Because Italy is more than a geographic expression..

Alessi S.P.A. US

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What The World Can Learn From Italy

Superb article in Signon San Diego. I posted large parts here:

"In Turin we toured Comau, an automobile supplier that manufactures machining centers that create robots which can be used to manufacture machines. We toured Agusta-Westland which manufactures many of the helicopters in the civil and defense sectors in the U.S. We also toured a firm that is responsible for nearly every bent tube used in industry: for lawn chairs, stairway railings, plumbing and street lamps.

The company’s CEO joked that we would never see bent tubes the same again; and I marveled as much that it was the CEO who told us as at the fact that he was right.

Our tour continued with Fiat Mirafiori Motor Village, Ferrari and Ducati, which remain dedicated to the art and science of motion. Fiat, the new owner of Chrysler, has adopted the methods of open innovation founded on the principles of the open source software movement and which exemplifies how innovative ideas can be gleaned from a network-connected world.

In Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, we toured Passaponti Metal Cleaning Technology Srl, a firm that makes machines that cleans machines.

One could not imagine a more toxic environment. Yet, nearby are Italian homes and villas; the facility is designed so people can safely walk to work. How much better would our own commutes be – not to mention our economy – if workers could live near clean manufacturing centers?

Near Lake Como, we toured Ratti S. p. A., whose products begin with the cultivation of silkworms and the harvesting of their cocoons and continue with weaving of threads, dyeing and printing on the final fabric. This family-owned firm created a laser printer that can print continuous patterns on silk without pattern breaks.
We were guided by the owner himself; as we followed him through the tour I imagined myself being led by Marco Polo’s pride.

Now let me return to that firm that makes the marble counter tops and what it has in common with precision machining of jet fighters – it is one company: Breton. The family that owns Breton sensed that the economic crisis would imply fewer marble panel sales in homes.

So the owner took the firm in a new direction. The company now machines parts for the F-35 jet fighter for the U.S. military. Such an agile metamorphosis is more likely to happen with small firm that retain their independence.

While some lump Italy in with the economic PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain) of Europe, don’t be so quick to count this country out. Unlike the U.S., the Italians still make things. Ninety percent of the firms in Italy are family owned (and agile); they value engineers above lawyers and bankers. They see the economic value of green engineering not just for the environment as a whole, but for the local community. And they infuse their manufacturing with family pride. They don’t make lawyers to guide financial advisers who make money by making money; rather, they make machines that make robots that make machines that spin our silk clothes as we prepare dinner on our marble kitchen counters."

Hope I can do a similar tour - for this blog and personal reasons - one day.

Made In Anywhere: The Meaning of 'Made in Italy'

What does "Made in Italy" entail these days? Find a good explanation here.

"Each nation has its own distinctive brand that characterizes its products and makes them stand out from their own kind: Made in Germany has always been synonymous with robustness and reliability; Made in the U.S.A. is the sign of an innovative and avant garde product; Made in Japan symbolizes high tech and functionality; Made in Italy expresses excellence of creativity and craftsmanship."

"...Recently the Made in Italy label has unfortunately been the victim of much counterfeiting by those who, profiting shamefully from the brand's prestige, use it on various kinds of products that are in no way Italian, products of poor quality and manufacture made for only a few Euros apiece (often by exploiting innocent children, who are forced to work for many hours each day) and which are then sold in local markets at prices that are certainly much lower than a genuine Made in Italy article.

But what exactly does the 'Made in Italy' brand mean?

It means a product that is entirely made in Italy, from the design and working out on paper, up till the product is made, finished and ready for sale.

The Made in Italy name ought to denote the actual and total provenance and production in Italy of the article that bears its name; 'ought' because unfortunately in many cases this is not so.

In fact, many products can carry the Made in Italy name even when they are almost entirely made abroad!"

More on what constitutes being "Italian" or "American" or "Japanese?"

Robots Head To China

Part of VisLab's Intercontinental Autonomous Challenge, Piaggio's robot-automated (so-called intelligent vehicles) electrical van is set for the 13 000 km Italy-China trek - from Parma to Shanghai to be accurate.

I hope they take a lot of pictures.

Marco Polo for the 21st century.

I grabbed this picture off the  Man on the Move blog.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Who Is Gaetano Pesce?

I ask again, who is Gaetano Pesce?

From NYT,

"Pesce is known for his experiments with industrial materials like polyurethane foam, resin and plastics, celebrates the unconventional in his evocative, boldly colored furniture and objects. Influenced by both the highly detailed work of his teacher, the influential architect and designer Carlo Scarpa, and by the Arte Povera movement’s use of everyday, often crudely constructed materials, Pesce fuses both high and low in his work."

