#MilanUncut

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I was surprised (and a bit disappointed) to see that architects aren’t alone in “being voluntary workers for millionaires,” after reading Justin McGuirk’s piece on the Milan Furniture Fair in The Guardian last week. He lays bare how the industry’s royalty system fails to provide sustainable wages for even the best and brightest young product designers. More optimistically, though, the article made me see how distributed manufacturing might be the effective workaround to the gatekeepers and middlemen – by recasting the workflow between designers, small independent fabricators and consumers. Clearly, single-material AtFAB pieces undergo a much simpler fabrication process than the specialized parts and materials that go into ergonomically adjustable task chairs or complex upholstered pieces. What happens, however, when a wider range of affordable digital fabrication machines proliferate – the Makerbots of the future? Might designers leverage a distributed fabrication model using these robust, versatile machines to deliver complex furniture pieces more directly to consumers?