Thursday, September 25, 2014

Creatives of a Feather Flock Together

San Fransisco de Assisi Mission Church by George O'Keeffe
When we were visiting Taos, New Mexico last month, we delighted in the quantity, quality and diversity of art in the galleries and museums. From 1898 on, artists have been attracted to the Taos valley by the beautiful landscape and the intense desert light.

They were also attracted to Taos by each other. By 1915, six artists had formed the Taos Society of Artists and Mabel Dodge Luhan was soon attracting other writers and artists to her Taos salon meetings. Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings often featured scenes from the Taos area.

Thoughout history, creative people have gathered into communities to learn from each other and encourage each other.  Think of these examples:
  • Athens in the 5th century BC
  • Northern Italy in the 14th and 15th centuries
  • Vienna in the 18th century
  • Paris in the 19th century
  • Silicon Valley in the 20th and 21st centuries
These creative communities were based upon geography, but today we can easily share ideas worldwide using the Internet and social media.

How do you participate in your creative community?

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Apple NFC and Thin Film Electronics

Printed Memory from Thin Film Electronics
Printed Memory from Thin Film Electronics
The new Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the first Apple devices to include a near field communications antenna. Apple's initial focus with the NFC capability will be their innovative new payments system. Going forward, NFC in the iPhone may be a big boost to a small Norwegian company named Thin Film Electronics.

Thin Film Electronics ASA is the only public company focused solely on printed electronics. Using a proprietary roll-to-roll process, the company uses gravure and screen printing technologies to print electronic components, including thin film transistors for logic, onto an expensive PET plastic. In May, they demonstrated an NFC enabled smart label for monitoring the temperature history of a package.

NFC has been available in Android devices for a couple of years, but without Apple, consumer applications for the technology have been severely hampered. With both Apple and Google on board, soon almost everyone will be carrying an NFC enabled device. This opens the door to much greater use of smart packaging which Thin Film Electronics is uniquely positioned to supply.

Smart packaging can be used to prevent counterfeiting, track storage conditions, or provide more detailed product information than will fit on the package. This kind of information can greatly improve the safety of perishable foods and pharmaceuticals.




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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Long Tail of the Social Stationery Market

Personalized Triple Thick Stationery from Minnie & Emma Correspondence
Personalized Triple Thick Stationery from Minnie & Emma
When I first encountered Chris Anderson's The Long Tail in 2006, I told my work associates that it was the most important business book that I had read in a decade. Anderson predicted that the nearly unlimited product choices available in online media services like iTunes and Rhapsody would not only transform the music industry, but also impact the future of all businesses.

Rhapsody was eclipsed by Pandora which is suffering at the hands of Spotify, but the basic premise was completely accurate. Today, no matter what you want, someone makes it, Google will find it for you and Amazon will get it to you in two days with free shipping.

It has taken longer for the Long Tail effect to impact the social stationery market. Just a few years ago, when people wanted to send out a card or write a quick note, they would pick up something from a Hallmark store, a discount store or an office supply store. You had to live with the limited number of designs those outlets carried.

HP Indigo Presses are used for on-demand printing at Black River Imaging
Today you can match your card and notepad to your personality and even your mood. Hundreds of specialty boutiques, online stationers, even Etsy shops supply unique and personalized stationery and gifts. These companies are able to provide such a wide variety of choice because of the on-demand printing capability of the digital press.

Before the digital press, the only way to reduce the unit cost of a printed item, was to increase the number units printed. To launch a new stationery brand required a gigantic investment in inventory along with storage space and a distribution network to move the items to the retailers. To keep these expenses manageable, companies limited the number of different designs to those that had the most general appeal. Most social stationery companies still operate that way.

The New Dime Store in Brookside, Missouri
The New Dime Store offers unique stationery by Ann Page
On-demand printing allows a stationery brand to launch without any investment in inventory. They can focus on design and sales without printing anything beyond a few samples.  When the orders begin to arrive, they print exactly what is needed and send it to the store or the final customer. Without worries about inventory build up, they can offer a greater number of standard designs and customize designs to fit the regional tastes or the preferences of a particular store.

Minnie & Emma Correspondence is a perfectly example of this new trend. Created by a group of New York City designers who love smart design and clever execution, they offer luxury stationery and gifts that allow "you to communicate in a simple and tasteful way." They encourage their customers to "push the envelope and work with our designers to create something unique."

Thank you card by Minnie & Emma Correspondence
Thank you card by Minnie & Emma Correspondence
What personalized items have you ordered lately?

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning About 3D Printing

Robo 3D Printer
Robo 3D Printer
3D printing, or more precisely, additive manufacturing, is one of my favorite areas of research. I believe the technology fits perfectly with the long term trends of more personalized products and shorter manufacturing runs. Here are some of the best sources for 3D printing information and news:



 

The Basics


How to 3D Print - Beginners Guide via 3D Printer Plans

3D Printers For Sale - A guide to consumer level 3D printers that is maintained by 3D Printer Plans


3D Printer News and Blogs


3DPrint.com

3DPrintingIndustry.com

3DPrinterPlans.info/blog/

Tctmagazine.com

Shapeways.com/blog


Investment Opportunities


These are publicly traded companies that manufacture 3D printers:

Stratasys

3D Systems Corp

Arcam AB

ExOne

Voxeljet AG

Organova Holdings


 3D Printing Services


Shapeways

Sculpteo

i.materialise

Cubify

Red Eye


I feel this information is important enough that I have included it as a new page on this blog to keep it more easily accessible.

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