And Art Design Directory:

"The Italian designer Gaetano Pesce is one of the most independent thinkers in the international design scene. Probably best described as an artist-designer, Gaetano Pesce has always pursued a policy of emphasizing the individuality of the object. He succeeds in individualizing serial designs by using materials such as acrylic resin and silicone, which, in the manufacturing process, still leave something up to chance. As a result, the uniqueness of a product designed by Gaetano Pesce is not defined by such abstract conceptions as beauty but is deliberately left with flaws and can even seem shapeless."

I like guys who think not only outside the box, but circle and drawers too.

Spider-Man? Try Spider-Pill

Scientists in Tuscany invented a "spider-pill" that they feel can replace tradtional invasive options in detecting serious diseases such as colon cancer. It's a device that once swallowed can be controlled as it explores the nether regions of your bowels and other parts of the body. See the video here at the BBC.

Baggio's Back

Nice to see Roberto Baggio back with the Azzurri. This can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Italian Particularism

We often hear of "American exceptionalism." In Italy, one could say "Italian particularism."

The beauty about Italy is it's one of the last industrialized nation to hold out and give into the the global network by maintaining a loyalty to artisanship. It makes for one of the more interesting - and increasingly obsolete given world economic realities apparently - economies in the world in my opinion.

David Segal of the NYT asks, "Is Italy too Italian?"

Does ketchup taste too much like ketchup?

Hey, I'll welcome the piece to the extent the North American media far too often ignores Italy's scientific, manufacturing and industrial exploits choosing instead to cling on to tried and tested stereo-typical cliches while focusing on food and fashion.

It's become predictable and tiresome.


This part in the article linked above caught my eye because I too argued grouping Italy with Greece, Portugal and even Spain is not only misleading but suggests the all-too-willing acceptance of grouping these nations as if they have the same economy. They don't.

"Study the numbers and you will find symptoms of distress that look a lot like those of Greece. Public sector debt amounts to roughly 118 percent of the gross domestic product, nearly identical to Greece. And like Greece, Italy is trying to ease fears in the euro zone and elsewhere with an austerity package, one intended to cut the deficit in half, to 2.7 percent of G.D.P., by 2012.

But dig a little deeper and the similarities end. The Italians, unlike the Greeks, are born savers, and much of the Italian debt is owned by the Italians. That means that unlike Greece, which will be sending a sizable percentage of its G.D.P. to foreign creditors for a generation to come, Italy is basically in hock to its own citizens.

“I know that in the States, all Mediterranean countries get lumped together,” says Carlo Altomonte, an economist with Bocconi University in Milan. “But Italy’s problem isn’t that we have a lot of debt. It’s that we don’t grow.”

The author goes on to argue in Italy the problem isn't debt but economic growth - and that's something many Western nations face.

Italy And Precision Manufacturing

Precision manufacturing. Betcha you weren't aware Italy are strong in this field, right? Presumptuous paranoia on my part. Forgive me. Some of you probably knew this - before me likely.

I shamelessly rip from Lathes CNC Milling (link above):

"In Italy you will discover certainly a lot of enterprises that offer with mechanical create and precision physical create. Appliance stores are actually numerous for the full territory, but the most important fact definitely worth noting is the elevated amount reached by these appliance shops. These are in a position to produce numerous types of products, down towards the smaller parts that require a extremely large accurate degree.

Some incredibly significant manufactures are for instance the dull or cylinder bore, this may be the procedure of enlarging a hole that has currently been drilled (or cast), by indicates of the single-point cutting application.
Or even the broaching, which is a mechanised process for that creation of gears, whilst the thread will be the practice utilized to create the internal thread to the bores or external on the cylindrical and conical pieces.

An constantly important instrument on just about every machine store will be the lathe. There are many type of lathe, this kind of as the woodworking lathe, the metalworking lathe, cue lathes and so forth.

The mechanised lathe is often a basic produce inside the appliance look, simply because it makes it possible for realizing a lot of components while using the greatest accurate and in much less time possible.

It truly is crucial not to underrate the relevance of these manufactures for the Italian market, to start with since they run in various sectors, a accuracy equipment look can build items truly important for your healthcare, dental, but even aerospace and so forth. sector enterprises.

