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  • Writer's pictureRonnie Parsons

From Virtual to Material: A Look at the Future of Design and Manufacturing

A Blog Post Exploring the Panel Discussion at The Materials Show X Footwearology Tech Pavilion.



The recent panel discussion, "From Virtual to Material: How Digital Design Platforms Will Enable Manufacturing for Everyone," brought together renowned experts in the fields of software development, design, and footwear innovation to explore the impact of technology on the future of design and manufacturing. Moderated by Ronnie Parsons, CEO of Mode Lab, the panel featured Scott Davidson from Rhino, Nicoline van Enter from Footwearology Lab, and Cornelius Schmitt from Zellerfeld.


This blog post delves into the key themes and insights shared during this insightful discussion.


Mapping the Speed of Innovation:


The panel opened by exploring the trajectory of innovation in design and manufacturing. Scott Davidson, with his 30 years of experience at Rhino, highlighted the significant acceleration in technological change compared to the past. Nicoline van Enter, known for her trend forecasting expertise, pointed towards the potential of generative AI and natural language processing to revolutionize product creation. Cornelius Schmitt, whose company Zellerfeld uses 3D printing to offer sustainable footwear, emphasized the importance of balancing rapid advancements with practical considerations like eco-friendliness.


The Business Impact of Digital Design Platforms:


The discussion shifted to the potential impact of AI and related technologies on businesses. Nicoline van Enter emphasized the need for "AI for everyone" and its ability to empower businesses and creators. Scott Davidson highlighted the importance of catering to both seasoned professionals and newcomers in the design space. Cornelius Schmitt shared Zellerfeld's mission of democratizing access to footwear through 3D printing, sparking questions about affordability and accessibility in the face of innovation.


"The whole society, almost, switched to sneakers because they are more comfortable, let’s be honest,” “I believe the same will happen now with custom shoes." – Cornelius Schmitt

Identifying the Future Heroes of Design and Manufacturing:


The panel then explored the evolving landscape of talent and expertise. Nicoline van Enter questioned the potential role of machines as co-creators, emphasizing the importance of human ingenuity. Cornelius Schmitt offered advice to aspiring entrepreneurs, drawing from his own experience at Zellerfeld. Scott Davidson shared his insights on where future design and manufacturing professionals might focus their energy, potentially highlighting academic and applied research areas.


Keeping Up and Staying Focused:


The final segment focused on strategies for navigating the rapid pace of change. Cornelius Schmitt emphasized the importance of designing not just for beauty, but also for a better future, highlighting opportunities for sustainability. Nicoline van Enter advocated for responsible AI use and inclusivity. Scott Davidson offered practical advice for individuals and businesses, emphasizing the need to stay relevant and focused on long-term success.


Beyond the Panel:


This blog post merely scratches the surface of the rich insights shared during the "From Virtual to Material" panel. If you're interested in learning more, here are some additional resources:



As technology continues to reshape the design and manufacturing landscape, staying informed and adaptable will be crucial for individuals and businesses alike. By harnessing the power of innovation while addressing ethical and social considerations, we can pave the way for a future where technology empowers creativity, sustainability, and inclusivity.

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