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A new, low impact model for manufacturing based on Divergent’s dematerialized approach

The current approach to manufacturing is expensive, wasteful, and energy-intensive; it hurts our environment as well as our economy. When it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to start a car factory, innovation becomes impossible. As we triple the number of cars on the road in the next thirty to forty years, the conventional approach is not sustainable.

Dematerialization–reducing the material and energy required to build cars–is the only effective way to reduce the environmental and social damage stemming from automobiles. Dematerialization will lead to:

  • Far fewer emissions from both manufacturing and operation
  • Much lower material and energy inputs in manufacture
  • Dramatically better gas mileage
  • Lower wear on roads
  • Fewer fatalities from car accidents

By focusing on dematerialization, Divergent has built a car that does only a third of the total health and environmental damage of an 85 kWh all-electric car. The objective: drive that down to a quarter or less.

Driving our mission is a belief that manufacturing can and must be approached far more sensibly. We propose Ten Principles for Sane Manufacturing to guide every company that makes physical things:

Treat ‘making’ as an art

Innovate as much how you make things as what you make. Engineer the process, not just the product.

Make it human

Use innovation in manufacturing to amplify human creativity rather than to commoditize. Maximize human capital, not efficiency.

Democratize

Maximize manufacturing innovation through democratization. Provide affordable tools to many small teams.

Localize

Enable small teams to design solutions that are relevant to their local communities. The best creation is local creation.

Experiment and measure

Leave ideology behind; experiment, measure, improve, be open to criticism and outside ideas.

Use science

Take a scientific approach to improve several key ratios. Resilience, adaptability, and innovation are all inversely proportional to capital cost. Innovation in manufacturing should focus relentlessly on making outstanding products with the least capital input. Greenness is proportional to power density and to the ratio of carbon to hydrogen.

Evaluate the lifecycle

Minimize a product’s impact over its entire lifecycle. That is, minimize the economic and environmental costs not only from using a product, but also from making and disposing of a product.

Minimize

Design products and processes to minimize inputs, materials, and energy.

Cradle to cradle

Design products for maximum resiliency and anti-fragility. All products should be durable, re-usable, or able to be reabsorbed into the ecosystem–not consumable. No landfill products.

Eliminate the unecessary

Apply Occam’s razor to every aspect of the process and product. As Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”

 

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