Better Factory KTE knowledge transfer experiments

This spring, we started to heavily collaborate with nine interesting new experiments from the Better Factory project.
In each experiment, which we call Knowledge-Transfer Experiments (KTE). There is a team of a manufacturing company, an artist, and a technology supplier. This team is being supported and mentored by a technology, business, and art mentor. This way, we can actively contribute to the experiments.

In this news article, we would like to introduce the 9 new candidates. Over the past months, the physical kick-offs took place and as In4Art, we had the honor to visit the premises of the Marco Fellugo Winery in Italy and the Tapi Shoe factory in Poland.  For each KTE, you can see the main ambition of the project. If your want to know more, click on it and you can read our short story on this KTE so far. At the end of the project, we will make a PESETABS analysis of all the experiments. From the first round where we had 7 experiments, we identified 16 PESETEBAS outcomes. We will share those in dedicated ways of seeing articles.

  • OCCE – The 100% Recyclable Office Chair
    Reimagining the traditional office chair with a focus on 100% recyclability, reduced emissions, and minimised production costs.

The Office Chair for a Circular Economy (OCCE) project takes place inside a well-known manufacturer of office chairs from Romania. The market for office chairs is a huge market, totalling over €100 billion annually, but it is also a highly unsustainable market. Trends led to a practice of fast furniture throughout, where introducing new designs almost on a seasonal basis overthrew the logic of building to last. Moreover, due to the high amount of materials combined in a single chair, over 80% of the resources of every office chair are lost after end of life. This calls for a rethinking.

This KTE project will focus on rethinking an existing office chair through the principles of circularity, replacing non-recycle with recyclable parts, lowering the variety of materials used and ways in which they are connected, and developing a process for circular assembly, disassembly and reassembly.

To realize this, the OCCE project will use a set of technological interventions in the manufacturing process in order to retrieve data from the current process through a mix of own technologies from the technology supplier and APPS from the Better Factory catalogue.

The artist will take the existing chair and explore how the chair can be made circular: what materials can be used? How can parts be recycled, disassembled and reassembled? Can the chair maintain its ergonomic qualities once circular? How can as little media and materials as possible be used in mono-stream ways?

The OCCE project expected outcome will be a series of demonstrated experiments with data-based insights with parts, materials, connections, and combinations which led to a circular replacement product for the current linear office chair of the manufacturer as well as tells the story of how other chairs from the manufacturer and office chairs from other manufacturers can embark on the path of circularity and away from fast furniture.

  • IOWA: Internet of Art and Wine – Sustainable Wine Production with AR and Robotics
    Optimising Wine Production with Smart Corks, Eco-Packaging, Biomaterials, E-Labelling, and Augmented Reality.

The Internet of Wine and Art (IOWA) project looks at the manufacturing industry of winemaking in Italy. Set in a centuries-old wine production house, currently operated by the sixth consecutive generation of winemakers, the project forms for them the next stage in realizing a winery for the future. Having already been recognized as a leader in their field through investments in energy reduction and sustainable growing, this project will focus inside, going into the cellars where the wine is aged and blended, as well as looking at the waste residues from the production process.

The IOWA project will work on two tracks which will come together in a third. The first track is the development of an IoT cork in the barrels, which will measure activities in the barrel. One of the most complicated problems in winemaking is understanding ageing and perfection blending. Getting, for the first time, data insights into what happens in the barrels will open a range of opportunities to improve production. The second track is focusing on wine waste, including waste from the land and waste from the peels of the grapes. Currently, only 2% of this is recycled and reused, so a lot of experimentation is needed to find ways to valorise this resource. The artist will explore how residue and waste from the wine-making process can be used in various ways, including possibilities for packaging, bio-textiles, and even paper. The third track, and where both tracks come together, is in the development of an e-labelling system, giving the wines in the bottles a voice of their own in sharing the story of their journey or the new life of their peel to customers.

The IOWA project expected outcomes will be a demonstrated solution of how adding technology in the moist and thick walled, ancient cellars and upcycling the wine waste can lead to improved productivity of the manufacturing process, quality control of the product and sustainability of the wine making industry. The regional consortium of wineries in Italy is looking over the shoulder of the team, eager to learn whether the art-driven innovative work done can be broader applied.

  • STARIOT – Sustainable straws, a greener future
    Revolutionizing the straw market with durable, resistant, and socially responsible products.

