On Being An Economic Ostrich

All I See Is Sand!

 

One of the distinct features of the Ostrich is its ability to run quickly at speeds up to 43 miles per hour when threatened by a predator. It will also lay down on the ground with its head slightly buried in the ground to look like a mound of dirt if it finds itself in a position where it can’t run or hide. While this does nothing to protect it from the reality of being attacked it believes that if it can’t see them they can’t see the Ostrich.

 

Here in the greater Englewood area we look at new business ideas as a predator and bury our proverbial heads in the sand, ( because we believe this will solve all our problems) while the start-up companies in California look at sand as silicon… and there-in lies the problem. The sun, water and sand are just one aspect of what makes southwest Florida communities viable. What’s missing, is the energy, determination and collective risk involved in turning OUR sand into silicon.

 

Fixing The Barren Landscape

 

When I started EIC in August of 2012 the mission statement included the statement, “changing the economic landscape,” when referring to our goal for the greater Englewood area as a business incubator. That has not changed. One of the main reasons I felt our type of organization was necessary was the lack of effectiveness by the Economic Development Commissions in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties. This is not to say those individuals who head up those organizations are not trying to make a difference. I personally know these people and they are working hard at trying to bring new companies into our area. The problem is the tools they are using in their sand box are shovels and pails, just like the ones used 50 years ago.

 

In the past 5 years only 80 companies across the entire U.S. made any significant move to another state or location. Every state is trying to lure companies in their direction. Why? Because they understand the only other option is to grow their economies organically…and that is more difficult and takes longer to affect economic change. Yet this is the only way to change the landscape. The sand box must be removed and replaced with something that makes us uncomfortable, a silcon box.

 

The Digital Divide

 

There is no doubt that the advent of bringing 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) into EIC’s operation was a great turning point in our program. We now have the right tools ( in our silicon box ) to take the digitally wired youth and entrepreneurs and turn their ideas into hard products overnight. The ability to create a prototype of a 3 dimensional drawing is perfectly suited to the new “digitally wired” generation. In addition, those individuals who previously had to spend thousands of dollars to have someone design and fabricate a prototype of their ideas can now have that done ( in most cases) for less than $100.00. This opens the door for more innovation and the real potential to develop new products and create new companies right here in Englewood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Page 2. Economic Ostrich

 

This connection tool ( printer) is also important because it is quickly becoming the most disruptive technology on the planet and the adaption rate of the younger generation to this technology is absolutely astounding. One of the challenges I have when discussing our program and this technology with many of the local businesses and older retirees is their inability to see our vision.

 

It has always been my nature to seek out those individuals who were “smarter than me” in areas of technology that I needed to use but which I had little knowledge or technical understanding. Over the past 40 years I always looked up to those senior engineers and experienced technicians to assist me in developing new products or solving technical problems.

 

Today, I mostly look down. Down to the Middle school and High school STEM engineering students, down to those young people who can write computer code, down to those geeky kids that can make a 3 dimensional file of an object in less than an hour and send it to me via email so I can send it to our 3D Printers, down to those 8 year old students at Englewood Elementary school who can design simple objects on Tinker Cad and print it out on their new MakerBot Replicator 3D printer. Yes, if we are going to change the economic landscape in our community these young people and entrepreneurs are the ones who will help us get out of our sand box.

 

It has often been said that one can’t soar with the Eagles when they hang out with Ostriches. While the Ostrich can run fast and does have feathers, for all its effort to try…well… it just can’t fly.

 

 

Additive Manufacturing Adds Up

Now that 3D Printing has started to move into replacing traditional reductive CNC fabrication process the ability to change tthe economic landscape in towns and cities not originally part of the manufacturing centers in the U.S. can keep their small town feel but have a high tech economy. No smoke stacks, no large, ugly metal buildings and no dirty work environments. The use of additive manufactuing allows someone to produce a wide variety of products from many materials in a building that doesn't have to be in an industrial park.

EIC has been working for almost 9 months to generate interest in using 3D Printing ( additive manufacturing) with the local school systems in both Sarasota and Charlotte counties. We acquired our first 3D Printer from MakerBot. This is their new Replicator Fifth Generation unit that prints in PLA only but has a lot of features that make it very easy to use, even for the novice. That unit was followed by a MakerBot Replicator 2X Experimental unit that has two print heads and prints in ABS.

