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Lass’ Law is knocking at the door

A pretty “old” advertisement of a consumer grade 3D printer. fit for use by kids. The image goes back to 2012. Now we are starting to see signs of a revolution in the making , driven by Lass’ Law. Image Credit: Stuff Review

Our economy has grown and has been transformed by 60 years of Moore’s Law, bringing electronics in any path of life. Moore’s Law has now reached its endpoint (although progress in computation capabilities are still continuing, not a the previous pace and, most importantly, not with the cost decrease we have experienced in the last decades) but a new Law is knocking at the door of our economy and our society, promising to be as disruptive as Moore’s: Lass’ Law.

Sherry Lassiter, known as Lass, is the head of the Fab Foundation. A Fab, a Fab Lab, is a room full of computers managing tools that can manufacture objects, including 3D printers and laser cutters. The first Fab Lab was created back in 2003 at MIT Center’s for Bits and Atoms by Neil Gershenfeld and in 2009 he set up the Fab Foundation. There “Lass” noticed that the number of “tools” for manufacturing doubled every year and by 2016 there were over 1,000 Fab Labs around the world.

Looking for more info on Lass’ law and the future of Fab Labs? Get Neil Gershenfeld new book “Designing Reality”. Image Credit – Book Cover, Neil Gershenfeld

If Lass’ Law will remain valid in the next ten years by 2030 there will be over 10 million fab labs, and clearly they will no longer be confined within research labs: there are simply not enough research labs around the world to host them. By that time Fabs will have percolated in small industries, retail stores and some will have found a place in consumers’ homes. Give it 10 more years and 150 millions homes will have a fab lab as part of their furniture.

At the same time the whole value chain of manufacturing will be transformed bringing Industry 4.0 into Industry 5.0. Consumers will no longer buy products but products’ specs and them will manufacture them at home. Of course one can imagine that a new slate of businesses will be there, providing support to customisation. Possibly some of these business will sell “intelligence” to make customisation decision possible at home.

The convergence of Artificial Intelligence with massively distributed / on site manufacturing is going to change the economy, the value chains and the players in manufacturing.

In twenty years time it will be difficult to find a product that is not a melange of atoms and bits. Many products will be aware of their “use” and will be able to reconfigure themselves to the point of creating their own offsprings (thanks to the availability of fab labs). The mixing of AI with fab labs and the self generation of offsprings will result in products evolution with an increasing symbiotic leverage of what is in the product’s ambient.

Welcome to Industry 5.0, an Industry having people as player and product component!


About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.