This Mass Customization Monday has been crafted for you by the Twikit team in order to bring you the most relevant mass custom news.


Santoni Colors-To-Order colors for customization.


Venerable Italian shoe brand Santoni is offering a Colours-to-Order program where customers can select colors and color combinations to customize their shoes. The shoes are hand dyed and will take between four to six weeks to be made. The company is doing a trunk show with drinks and snacks at high end department stores to promote the program.

Shoe brands such as Santoni make a lot of their product manually and to implement customization options such as these is relatively simple for them. The Colors-To-Order program sounds a lot like NikeId and miadidas. Santoni also has a Fatto a Mano su Misura option whereby a shoe is customized specifically to the users wishes. There a customer can get a handmade shoe which can be completely individual. During that process the “foot measurement, selection of the shape, of the hides, and of every single detail. Every aspect of the shoe is adjustable ad libitum to the client’s request. From the lasting to the coloring, the construction of a custom shoe can take over two months.” Fatto a Mano su Misura is clearly a much more exclusive program and requires a lot more effort from the customer and the company. Could Colours-to-Order be more of a marketing directed effort to create a little sales magic and promote the brand? Or is it a “gateway drug” to take customers from regular Santoni shoes and put them on a path to individualized shoes?


DuPont planning on entering the 3D printing market

Chemical company DuPont Performance Materials is to enter the 3D printing materials market with its Hytrel, Zytel and Surlyn materials. This will see DuPont offering its polyamides nylons and TPE (TPU) plastics to the market in the form of filament. 3D printing filament is used in the majority of desktop 3D printers. These printers use Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) to lay down and build up that filament in layers. FDM was invented by 3D printing company Stratasys who in addition to desktop 3D printers also sells industrial 3D printers.

DuPont is a bit of a late entrant to 3D Printing although the company did partner with filament vendor Taulman a few years ago to test the waters. Eastman has partnered with Helian Polymers to form ColorFabb a leading 3D printing filament vendor a few years ago. Mitsubishi Chemical entered the market with its own Verbatim brand of filament a few years ago. Natureworks is already the main supplier of much of the PLA 3D printing material on offer today. PLA is a bioplastic made from corn and the predominant material on desktop 3D printers used in the home. Sabic has been a materials supplier to Stratasys for many years. In another 3D printing technology, Selective Laser Sintering (also called powder bed fusion, Laser Sintering, LS and SLS) Evonik is the main supplier of materials with Arkema, Solvay and Lehmann and Voss as new entrants. DSM has been making materials for another technology called Stereolithography (SL, SLA) for decades through its DSM Somos unit and has brought a filament on the market through Nexeo. BASF is setting up a research department for 3D printing and Covestro is to enter the market as well. Even though the volumes in the 3D printing market are very low by the standards of these polymers and chemicals companies many are expending considerable effort to develop polymers and other materials for this market. Margins on the materials are very high (500%-5000%) and the growth of the 3D printing materials market is robust (35% CAGR). These indicators as well as the many new applications for 3D printing being commercialized by industry are the main reasons why many large companies are entering the materials market. If competition between them lead to much lower prices than the 3D printing market could exhibit much additional growth as all 3D printed parts become cheaper. If we take a vase like 3D printed object then only in materials cost this vase could cost approximately $8 to $150 (depending on the technology, the material and how it is printed). Any lowering of this cost would let desktop users experiment and make more things while letting industrial users commercialize more business cases. Main trends in the 3D printing market point to some companies industrializing their own materials, processes and machines internally in 3D printing for manufacturing applications. In aerospace and medical more FAA and FDA approvals for materials, processes and applications are being sought by manufacturers especially in commercial aviation and orthopedics. More industrial groups, especially automobile manufacturers, are looking at part production through 3D printing. These companies like working with the materials that they are used to working with. PLA and other materials are far too exotic for them. They like using the polyamides (PA, Nylon) that they use for other applications for example. All in all we’re seeing serious market entry from many industrial groups into 3D printing and this could have widely felt ramifications to the 3D printing industry. This in turn will make mass customization processes in orthopedics, automotive and things such as fashion and footware more affordably and likely to happen. 3D Printing is an ideal technology to produce low volume and unique items so this should be good news for mass customization as well.

