Hacking Manufacturing 2017


A lab is where unique ideas are generated and early prototypes are synthesized. A factory is where designs are mass produced and quality is validated. They seem so far away from each other, that we usually separate research from reality, prototype from production. How can we demolish this separation for a future where design, technology and production are tightly coupled together? In this project, we are exploring the idea of "researcher in residency" in the context of manufacturing. As the city of manufacturing, Shenzhen has the most concentrated factories across industry in the world. By bringing researchers to the factory floor for 4 weeks, we are experimenting methods to fuse the lab and factory as a future venue for innovation.

Projects Outcome

Towards the end of the workshop, 8 projects were generated among 10 researchers. Three projects involved collaborations between 2 or 3 people, and the rest were individual projects. They range from art to sensors, from textiles to robotics.

Jie Qi, Donald Derek - Sound Spirals

This project explored blending natural materials and flexible printed circuit boards to create working speaker elements.  We experimented with a number of unusual PCB composite materials including knitted textile, paper and pressed leaves.  We created speaker coils by etching spiral shapes into flexible PCB, following Perner-Wilson's example handcrafted speakers, and laminated these directly onto the experimental materials using the industrial heat press.

Artem Dementyev - Circuit Robotics

The main idea of this project was to create actuators and sensors using only flexible circuit board technology, rather than separating the electrical components from the mechanical and structural components. Using the coverlay lamination process we were able to embed channels between the copper layer and the coverlay. The channels were used as air pockets to create pneumatic actuators. With a different channel geometry, we were able to embed shape memory alloy wires into the flexible printed circuit board to create an alternative actuator.

Laya Anasu - Self-Disassembly Knit

In a knitting process, waste can be produced by the automatically generated supporting roles of knit. This project asks a question: if we knit many small pieces, how can we reduce the waste? The student utilizes a yarn that dissolves in water to stitch all small pieces together into one big knit. The result is a large knitted fabric that can disassemble into many designed, smaller pieces.

Ani Liu - Psyche in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

This is an art project that explores the interplay of factory workers, knitted fabric and data visualization. The student took the EEG data from a factory worker, translated the measured stress level to the program parameter, which controls the tension of a knit. The result is the individual knitted carpet that reflects the emotional signature of a factory worker.

Amos Golan - Knitting with Unusual Yarns

Usually a digital knitting machine takes soft yarn below 1400 denier. This project developed an auxiliary device that can be attached to the machine to control the pulling and feeding force of a yarn. By doing so, we can now knit much harder materials such as copper wire, shape memory alloy, etc. The student produced material samples that smoothly inlays a shape memory alloy inside, to create shape-change textile.

Miguel Perez - Structural Textile

The project explores the possibility of integrating plastic filament into the knitting process to create fabric that has tunable stiffness. The result is a new process that involves knitting, heat press and forming. The student also created material samples that are produced with this process.

Guillermo Bernal - Neuroknit

This is a design exploration of how to create a three dimensional VR helmet with knitting process. The helmet contains also small pocket inside to hold a electro circuit that was developed in the flexible PCB factory. The result is a interplay between designing the shape of the Flex PCB and fine tuning the shape of the knitted helmet.

Jifei Ou, Daniel Oran, and Donald Derek - Sensitive Textiles

This project explores the design space of making textile-based sensor at the stitch level. The factory has created hundreds of knitting patterns that are mostly used for visual aesthetics. The students looked at their microstructure and developed stretch sensor and potentiometer by incorporating conductive yarn. The result is a series of production-ready textile sensors. Those sensors are connected to a control board that was developed in the flexible PCB factory.


Jifei Ou | Instructor | Tangible Media

Artem Dementyev | Instructor | Responsive Environments

Jie Qi | Instructor | Lifelong Kindergarten

Amos Golan | Student | Tangible Media

Ani Liu | Student | Design Fiction

Daniel Oran | Student | Synthetic Neurobiology

Donald Derek | Student | Responsive Environments

Guillermo Bernal | Student | Fluid Interfaces

Laya Anasu | Student | City Science

Miguel Perez | Student | Playful Systems

More info: Visit this site to find out more about the Hacking Manufacturing course and project.

Blog posts on previous trips: 

2015, by Artem Dementyev

2015, by Jin Joo Lee

2014, by Cindy Hsin-Liu Kao

Watch the documentary of our trip