Documenting the Coming Singularity

Monday, April 23, 2012

Industrial Revolution Number Three

Economist - 4.21.12

OUTSIDE THE SPRAWLING Frankfurt Messe, home of innumerable German trade fairs, stands the “Hammering Man”, a 21-metre kinetic statue that steadily raises and lowers its arm to bash a piece of metal with a hammer. Jonathan Borofsky, the artist who built it, says it is a celebration of the worker using his mind and hands to create the world we live in. That is a familiar story. But now the tools are changing in a number of remarkable ways that will transform the future of manufacturing.

One of those big trade fairs held in Frankfurt is EuroMold, which shows machines for making prototypes of products, the tools needed to put those things into production and all manner of other manufacturing kit. Old-school engineers worked with lathes, drills, stamping presses and moulding machines. These still exist, but EuroMold exhibits no oily machinery tended by men in overalls. Hall after hall is full of squeaky-clean American, Asian and European machine tools, all highly automated. Most of their operators, men and women, sit in front of computer screens. Nowhere will you find a hammer.

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