We were proud to once again co-chair CodeFreeze with the University of Minnesota’s Software Engineering Center. This year’s theme was Disruptive Innovation.
With that theme in mind Ray Arell, Intel’s Director of Emergent Systems and Coaching, began the morning’s discussion with his talk Accelerating from Opportunities to High Value Solutions. Ray believes companies have “fallen trap to the misuse of the word [innovation… where the] focus is more on the word than addressing the need – enabling the inventor, intrapreneur, and entrepreneur.” When someones comes to a manager asking for money for funding, don’t say “Well, I’ll put a review board together” – just give him the money. The company will end up spending more money on the time it takes to assemble and review than it would to just give the innovator the money. He also emphasized the importance of collaborative environments over cubicles to foster innovation and a communal “safe to fail” milieu. It’s not the people who need to be programmed to innovate, it’s the culture.
Next up was Larry Lukis, founder of Hex Music, Laser Master, ProtoLabs, and recently Digi Labs, and his talk Disruption? Or Just Innovation. He looked at Clayton Christensen’s definition of Disruptive Innovation and applied his personal entrepreneurial experience to find which of his ideas was truly disruptive innovation. He started with Hex Music and Laser Master, and on reflection, found that both were, while innovative, at a high place in the market. They were trying to out innovate much larger market presences. In the case of Hex Music – Yamaha, in Laser Master’s case – HP. While you can stay on the cutting edge of technology, it won’t take long for those bigger competitors to catch up, and do it for cheaper because of their manufacturing prowess. In Christensen’s words, “The theory [of Disruptive Innovation] says very little about how to win in the foothold market, other than to play the odds and avoid head-on competition with better-resourced incumbents.” With the (semi-)failures of Hex Music and Laser Master, Larry discovered where he could thrive – in a market area where the larger presences don’t really care you’re there, because they don’t really want that business. For ProtoLabs this was simple injection mold parts on low quantity orders. Their solgan: “Simple parts, fast.” With that business model Lukis was able to build a successful small company that never stops innovating for the market they own, which in their case means going from injection molding to CNC machining to 3D printing. Lukis: “By focusing exclusively on what we can do well, we are always better than the competition for anything we can quote.”
Robert Gallup and Maker Beans
The final main-room talk of the day was Robert Gallup, founder of XOBXOB, his talk Making Innovation and Disruption and the maker party of the Lightblue Beans everyone was given at the start of the day. Gallup spoke of the Maker Revolution and what makes a maker, while interspersedly talking about the Beans the pre-written sketches that could be uploaded to the Beans. Gallup found the virtues of a maker to be curiosity, fearlessness, creativity, collaboration, independence, versatility, and tenacity. The Beans while being simple to use are made up of: a mircocontroller that runs firmware, and senses and controls voltages; a temperature sensor and 3-axis accelerometer; a Bluetooth Smart module for connecting with other devices; an RBG LED light; external connection points for power, sensing, and control; and a prototyping area for adding additional components. The Bean connects to a mobile device with bluetooth, and downloads sketches written in C/C++. “The Bean supports easy connection to a universe of sensors and other devices like displays, motors, GPS modules, and buzzers” giving the maker in you the limitless potential of DIY possibilities.
One of the day’s breakouts included a session with Michael McAlpine and his talk 3-D printed Bionic Nanomaterials. We highly recommend checking out his slides and work. His talk covered how “the development of methods for interfacing high performance functional devices with biology could impact regenerative medicine, smart prosthetics, medical robotics, and human-machine interfaces. Indeed, the ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological and functional materials could enable the creation of bionic devices possessing unique geometries, properties, and functionalities. Yet, most high quality functional materials are two dimensional, hard and brittle, and require high crystallization temperatures for maximally efficient performance. These properties render the corresponding devices incompatible with biology, which is three-dimensional, soft, stretchable, and temperature sensitive. Via custom-designed 3D printing approaches, we solve these dichotomies by: 1) using 3D printing and scanning for customized, hierarchical, and interwoven device architectures; 2) employing nanotechnology as an enabling route for overcoming mechanical discrepancies while retaining high performance; and 3) 3D printing a range of soft and nanoscale materials to enable the integration of a diverse palette of high quality functional nanomaterials with biology. 3D printing is a multi-scale platform, allowing for the incorporation of functional nanoscale inks, the printing of microscale features, and ultimately the creation of macroscale devices. This blending of 3D printing, novel nanomaterial properties, and ‘living’ platforms may enable next-generation 3D printed bionic nanodevices.”