Monday, February 18, 2013

Shortening the cycle of invention to innovation

3D printed lunar building

Cambridge professor Carlota Perez describes her concepts of the "Techno-Economic Paradigm Shifts" in her book "Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital" - five historical cycles of invention and innovation over the last 250 years or so. From the Industrial Revolution to today's Age of Information and Telecommunications, she talks about a repeating pattern - inventions appearing, a frenzy of excitement, struggle with standards and definition of appropriate applications. Then over 20-30 years these inventions are incorporated into the global socio-cultural fabric. Then the pattern repeats.

I found a recent example of this particularly inspiring. It also provides a stark indicator of the rate and pace at which these cycles are accelerating. 

Fosters and Partners, the London-based architectural firm behind Wembley Stadium, announced on Feb. 1 designs for a building on the moon to be constructed by robotically-operated 3D printers using lunar soil.

These real-time fabrication devices have come a long way since they were first developed in 1984. And amazing how quickly this has gone from specialized corporate industrial applications to being exploited by the Maker movement to being mentioned by the President in his State of the Union address. 

What an exciting advancement - 3D printing in an extra-terrestrial setting. First the moon, then Mars, perhaps on an asteroid. 

I am always on the lookout for the next shortened cycle of invention to innovation. Please share ones that you have seen!

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