Then, analyzing the information on patents, through the total 846.955 patent requests published in the EPO (European Patent Workplace) among 1999 and 2006, just 27.616 are from Italy, they enhanced around the regular about 4,9% just about every year. The trend would seem for being positive. But, though it truly is in pole position in comparison to some European region, especially on innovative makes, Italy results within the fourth final site within the ranking of G9 nations. Italy is fiercely preceded from Germany and followed just by Russia and China.

Among the G9 group, the Italian excellence is particularly depending on the physical equipment market, about the motors and physical gadgets sectors, with some points of large technological specialization inside the processes, machines and producing instruments; vehicles and gadgets.

The accurate mechanised produce sector appears to become of important relevance for our land. Not just our enterprises can compete about the same place with their European competitors, but it is really a sector that is certainly distinguished from all other folks Italian industrial sectors by its dynamism and innovation skills. They’re essential top quality to easily and efficiently with the true economic crisis."
I thought it would be cool to post a link to a google image result for "Precision Manufacturing Italy." It gives you and idea what it encompasses.

Not bad.

Polysolver Bids To Enter Gulf Spill Clean Up

"Italy could provide the solution to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that is currently polluting the Gulf of Mexico.

Polysolver is a product that binds inextricably with hydrocarbons forming a paste that can be used as fuel, or from which the crude oil can be recovered by ‘wringing it out’. The US company responsible for the clean-up operation has requested a sample of the product. The innovation was made by a company called GTA srl, owned by Catania-based Arcobaleno and the National Research Council (CNR) in Rome."

All I know is it's a shame BP had no back up plan.

Lombardy, Emilia Romagna And Naples Discover Food Of Youth Through Tomatoes

It was a matter of time before Super Tomato was going to make us all younger. 

"The tomato has been grown by farmers’ cooperatives in Emilia Romagna and Lombardy and has not been genetically modified. According to the farmers’ union Coldiretti, it contains high concentrations of lypocene, a powerful antioxidant which may help combat the ageing process. It may also help prevent cardiovascular disease and strokes and have anti-cancer properties."

Medical Breakthroughs In Turin, Pisa And Rome

Turin scientists identify metastasis molecule.

"Italian researchers say they have discovered a molecule that governs the spread of cancers, possibly paving the way for new treatments for millions of sufferers worldwide."

Read more here.

"A mother who gave her daughter a kidney in a life-saving operation had more reason that most to feel nervous... because the surgeon was a ROBOT."

More on robot assisted kidney transplant in Pisa here.

From Life In Italy, doctors discover gene causing diabetes  and another study learns method in detecting strokes in diabetics in Rome.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Bianchi: World's Oldest Bike Manufacturer

Established in 1885 by Edouardo Bianchi (died 1946) and noted for its celeste (aqua-blue green color) frames, Bianchi is the world's oldest bicycle manufacurer who invented the front calliper brake. In fact, from the onset Bianchi was an innovative company. They pioneered the use of equal-sized wheels with pneumatic rubber tires the year they were founded. See Bianchi timeline here.

Like most Italian companies that rarely stay put in one area, Bianchi dabbled in motorcycles (1897-1967) and luxury cars (from 1900-1939) as well. However, unlike many Italian companies, Bianchi didn't (at the time on the bicycle side. Now they do provide custom services) specialize rather opting for mass industrial production. By 1915, it was producing 40 000 bicycles, 1500 motorcycles and 1000 cars a year. By the 1940s, the company employed over 4000 workers in two factories.

In 1955, the company returned to car building after a 16-year layoff to produce the Autobianchi in conjunction with Pirelli and Fiat. It was later rebranded into Lancia in 1989.

Bianchi is currently part of Cycleurope of Sweden.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Map Of Italian Dialects

Wilier Triestina And Guerciotti Bikes

Triestina rides to UCI titles

Just a couple of bike manufacturers to complement your Sunday readings. The first is Wilier Triestina founded in 1906 and still finding success and the second Guerciotti founded in 1964.

For Bike Enthusiasts

The 68th Motorcyle and Bicycle exhibition presented by EICMA is taking place in Milan from November 2-7, 2010.

Leather Craftsmanship

There's no such thing as "Italian" or "Spanish" leather. If you have to import the product, it's not indigenous to your culture. The type of leather Italian designers desire and use is not made in Italy. So they import it from all sorts of places. Same goes with "Italian" coffee. Coffee beans are not grown in Italy but in places like Yemen, Africa and Central America.

Italy is a net importer of many things that they turn into their own.

When we say "Italian" espresso or leather, we're talking about the art of turning coffee or leather into something "Italian."

This is where Italians have become masters and it's not different with leather.