Long-term Connections 2012-2013
Siliconas Silam, an industrial company dedicated to the transformation of silicone into products for industrial use.
Paola Guimerans, an artist and educator working in the area where art, design and technology converge.
To seek new directions for its current business activity or to develop new activities based on the talent of the people in the company and by making the most of its experiences, expertise, technologies, facilities, machinery, etc.
THINK-OF-SILICONE, a new line of silicone research for 3D printers.
A project without a project
The people at Siliconas Silam defined their research with Paola Guimerans as “a project without a project”, or even “business, not silicone”, given that their objective was to seek new business directions that are not necessarily related to industrial silicone. They clearly wanted to apply a different methodology to proactively discover current market trends, regardless of whether they were related or not to the world of silicone.
The first phase involved reflection and the exchange of ideas. An internal blog was created “in which anyone could contribute their ideas and comments”; there were visits to spaces and groups that were closely related to the hacker movement and a mini creative workshop was held. But the turning point came with the OpenLab (linkado a OpenLab), a workshop for the design of electronic devices using silicon involving Silam’s staff and invited guests. “My aim,” Paola stated, “was to make the people at Silam do something completely different from what they had usually been doing before, to make them think about the material differently.” This revealed Silam’s interest in the maker universe.
Maker culture and technological democratisation
According to Paola Guimerans, the maker movement is basically an attitude, a return to each person manufacturing his or her own objects, and in this case electronic objects. Maker culture demands free access to information and a do-it-yourself spirit. It is organised around a community whose members, in practice, comprise a decentralised, networked RDI laboratory. They design and manufacture customised or new electronic devices, experiment with new possibilities and share doubts, tips and help manuals.
Think-of-Silicone was conceived within this framework as a line of research whose aim was to manufacture a type of silicone suitable for 3D printing, which along with the maker movement is predicted to be the future of industrial production.
Investing in intangibles
Think-Of-Silicone means Silam will reposition itself towards a form of innovation that is more in line with high-intensity technological companies. Besides its commercial viability, it is primarily an investment in knowledge.
The people in Silam clearly know that this also mean internal changes, given that all product innovation processes have to pass through an innovation process in people and the way they organise themselves. Therefore, they believe that this improbable project has meant a shift for them towards a more proactive position, involving greater creativity, forcing them to view things differently and with the ability to positively transform other aspects of the organisation, from collective identity or personal empowerment to the search for more creative solutions or improved conflict management. A process that can on its own improve the value of the organisation.
No silicone exists today that has been adapted for 3D printers and the team at Silam is working to make its manufacture possible and to seek distribution partners.
Its encounter with the maker world has also meant an opportunity for Silam to diversify.