Make Mine Special: Sales of custom solutions may be
flattening out after years of rapid
Over the past few years, engineers have increasingly shunned standard, one-size-fits-all systems in favor of custom solutions, says Dr. Eberhard Veit, director of product and technology management at Festo, the German-based pneumatics giant. Speaking at a press conference in December at its headquarters in Essenlingen, Germany, Veit pointed out that the volume of custom solutions (as a percent of total sales) nearly doubled (from 46 to 65 percent) in just the past seven years. He defines a custom system as one that is based on standard components assembled together in a modular fashion to create a unique solution. With the number of individual types of valves, actuators, drives, terminals, and other components that Festo offers now surpassing some 15,000 in total, Veit says the number of ways that these components can be combined together to make a complete system is practically endless. "Engineers now have more choices than ever at their disposal, which can be daunting in its own right," he says. He adds that Festo has made the design process a bit easier for engineers by intentionally designing many of its components to be modular and therefore more easily mixed and matched into a system design. Will the trend continue? Veit sees a leveling off now in the growth of custom solutions, contending that "There is a practical upper limit, and we are probably getting close to that limit today."
There is currently much discussion around the term "platform," which may be preceded by the adjectives "mobile," "wearable," "medical," "healthcare," etc. However, regardless of the platform being discussed, they usually have one key aspect in common: They tend to be wireless. So, why is this one aspect so fairly universal? The answer is convenience.
Everyone has a MEMS story. For most of us it’s probably the airbag that saved our lives or the life of a loved one. Perhaps it’s the tire pressure sensor that alerted us about deflation before we were stranded alone on a dark muddy road.
Bioimimicry is not merely a helpful design tool -- it also encourages designers to think not only about how to solve design problems by imitating nature, but how to make the products, materials, and systems they design more ecologically sound and nature-friendly.
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