The Sustainable Transition to Automation, Robotics and the Internet of Things (STARIOT) project is part of a new category of manufacturing; the manufacturing of products from residual waste streams in social cooperations set in sustainable, local production and consumption systems in Greece. In this case, the main resource is wheat stems, leftovers from the harvest of wheat. The manufacturer also processes reed stems. Wheat stems are considered the most important agricultural residue in the EU, culminating 144 million tons per year. While part of the stems need to be left on the field for soil regeneration, 30-60% can be taken off without hurting soil quality. By leaving this on the fields, the soils get harmed, hence often it gets burned, resulting in high emissions. The stems are durable and heat resistant, offering possibilities to turn them into biofuel chemicals, eco-friendly resins, biochemicals for cement production or bio-plastics. However interesting, these applications downcycle the value of the resource, making use of its chemical compositions rather than its structural qualities. The manufacturing SME in this project turns the stem of the plant of the wheat (the trunk of the plant) into new possibilities to create products out of them like drinking straws.

The STARIOT project will focus on professionalising the production of wheat stems and expanding the product possibilities with the stems of the wheat . To realize this, the factory will be upgraded with industry 4.0 technology interventions, allowing for data analysis in the harvesting, transport and production processes. To expand the possibilities, the artist will look at how algorithms can contribute to exploring the edges of the possible for this agricultural residue stream, taking as a starting point the constructional qualities of the stem. The algorithm the artist will develop will investigate how polyhedral mathematical forms can serve as blueprints for wheat stem product models.

The STARIOT project’s expected outcomes are a factory fit for scaling through data-driven production and algorithmic-driven product development of wheat stem agricultural waste products.

  • SHOES IN CIRCLE – Your footprint, reduced
    Sustainable knitted shoes, combined with IoT and robotics to reduce waste.

The ‘smoothing out of shoes production process by supplying ready-made circularity knitted uppers’ (Shoes in Circle) project takes place within the manufacturing facilities of a shoe producer in Poland. The manufacturer produces a large variety of models for third-party shoe brands and designs, producing the complete shoe, from the molds to the final shoes. The production of regular shoes involves various materials, which are either glued or (partially) knitted together, thereby limiting the options for recycling and re-usage of materials drastically.

The Shoes in Circle project aims to realize a custom circular shoe model, made through automation of the (re)manufacturing process, in combination with parametric design, adding the optionality for personalisation.

With a background in fashion art, this artist has designed shoes for the catwalks of Europe. In this project, she uses her experiences to create shoes fit for circularity, exploring how future footwear could look. Like how catwalk fashion serves as inspiration for what ends up in stores or how concept cars do the same for car manufacturing, this project will result in concept footwear as well as a model for production on the enabled robotic processing line.

  • MICOCRAFT – Bio-Inspired Glue for Sustainably Manufactured Products
    A biobased material, using a natural glue, replaces synthetic materials, for a sustainable manufacturing process for the construction industry.

The Mycelium Ecological Cobot Crafting (MICOCRAFT) project is set in the context of a new wave of manufacturing companies: additive manufacturing with biological materials, in this case, mycelium. The manufacturer is an upcoming producer of mycelium construction materials from Romania, currently producing indoor sound isolation panels. Mycelium is a naturally grown material offering many opportunities as a replacement material compared to conventional solutions. It has the capacity to act as a natural glue, resist water, mold, and heat, and has been recognised as an alternative to leather, plastics or foams in various applications.

The MICOCRAFT project will focus on pushing the boundaries of the possible of applying mycelium in construction by inviting the artist and a robotic post-processing arm to engage in a collaboration, exploring how, using robots as our extended limbs, we can enter new domains of form and function for shapes and products made of mycelium.

To realize this, a collaborative robot will be programmed with mimicking software, allowing the robot to learn by doing by mimicking the physical movements of the artist, both on-site as well as at a distance. The artist will teach the robot new skills in an effort to produce new forms, inspired by nature, co-produced with nature, and executed by industry 4.0 technological solutions.

The MICOCRAFT project’s expected outcome will be an installed and operational robotic contour crafting and post-production arm which has been trained to produce a series of experimental products and forms that are made with nature and by human-robot collaboration. In addition, the project will lead to an exploration of the area of human-robotic collaborative task developments and its potential in this as well as other domains of manufacturing.

  • SMARTVIEW – Factory floor collaboration at your fingertips Enhancing cross-factory collaboration and communication for improved productivity, sustainability, and worker well-being.

The Smart Factory View (SMARTVIEW) project takes place within the production environment of a highly technological mid-cap producer of complex molds in Portugal. The factory experiences challenges in maintaining worker engagement and cross-discipline collaboration, leading to a silo mentality across the manufacturer’s departments. Engagement is a topic closely connected to employee voice (the feeling of being heard), employee recognition (the feeling of being seen) and senior leadership approachability (the feeling of being part of a team). Traditional tools to break down silo’s have not sorted the desired effects, hence the team is looking at new approaches to this topic in this project.

