palazzo Clerici in Milan and organized by Domus, giving us the opportunity to interview him and find out a little more about the genesis of his project and future developments.

Alessandra Saviotti: How did you discover the potential of the desert?

Markus Kayser: I saw the potential of the desert for future manufacturing while i was in the desert with my first solar powered experiment – the Sun Cutter. I thought to myself ‘why am I bringing material to the desert when there is plenty of raw material all around me’. I was already using the energy but to combine the energy and the material on location and just have a ‘translator’ in-between turning these raw mediums into objects seemed to be logical.

Alessandra Saviotti: How did the project evolve?

Markus Kayser: The Arts Foundation fellowship helped me to produce a new machine as well as to undertake another research trip to the Moroccan desert, where i tried different sand and could achieve a better resolution in the objects. The layer thickness is thinner, which gives the objects a more precise appearance and quality.

Alessandra Saviotti: You talk about technology in an ideal relation with nature. Do you believe to have opened a new way in this sense?

Markus Kayser: I think in terms of manufacturing this project could start a new dialogue about not only the coexistence of technology and nature but to some extend their union. As stated before the Solar Sinter machine shall mark a starting point in this new dialogue and make people dream about this potential and hopefully gives an impulse to industry for new developments.

Zoe Romano: Isn’t it common for a product-design student to know about technology in the way in which you are using it? What is your background? Is there something hidden in your biography or is this do-it-yourself training?

Markus Kayser: My background is in furniture, lighting and product design, but I have always had a strong interest in understanding how things are done and where they come from. My technological knowledge is the result of self-training, but technology is everywhere. The design of the Solar Sinter is the first in which I faced a real technological challenge. Before I learned a lot about the mechanics working on the Solar Cutter, which essentially takes over the operation of pre-digital machinery. I learn the necessary skills talking to experts, searching in Internet but also going in the good old library. In the case of the Solar Sinter I consulted an experimental laser physicist and another who works within the photovoltaics. I also took advantage of all open-source knowledge found on the Internet, visiting also forums and watching videos in youtube. Even the old books are an excellent source to research forgotten ideas but hard to find in this era. Moreover I find that the most important research method is my direct experience – just by trying. Every step of my working process involves verification of my theories through experiment and the results are often unexpected even for the experts themselves.

Zoe Romano: Often the best innovations happen in interdisciplinarity,when did you start to experience it and what are its positive and negative aspects?

Markus Kayser: The work I do involves very different fields such as physics, mechanical engineering and computer science, and at the same time it takes you to explore hard environments such as deserts. On the web, you can access the content in various ways and you can almost do anything, and has become a fantastic learning tool, without attending an academic setting, and this is possible at all levels. Today people, just with an internet connection, can access an enormous amount of knowledge,  available for free. Of course, when the content is constantly expanding it becomes more difficult to find the right answer but I think the positive aspects have far more significance than the negative ones and has become an essential tool in all disciplines.

Zoe Romano: When and in which circumstances did you decide to start working on the Solar Sinter and Sun Cutter?

Markus Kayser: I started working on the Sun Cutter while attending a Master of Arts at the Royal College of Art in London. The experience I had in the Egyptian desert with the Sun Cutter made me understand the abundance of raw material and energy that can be found in the deserts of the world. So I knew I wanted to work on this positive message, which focused on this sort of union between technology and nature.

Zoe Romano: Some projects such as laser cutters and 3D  open-source printers work in a transparent way and receive important help from the community. Your projects have this type of opening or will in the future?

Markus Kayser: No, my project is not developed as an open-source platform, only the software I use is, as adapted to run on this type of machine. I think the project  Solar Sinter will provide inspiration to the industry because I do not think that everyone needs it to make its own glass tableware. My intent is to show the potential that I see, so that the industry will seize the idea and turn it into reality on a larger scale to create a special production of glass objects.

Zoe Romano: Which are your future plans on digital production?

Markus Kayser: The second Solar Sinter was sponsored by a large company, Kohler, who has already expressed interest in producing objects in a similar way. My interest has now shifted to experiment the process of “solar sintering” on an architectural scale. I’m imagining a quick way to build durable and livable shelters in desert regions.

Zoe Romano: Do you believe that contemporary innovation comes more from DIY experiments or research done in the industry?

Markus Kayser: I believe that innovation and the “new” comes from experimentation and sometimes do-it-yourself experiments lead to very interesting and unpredictable results. Referring to the industry in my work, I emphasize the need for a real change in manufacturing processes and the do-it-yourself experiments  can lead to an inspiring change in a larger scale. I do not think this is due to the fact that innovation is a “top-down” or “bottom-up” process but rather that everything is happening and the DIY movement is slowly moving the industry toward that direction. It’s exciting that there are so many people interested in the future of manufacturing and involved in trying to pursue new replies.

http://www.markuskayser.com

Where does all the clothing go? – Insights from academic research, but without the jargon

Everything must go exhibition

This post was written by Pamela Ravasio and orginally posted on Shirahime

From Friday 20 to Sunday 22nd of January 2012 the ‘Everything must go‘ exhibition in the South Bank’s Oxo Wharf (London, UK) opened its doors to the public.
The event was in many ways special: Not only aimed at bringing interested non-academics and academics together, but its principle aim was to convey to the general public academic research results around recycling commodity chains (from the ‘Waste of the World’ and ‘Worn Clothing‘ project) acquired over the course of 5 full years. The mentioned two projects have 2 major focus areas: Clothing Recycling and the recycling (scavenging) of ships in dedicated shipyards. While the facts and stories about ship recycling impressed through the strength and rawness of their on-site report, it was the how ingeniously literally everything gets a new lease of life left in developing country that made a a lasting impression on me.

