Television does not entertain my two children. They do not understand that we continue to be hooked on the dictatorship of the television grid in the era of YouTube and streaming content. They natively incorporate a mechanism that discards any object that does not provide them with an instant, agile and affordable experience and also on demand.
The Machine Tool Must be Accompanied
The generation to which they belong will compose a horde of “barbarians”, as Alessandro Barico refers to them in the essay of the same name: it will naturally change the interaction with objects, and the way in which people and businesses relate to each other. It will be the answer to the world that we inherit from them, much more complex, diverse and hyper-connected.
What will my children think, in this new context, of machine tools if I explain them in depth how they are handled and also justify that they will have to work with them in the near future? Possibly, I will have to endure their teasing. And it is that the way in which we currently interact with industrial equipment is not at all intuitive, much less sustainable.
Machines break with any of the basic design criteria as reflected by Donald Norman in “The Psychology of Everyday Objects” : it is impossible to intuit a priori what the function of the control knobs is, nor is the effect of each one obvious. actions taken and any mistakes made are caught too late.
We are faced with a problem: industrial equipment is products designed without planned obsolescence, designed to last for decades. Its processes have been evolving on a regular basis. In machining, for example, not even the appearance of numerical control was a technology disruptive enough to rethink machine architecture: it was only an incremental innovation.
This approach in itself is not entirely negative. It is clear that industrial equipment has ended up being unintuitive. Machine tools perform the functions for which they were designed. They enter precision after the operator has received specific and intense training, and accumulated a great experience working hours together with them. Anyone who knows the industry and pauses briefly to reflect on it will easily come to the conclusion that it is necessary to rethink how one interacts with the industrial environment.
Other sectors , such as consumer electronics, have clearly evolved in usability, pushed by a non-conformist public , to the point of taking the maxims of design to the extreme. However, not everything is new. The home appliance company Braun and its star designer Dieter Rahms, for example, with their minimalist yet highly functional aesthetic, influenced the iPod . Mobile phones, in short computers stored in our pockets, display information in a pleasant and agile way, approaching the design dictated by the Bauhaus and the Ulm school.
It is inevitable that the fashions dictated by the design end up breaking into all sectors. When the Industry 4.0 paradigm was taking hold, four years ago, the landing of the concept of apps to the machine tool was predicted . It was said that new functions would be installed on the machine, on demand. The reality is that the apps are already a reality, at least in next-generation machines. Initiatives such as Adamos from DMG-Mori or MyApps from Okuma will soon see the light of day.
As this new market progresses, technologies must be accompanied by design criteria that facilitate their use. It is not trivial! Making what is now complex and imperceptible to the eye simple and accessible is vital.
Whoever designs a new concept of machine tool, from the point of view of usability, without dragging technological inheritances, will be the one who marks a before and after in the sector. My kids will want that machine.
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