Industrial Transformation

Guizhou Is Becoming The Digital Fabrication Hub Of China

Guizhou isn’t a metropolis for traditional manufacturing. Though its infrastructure little bit weak, Guizhou is quite ambitious about its big data development program, which may enable Guizhou to become the next IT hub of China.

C-Zone

An industrial robot was cutting metal. Meanwhile, an engineer was in another room wearing a VR helmet. He was training the robot. “We are trying to find the solutions for the robots applications in small and medium-sized business. Robots are commonly affordable now, but how to program for robots is quite difficult for most enterprises.”

Yong Xiao, the engineer from HanKaiSi, which is the local innovative manufacturing enterprise of Guizhou. Before this, Owen had worked as an automation engineer in Rockwell for 6 years in Shanghai. “Usually the programming for robot can be complicated and time-consuming. But now, we are doing the training job like playing games. With the connection of virtual reality and physical fabrication equipment, engineers and even workers can finish the robot training task at ease.”

With the support of Guizhou Commission of Economy and Information, Guizhou Technology Department and Guiyang Hi-Tech Industrial Development Area, HanKaiSi has built a 5000 sqm intelligent manufacturing innovation center C-Zone. As an open lab for digital fabrication, the C-Zone will facilitate the transforming process for industry digitalization and shorten the time cost as well. “Most entrepreneurs have the knowledge that digital fabrication will have great impact on the manufacturing industry, but they seldom know how to transform their industry via digital fabrication technology”, explained Chuan Yu, CEO of HanKaiSi. He talked about the aim of creating the digital fabrication innovation center C-Zone, “We hope to solve the problems in the industry upgrading of traditional manufacturing in an open and crowdsourcing way.”

What’s Crowdfunding All About

In Wikipedia, crowdsourcing refers to the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially an online community, rather than from employees or suppliers. There are some classic cases of crowdfunding such as Uber and Freelancer etc. with which we are quite familiar. However, there are certain unique features in industry, which can hardly be solved or realized via a single APP or website. More collaboration online and offline will be needed.

This August, Guizhou Government has issued the documentation for Thousand Enterprises Transformation Implementation Program to facilitate the transformation of the industry enterprises. This program will be developed with investment accumulated to 700 billion during the 13th Five-Year plan. As the crucial part of the program, crowdsourcing platform aims to collect the demands and problems of enterprises, then publish them on the platform, searching for global solutions and partners.

The industry leader GE company shared the similar idea with C-Zone. As the innovator and champion of industrial Internet, GE attracts global attention for its every single move. GE launched a Challenge on crowdsourcing community GrabCAD.com two years ago for the solution of its plane engine. Whoever offered a functional engine design with the lightest weight would get $7000. GE received more than 1000 entries. Finally a designer with zero experience in engine design won the challenge. GE got a good idea from that and founded FirstBuild, an online and physical community dedicated to crowdsourcing designing, engineering and manufacturing. FirstBuild crowdsources different projects to global talents and groups, who will find solutions together by using the advanced manufacturing of FirstBuild. After prototype, function test and product upgrading etc., there will always be a perfect solution. It is the “Open Innovation” of GE.

“We have the similar features as FirstBuild, but we solve problems shared by enterprises, not just problems from one company”, Chuan Yu analyzed the crowdsourcing cases around the globe, “We need to find a crowdsourcing way which is suitable for upgrading and transforming of Guizhou enterprises. For example, we don’t have the advantages of coastal cities so we are exploring the distributed fabrication which will turn the physical goods into digital files, saving the shipping cost. Combined with technology and business model innovation, the servitization of manufacturing is the future trend.”

Crowdfunding Cases

CRAFT is the most bold and creative project in C-Zone. A VR workshop connected with physical fabrication equipment makes the prototyping process easier and faster. “Designer and maker can build their prototype vividly in the VR workshop with no worries about material wasting and safety problems. They can change and revise their designs repeatedly. Plus, this process is 100% fun”, said Rui Hu, the project manager of CRAFT. “The personalized design of customer can be directly crowdsourced to manufacturers. The business model of manufacturing industry will go for another level via VR technology”, Chuan added, “With great potential in application, VR has entered the manufacturing industry. It will facilitate the industry transformation by big data.”

C-Zone is building the online crowdsourcing platform currently. There is a special service for the artificial intelligence analysis of data. The developer for this system is Hui Lee, an overseas returnee doctor specialized in data analysis. “Intelligent prediction for supply chain plan, storage management, production plan etc., the platform will analyze the data for business to help them make better strategic decisions. It can even predict the market trend and scale”, said Dr. Lee, rather confident with his data cloud service. “Same service, IBM will charge a lot but our platform will be completely affordable because we serve the small and medium-sized enterprises who can pay on demand.”

Germany industrial designer Jens was giving guidance to a group of designers. Jens is the Creative Design Director in TEAMSdesign, which is a famous and professional design company around the world. Being the mentor of HanKaiSi intelligent manufacturing innovation center, Jens attends the industrial design crowdsourcing project Maker Jam regularly for communication, guidance and speeches. “Digital manufacturing innovation center is a great space. I feel rather excited for such crowdsourcing program”, said Jens delightfully. “Maker Jam is a designing project for international crowdsourcing. There will be events and workshops regularly with different themes. Each season, there will be 20 global designers gathering in the innovation center to collaborate on one crowdsourcing task for one local enterprise. The designers are recruited world widely and they will stay for 20 days. Top mentors from designing industry will be here for mentorship and guidance” , said industrial designer Fanhui Meng, organizer of this crowdsourcing project.

“The CNC machining center is processing the specific task from the Internet. It’s just like the Didi in CNC machining”, Xingyi Liao said excitedly. Xingyi just returned to C-Zone from Shanghai. He saw the great potential in the industrial big data of Guizhou. “We developed a plug-in software with the function for manufacturing analysis which is widely used by mechanic engineers. Now they can download the plug-in software for free. The order button of manufacturing crowdsourcing is been included in the plug-in. With one click, engineers can make the production order easily. They don’t even need to close the design software. The plug-in will find the best manufacturing resource for engineers automatically.”

The Future

Although the intelligent digital manufacturing is still at the early stage, it doesn’t prevent Guizhou from exploring its possibility. Big data, crowdsourcing, VR manufacturing, distributed fabrication, personalized customization, with all the efforts from the government and enterprises, we saw Guizhou’s great potential and promising insights during the industry transformation period.

In February this year, Guizhou was formally approved as the first National Big Data Comprehensive Experimental Zone. On May 24th, Prime minister Li Keqiang mentioned on a summit that Guizhou used to be one of the poorest provinces in China, but now it becomes competitive with the developed provinces. It’s even leading the trend of Big Data industry.

Jim Davis, CTO of Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition(SMLC), the industry innovation institute of American government, said that “If we want to better understand the manufacturing industry, we need to realize that the next generation of IT industry and manufacturing industry will all focus on data, which will be core assert.” With big data as basis, will Guizhou become the next IT hub of China? We’ll wait and see.