An Engineer’s Dream: The Story of Melotte (by Saskia Tjepkema)

Mario Fleurinck is an entrepeneur/engineer passionate about digital manufacturing. Before today, I didn’t know this even existed. But Mario engaged us in his passion from the first moments of his keynote at the World Appreciative Inquiry Conference.

He shared his discovery, back in 1996, of this alternative way of making “stuff.” On a visit to the Boeing factory, R&D lab engineers showed him something that he describes as “a big fish-tank-like glass box in which flashy light streams and sparkles could be seen. Out of the sparkles, an engine component slowly ‘grew’.” Mario couldn’t believe his eyes and was immediately struck by this new technology. “I called my father, told him: this is the future!”

Ever since, he has been striving to create viable business models based on this manufacturing method with his company Melotte. He is convinced this is “not only good for society and the environment, it also makes good business sense.” In his own authentic way, he is living David Cooperrider’s motto: doing well by doing good.

For non-engineers like me, analog manufacturing is the traditional way of producing by using natural, tangible resouces such as minerals or oil. But these resources will eventually be exhausted. And the manufacturing process produces waste, including carbon, material spills and transportation costs.

Digital manufacturing is a totally different way of transforming materials into products, using a minimum of raw materials and energy. It looks a bit like “3D printing” in the clips that Mario shows. Renewable resources are used, so the impact on environment is small. And production can stay local. because you don’t need materials from all over the world.

Considering his work in terms of the Appreciative Inquiry cycle, Mario has gone from the discover, dream and design phase to the stage of destiny,  working very hard to make his dream come alive. He is tuning his business model, spreading the word and sharing his energy and knowledge with people all over the world.

And judging from his positive and energetic determination, and the way  his message resonates with the audience, he is going to realize this dream long before his self-chosen deadline of 2015.

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