With the explosive growth in the future of hardware over the last few years, I’m often asked whether we’re in a bubble; is this revolution sustainable? In the following series, I’ll delve into why I believe we’re still just at the beginning, and there are great things yet to come. We’ll continue to see innovation that impacts our daily lives. As I like to say, it’s an exciting time to be alive!
Over the last five years, we’ve seen tremendous growth of new hardware companies, such as nest, Makerbot, Pebble, and Formlabs. I thought it would be interesting to step back and look at the new sets of tools that are being created by equally innovative companies to continue to power the Hardware Revolution.
Here are some of my favorites:
In the consumer electronic manufacturing world, things have evolved more slowly, but are picking up steam. When I started working with factories over 15 years ago, the assembly process was largely manual – with rows of workers sitting alongside an assembly belt performing basic soldering, assembly and screwing operations. With the rising cost of labor and increased pressure on margins, over the last few years we’ve seen the more innovative factories incorporate basic automation into their workflow. This started with “robots” that could complete basic, well defined tasks, such as pressing a pulley onto a motor shaft. From there, the next step was more complicated, multi-step assembly operations that could find, pick, place and assemble gearboxes.
On my last trip to China in November, the factories had advanced to building through-hole soldering robots. I anticipate this automation will continue, and potentially get to the point where the factory is lights-out with rows of Rethink’s Baxter doing the “manual” work. This starts to get very exciting, especially if we can create lines that can efficiently handle high mix, low volume (say 1k – 5k units), which is the typical volume from crowdfunding campaigns. There is a huge opportunity for the Tier 1 CM’s to leverage their resources and build early relationships with the next wave of disruptive companies who will fundamentally change the world we live in.
To continue reading the series, check out The Future of Hardware Part 2: The Trends here.
Have anything to add to the above list of tools? Reply to me in the comments section or send us a note at Dragon@DragonInnovation.com. We want to hear from you!