Digital Production

  • Luca Caneparo


Contributions towards the end of the war were made by the prototypes of several innovative technologies, for example information technology with the first digital computers. The United States placed themselves at the forefront of technology transfer with structural development policies and strategies. Within 20 years they laid the foundations for the development of digital design and manufacturing in a broad range of industrial sectors, which would later be applied in the construction sector too. The peculiar needs of the aerospace industry for precision and flexible production made it a particularly receptive sector for innovative processes. In 1949, the US Air Force financed a proof-of-feasibility study of a three-axis milling machine operated by a computer. This technology took the name Numerical Control (NC). With NC, for the first time it became possible to describe individual elements of the design and manufacturing process in the formal language of science and technology, that is mathematics. The programming languages of NC have the declared aim of being intelligible to technicians and to computers which, by digitalising the design in bits and bytes, could therefore autonomously interpret it and translate it from the intangible domain into the physical object: the artefact produced “automatically” by the new machine tools. The designers themselves became masters of the production process, describing design in the new languages of information technology aimed at direct manufacturing without the intermediary of descriptive geometry any longer. This new class of technicians no longer just supervises, but also manages the procedures for the manufacturing process through programming languages. Numerically controlled machines automatically interpret and execute the instructions of NC language, to make the parts that, assembled together, result in a complete product. NC technology, initially adopted by large industries which were structured around the division and separation of skills and jobs, was adopted by small and medium-sized enterprises as soon as investment costs began to drop. SMEs directed the technology to the demands of their own “horizontal” organisations, with a high level of skills shared between a numerically small workforce.


Machine Tool Numerical Control Descriptive Geometry Industrial District Incremental Innovation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luca Caneparo
    • 1
  1. 1.DAD - Dipartimento di Architettura e DesignPolitecnico di TorinoTorinoItaly

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