The Digital Companion may be a bit creepy if they explain it like this

We’ve spoken before about the Digital Companion, a digital copy of a good, service or process that is updated with all the relevant information through sensors. Digital Companions can be seen as dynamic records that reflect any and all relevant information which can then be accessed worldwide. The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence and Hitachi have been doing work on creating Digital Companion technology (as have many large industrial groups). “If you look at ‘batch size: one’ production, it means individuality in the future. It also means the processes for configuring and maintaining things will change, and this requires a new way of educating: One, it is insight [into issues that require machine learning uncovers best], and two, it is maybe also some companion who is taking over some roles and completive aspects.”

The Digital Companion is a required building block for a mass customized world. When machine learning, IoT, mass customization, big data and essentially much of the future collide with manufacturing a digital companion will have to be a requirement. Not known much outside manufacturing circles, the Digital Companion is considered a fait accompli by many in high tech manufacturing. While the concept does not yet have traction outside manufacturing circles or is the buzzword of the year in boardrooms many consider the need for the Digital Companion to exist to be so straightforward that PLM software companies, authoring software companies and computing firms as well as large industrials are going about implementing these technologies. The technology does have to be normalized however and gain much broader acceptance. As we’ve seen with 3D printing and mass customization popular attention directed at a well codified and easily explained concept is what moves the needle on implementing a technology globally. With mass customization there was much academic writing for decades without any real implementations. Only when a well codified version of mass customization was presented in boardrooms and in the media did the idea gain broader traction. 3D printing was a number of technologies all with different names and the 3D printing industry had been around for 30 years before anyone had heard about it. The industry was discovered by the media around 2008 and codified and popularized by them because it was an easily understood concept that was relevant to consumers. For the Digital Companion and other Digital Twin concepts to gain broader acceptance a similar process will have to occur.

“Hitachi’s work looked at humans working on assembly lines. They were outfitted with eye trackers that measure visual attention and sensors on their arms that measure muscle contractions. “With this combination of body attention and visual attention, you can really control what’s going on, and the companion can on one hand monitor what you are doing and measure maybe your work load or cognitive load and on the other hand maybe control whether you are doing the right things,” Dengel said.The technology should help with the worldwide skilled labor problem in manufacturing, Ikeda said.”

If Digital Companion and Digital Twin like technologies are explained like the above however they begin to sound very creepy. Rather than a digital record that is updated all the time with all the information to make your products better it sounds more like an attempt to plug people into the Matrix. Machines and systems controlling if we’re doing the right things and measuring our cognitive load sounds rather terrifying. Tying the main benefit of this technology to reducing the need for skilled labor through machines is also not the most positive thing they could be doing here. If companies are serious about making these technologies commonplace then they will have to find other ways to explain it. Amplifying doctors in surgery for example to reduce medical mistakes or making sure that your medicines are perfectly customized for you would be better examples of the same technological implementation.

Mass Customized New York Times

Websites have been customized for a number of years now. Tracking cookies, preferences, conversion analysis and dynamic websites have lead to personalized ecommerce and content sites. This individual experience makes sites more sticky and increases conversion.

The New York Times digital is going the mass customization route as well:

"For example, a story could be moved out of the lead position for a reader who has already seen it, or it could be kept in the lead longer for those who come to the site infrequently. Fans of particular subjects might see more of that content visible on their mobile device or home page."
"But these are small lab tests compared with the plans editors have for a next-generation New York Times, one that shifts from monolithic to something more bespoke."
"No matter what personalized features are developed, it will not change a reader’s access to all of The Times’s content — the stories, videos, photos, graphics and columnists. What will change is how visible those elements are."

The goal, in other words, is to surface subjects tailored to individual readers without depriving them of that sense of a shared experience. Or without readers feeling they aren’t receiving the same hierarchy of news values that they once did and that everyone else is.”

For major news publications mass customization of information presents them with tantalizing new horizons. But, the Times is a ‘paper of record’ meant to identify and record the significant events of the day. By strengthening individual filter bubbles they could diminish this. The news used to be limited to few outlets and collectively we were presented with a unified truth of the day. Now this has fragmented and there is less collective agreement on what is important. People are becoming more isolated in their filter bubbles and there is less common ground as opinions solidify This has many implications for democracy and society. Will further mass customized news exacerbate this? Interestingly, with digital printing the Times could also mass customize the physical version of the newspaper offering people different layouts and content. Is that a bold new direction for news or will that isolate us all even more?