We recenlty ordered a new unit from Alpha Objects called the LulzBot TAZ4. This has one print head with the option to add a second print head. It also prints in PLA, ABS, HIPS, Nylon, Ninja Flex, Wood and Ceramic. It has a larger build platform than the MakerBot units so it will allow us to build some larger prototypes and designs.

EIC has exerted its influence to a number of schools in the greater Englewood area and as a result there are now 14 3D Printers in place in a 10 mile radius from EIC. Even the elementary school in Englewood has jumped on the bandwagon. And why not. 3D Printers are the perfect tool to take that creative idea generated by that young mind, put it on a computer screen which is a comfortable technology even for 5 year olds, and then send the creation to the printer and viola! They  can now hold their idea in their hand.

With faster printers coming on the market that can print in resolutions as fine as 20 microns ( ours print at 100 microns) the ability to not only quickly design and build a prototype but actually make viable, saleable products. To that end EIC is now using the High School STEM engineering students to design one-of-a-kind promotional items for a number of local businesses that generate revenue and at the same time connect the students skill sets to the real commercial world.

It is our belief that additive manufacturing will grow exponentially over the next 10 years with major shifts in manufacturing techniques taking place in 2015. 

For more information on EIC and our business incubator programs go to our website at: http://www.englewoodincubationcenter.org

Moving Into A World Of "Immediate Obsolescence"

On any one day you will read on some blog, website or technology posting that another new smart phone, tablet, medical device, super nanotechnique or chemical compound has been developed. This would be interesting except for the fact that these new advances seem to happen almost every day. Not every month or every year, but every day. 

We here at EIC have been following nanotechnology, OLED technology and 3D Printing, with three printers in operation and one more coming next month, we find new data on any one of these technologies almost daily. How can that be? Perhaps it is because new advancements beget new advancements which beget another new advancements. With the speed of information surpassing the speed of light it is entirely possible to develop a product that replaces itself on a weekly basis.

This speed of obsolescence is very disturbing to some of the older generation but not the millennials. They adapt to technolgy as quickly as skiers adapt to changes in the ski slope and they don't really mind it at all. This quick adapt and die attitude makes it very difficult for some companies to develop a foot-hold in the market when developing a new product or concept. If the demographic targets don't adapt to the technology quickly the possibility they won't adapt at all is frightening.

EIC has two 3D Printers which are manufactured by some of the more well-known printer companies. These units are 1.5 years and 2 months old respectively. Yet, in looking at the number of 3D Printer manufacturers around the world there are now over 100 different styles, types, design capacities with different levels of expertise required. Prices now range from $399.00 to over $4,000.00 and every one is aiming at the home owners and youth market.

Compettion is always good for the consumer as long as one can still get parts and materials for the unit you purchased just zix months ago. Obviously not all of these companies will still be in business 2 or 3 years from now, especially since many of these 3D Printer companes are Kickstarter operations. Our suggestion is to stick with U.S. based 3D Printer manufacturers and those that have been in business at least 3 years. 

Amazon has now jumped into the smart phone market because they can. With their marketing power they have made huge advancements in the tablet market, one that Apple had sown up just a few years ago. Now there are 10 different tablets on the market, many of which actually are just as good if not better than the iPad. Do we need another smart phone? How much more can we do with phones that we don't do now? 

One of our new programs is to start teaching students and interested adults in the use of some of the new 3D modeling software. This is important as now almost everything that is produced is now first created on a computer using 3D software. Even this software is begging to be altered so that almost anyone that understands Microsoft Word can now design and create something amazing on a computer screen.  Perhaps next time you read one of our blogs it will be on a wrap-around your wrist flexible OLED computer screen. Don't blink.

 

Open House - May 28th

Open House FlyerYou are invited to attend our Open House, 3D Equipment Demonstration & Fundraiser at the Englewood Chamber on Wednesday, May 28th from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM. Light food & drinks will be served.

For more information, click on the flyer on the left side, call us at 317-796-7617 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contact Details

Englewood Innovation Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 465, Englewood, FL. 34295
Phone:  317-796-7617

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Website: www.englewoodinnovationcenter.org

 

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