The SMARTVIEW project will develop and demonstrate a nature-inspired holistic interface for cross-factory cooperation. The artist will use VR and data analytics, sourced from interventions by the tech supplier, to build narratives around human-nature relationships in the context of the factory floor. In this, the factory will be approached as an ecosystem, a natural environment inhabited by both humans and non-humans (machines), who engage in a complex grid of interactions and relationships, similar to a forest.

The SMARTVIEW project’s expected outcome is a virtual/digital narration interface to translate production-related data into opportunities for engagement and cooperation, most likely in the form of a virtual reality experience application.

  • SMART ENVELOPE – Digitalised and eco-friendly envelopes – A new line of sustainable and digital postal products, designed to enhance customer experience and environmental responsibility

The Better Connecting People by Exploring Product Redesign & Introducing IoT Solutions (SMARTENVELOPE) project involves a manufacturer of security envelopes for global distribution, based in Poland. The manufacturer, founded in 1987, finds itself surrounded by less and less independent producers of postal products over the last years. The postal services market has become a highly privatised infrastructure, shifting in recent years from being a market dominated by letters, towards an increasing dominance of parcels. The market for security envelopes is relevant in cases where privacy sensitive information needs to be protected while transported. To increase security, the envelopes have evolved into containers made up of multiple material layers, with various treatments and security measures embedded.

The SMARTENVELOPE project aims to realise a smarter security envelope, with smartness being approached from three different perspectives: smartness in the sense of connectivity, smartness in the sense of sustainability, and smartness in the sense of envelope life and afterlife.

The artist in this project is an artist who often uses spatial phenomena or geographical peculiarities to produce work that explores how we move across the world. In this project, the artist projects that fascination on a global traveler: the envelope – looking at what it is, where it goes, what it does, and how its life ends. These questions will lead to experiments on how to ‘smarten’ the envelope on different levels.

To realize this, the team will work intensively together on translating the directions for smartness into industry 4.0 interventions which will accommodate its realisation. The project expected outcomes will be a (series of) prototypes for smart(er) envelopes, as well as a (series of) works poetically telling stories on the movements of messages, information, and envelopes.

  • 3DARTDESIGN – Transforming metal waste into opportunity– Identifying new applications and markets for products made from overused powder from medical implants.

The Artistic Innovation by Titanium 3D Printing  (3DARTDESIGN) project evolves around the so-called overused metal powder from medical implants. Medical grade metal powder is considered a strategic raw material in the EU, being a resource that is hard to refine, and applicable in many industries. Therefore recycling is considered of the highest importance. The manufacturer in this project, a factory based in Hungary, uses and recycles medical-grade titanium metal powder various times until the powder is considered overused, meaning it cannot be used in medical purposes any longer. The main question then becomes, what to do with this material? This is the departure of the project.

The 3DARTDESIGN project will evolve around exploring the possibilities of the overused titanium through the development and introduction of a robotic station for post-processing, thereby opening the possibilities for exploring the possibilities of the material by the artist.

The expected outcome will be a series of objects which can be produced by the manufacturing SME in their factory to give value to the titanium powder after it has lost its medical grade. Moreover, since titanium is such a high-grade material nonetheless, the artist will explore what else can be done with it – architecturally or otherwise.

  • ReFINE – Dive deeper with less impact The future of sustainable F1 scuba diving fins, with an optimized design and reshored manufacturing processes.

The Fins reshoring for a fine-engineered factory (REFINE) project aims to re-shore the design, production, and innovation of scuba diving fins to the manufacturer in Italy. The manufacturer, a brand of aquatic products, produces many different products, including wet suits, diving goggles, as well as fins. In this project, the focus will lie specifically on the fins, which have been part of the manufacturer’s portfolio for a long time. The fins are currently, partly, produced overseas. The purpose of this project is to use technology and artistic experimentation to rethink and re-shore an existing fin product, thereby avoiding transport emissions, and logistical issues, reducing waste, and increasing the capacity for innovation and experimentation.

The REFINE project will explore beyond the conventional boundaries of the scuba diving fin by looking at how this extension of the foot in the water can become something more. It will explore how materials can be used in such a way that they reduce waste, energy, materials, and effects in the water. The team will do this by introducing a collaborative robot into the factory which will be programmed to produce the experiments developed by the artist.

The expected outcome will be an improved manufacturing process, prepared for in-house production of the customizable, sustainable, possibly multi-functional scuba diving fins of the future.

On the Better factory website, all teams of the Better Factory experiments are presented with more details.