This all said, it was the results related to clothing recycling that were the most detailed, and made most accessible to the public through written information, artefacts, and over the course of a day of presentations and panel discussions with seasoned experts. The exhibition was well curated, and stroke overall a good balance between exhibition artefacts, hands on experiences (e.g. upcycling clothes), explanations of processes central to the clothing and rag recycling industry, and finally short documentaries that gave as a good a ‘first hand’ insight as can be expected from a film as opposed to actually being on-site.
(Note: Make sure to check out ‘Unravel’, a documentary about women working as cutters in Panipat.)

The amount of insights offered was staggering, and it is difficult to summarise them in just a few lines. However, the points that were repeatedly made across the entire exhibitions as well as the presentations and discussions are the following:

  • Clothing recycling – or any recycling for that matter – has in first instance little to do with either environmental protection or charity. It is through and through a commercial business – even for the charities and clothing banks involved – that while complicated, can reap substantial benefits. Few consumers in the West are aware that there is a whole industry that not only depends, but indeed banks on their overconsumption.
  • The ‘fast fashion’ phenomenon has impacted substantially on the quality of clothing donated (which in any case amounts to only about 50% of all garments discarded, the remainder going to landfill as consumers do not separate from general waste), and hence of what can be created from it. In numbers:
    – In 2006, the average life span of a garment (in London, UK) was of 3 years. However, Primark Oxford street did not open until 2007 …
    – When in 2008 about 80% of all donated clothing could be reused in one way or another – either as second hand clothing through charity shops, or through sales to rag sorters -, in 2011 this percentage had fallen to an estimated 60 – 70%.
    – In the same period, the amount of clothing donated has decreased by about 20% (estimates say however, this is NOT the case for the total amount of clothing discarded).
  • There is no such thing as ‘waste’ in the sense of ‘it’s thrown out and will disappear’. Certainly in developing countries, everything has a use and will, if necessary, be transformed to serve a new purpose. There is therefore a direct correlation between the lack of resources and the degree of innovation and inventiveness.
  • Recycling work, not the least in textiles, is often dirty and potentially dangerous work, wherever this occurs in the world. And it should indeed be recognised as such.
  • Design, certainly in the ‘developed’ hemisphere of the world,has so far spent very little thought about what happens with a product – a garment in this case – once it has been retired from its initial use. While this has historically not always been the case – there is many an example how objects were created to serve varying purposes during their life span – the consumption economy has made ‘waste’ an acceptable by-product. But unless the different live stages of an object are considered right from the beginning in the design stage, its later-in-life usefulness remains a challenge.
  • Looking at the bigger picture, the talks, in combination with the exhibits, managed to draw a well understandable and memorable sketch of the mechanisms of the global clothing recycling industry. For instance:

  • Only 15% to 20% of the clothing donated is suitable for resale in a charity shop.
  • The remainder is sorted initially in the UK and then (in all but a few cases) shipped abroad for further processing. What happens in the UK is where the most money can be made of initially, among which is the sales of clothing bales to countries such as Mozambique or Senegal.
  • 20% of clothing is shipped to India for further processing, composed of 12% sweaters that are sold to the shoddy industry (for recycling & re-manufacturing), 5% jeans and 3% cloth.
  • Panipat in India is the world’s largest production centre (300 mills, importing some 100’000 tons of worn jumpers, coats and suits annually) for shoddy yarns, and through that equally one of the worlds largest suppliers of (cheap) emergency wool blankets for international cooperation agencies.
  • Panipat produced in 2007-8, the local industry produced 43 million kgs of shoddy yarn, 18 million blankets (wool as well as shoddy), and 33 million meters of shoddy fabric. The industry employs 30’000 men in spinning unit (no women, as it is fairly dangerous and physical work), 20’000 weavers (again, men only), 6-7’000 men in raising and finishing units, plus thousands of women cutters (i.e. rag sorters, slashers) and workers in secondary industries.
  • The first port of call for all clothing shipments to India is usually a special economic zone in Gujarat, where clothes are sorted once again according to their subsequent use. Garments that are in wearable state will be slashed (as India prohibits imports of second hand clothing good enough to be worn), baled, and then trucked to the next processing units.
  • Second-hand clothing is widely available and worn in countries where the local industry either does not produce clothes at a price point affordable to the average person, or where their is no local apparel/fabrics industry … or where at some point of time either the locally produced stuff was not of good quality, or else design-wise out dated.
  • Everything must go exhibition

    The exhibition proved overall that no matter of how we look at it, we know very little of what is really happening to clothing (and other products) once they’ve expired from their first life. The value chains from that point onwards are however not negligible at all, and are a source of income – sometimes even fortune – of a large number of people. But, as it happens with most industries that rely on making a profit from low product margins, the majority of recycling industries have moved further East where salaries are cheaper, workers desperate to have work, and legal regulations not quite as stringent as in Europe or the US.

    The industry would in fact not be able to survive otherwise. Which leads to the conclusion that much of our European recycling streams, and hence waste management concepts, entirely depend on overseas processing units. If it were not for these, we’d be swallowed already by the amounts of waste we produce ourselves.