How digital manufacturing is breaking barriers to participation. 

The manufacturing industry can be traced back to as early as the 1780s when automated flour mills were built. Over the last few decades, the industry has evolved enormously and is now having its big ‘web moment’ where data and technology are becoming integrated with the manufacturing process. We have also seen the arrival of the Internet of Production, which is bringing together product developers, engineers, designers and manufacturers in a single online platform to collaborate, design, prototype and produce their ideas. 

As a country and industry development, the role of manufacturing in the economy changes; today’s advanced economies value innovation, productivity, and trade over growth and employment. Both business leaders and policymakers need to adjust to the changing industrial environment, and those within the manufacturing sector will need to implement a connected infrastructure that enables free circulation and globalizes innovation to allow for the local production of physical products. 

Global manufacturers will have significant new opportunities as a new universal consuming group arises in developing countries and innovations ignite more demand— but in a far more unpredictable climate. Economically developed countries will solve their problems with existing models, but the emergent nations with weak health systems must be equipped and empowered with low-cost, safe and scalable solutions to respond and build resilience against the threat that affects us all. A global community facing a global crisis, with a global technological infrastructure at its disposal, must, and can, transcend these borders. 

And we are now finally aware of our fragile dependencies and recognize the physical necessity lived by millions every single day. With the rise of collaboration and the open source upsurge, we have seen a global community of untapped talent come to the fore to solve real problems collaboratively and with purpose. An example of this is Dronecoria. Dronecoria are developing a technology that allows for industrial-scale reforestation, with the potential to sow a combination of millions of trees and herbaceous plants for carbon fixation. 

The company is using Wikifactory, an online platform for collaboratively designing and manufacturing physical products in both an IP-protected and Open Source manner, to build drones which will enable large-scale, low-cost environmental restorations through sowing and seed enhancement. Dronecoria uses Wikifactory’s CAD Rooms, which give individuals a real-time environment that makes collaboration around 3D files streamlined in one place. Allowing unlimited collaborators the ability to view over thirty 3D file formats by simply sharing an invite link that opens a web page, no matter where you are in the world, Wikifactory enables anyone to use Dronecoria’s designs to help restore their own communities. 

Traditional methods of reforestation are costly, time-consuming, labor intensive, and cannot be applied at the scale needed to help reverse damage to the climate. Therefore, Dronecoria are developing open source biotechnological tools and knowledge to increase the efficiency of restoration projects, and their drones lower the cost of reforestation by 10 times compared to traditional methods. Reducing the time it takes, covering 10 hectares of land per hour. By sharing their technology via open source licensing, Dronecoria is empowering and enabling organizations and individuals around the world, in countries such as Brazil, Spain, and Turkey, to form a new economy of ecological restoration. 

Dronecoria encourages individuals to get involved in helping to combat the consequences of climate change in their local communities by enabling large-scale, low-cost environmental restorations through their collaborative and open technological designs. A task that would otherwise be left up to large corporations and the government. This highlights just how powerful and effective tech diplomacy and digitization is as vehicles for innovation and advancement. 

For both developing and developed nations, the digital economy offers tremendous prospects. When looking at manufacturing, digitization provides a clear pathway to rising incomes and living standards. Communities that otherwise would not have access to technologies that give individuals the power and opportunity to help restore their own environments are now breaking through the barriers to participation by the digitization of the manufacturing industry. 

Digitization promotes economic growth, social cohesion, and more efficient resource usage. It also speeds up development and in the case of Dronecoria, environmental restoration. However, due to financial constraints, many nations find it difficult to invest in innovation and digital technologies. This is why platforms such as Wikifactory are so important in helping democratize manufacturing and boost participation in innovative initiatives. By investing in digital education, services, and infrastructure, there will be a significant increase in climate change resilience, and the accomplishment of numerous UN Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved. 

Without these technological advancements made in modern manufacturing and platforms such as Wikifactory, it would not be easy to remove barriers to participation, foster innovation and create opportunities in product design and manufacturing. By digitizing manufacturing, great ideas have a better chance of becoming a reality and can make a bigger positive impact on our world. Dronecoria is a perfect example of this. 

Joel Tortolero

CEO of Wikifactory

Rise of the machines.

Ahsan Zafeer • 26th November 2022

Ahsan Zafeer covers topics related to tech and digital marketing and tweets @AhsanZafeer. Here he explains people’s fears as to why machines are taking over their jobs.