Market study says vendor lock-in will continue to drive growth of build material market.
Susanne Kahle's insight:
This is a short article regarding the market of 3D printing materials. It´s neither a surprise that it´s overall growing nor that "plastic" is the dominating material sold - nevertheless it shows that the development of the 3D printing towards the use and the combination of different materials is not an easy one which directly relates to the attached product portfolio (and mirrors the distribution of 3D printing hardware in terms of different technologies).
The article also states a key issue concerning the quest of 3D printing hardware manufacturers to ensure that only specific material cartridges can be used, thereby actively hindering 3rd party suppliers to enter the market. Therefor the future pricing for 3D printing materials largely depends on the distribution of 3D hardware allowing consumers a "free choice" where to order 3D printing materials. In case companies like HP (recently announced to enter the 3D printing market) or Stratasys (makerbot acquisition) gain hardware dominance in the end consumer market chances will be quite low for that to happen.
Next to 3D printing (FDM) it includes not only milling tools but a 3D scanning system as well. Basically you can create a complete 3D object and use additive as well as substracitve manufacturing processes to get the result you aim for.
The Gartner Hype Cycle obviously is nothing new (but kind of an "institution"). Regarding 3D printing it´s interesting that related items of the 3d manufacturing supply chain have been separated once more. I am not sure when it "happened" but take the same cycle 1 year earlier (http://speck-informatik.ch/2/wp-content/themes/webmagazine/images/Gartner-Hype-Cycle-2012.png) and you'll find 3D scanners, 3D printing, 3D bio printing as well as internet of things (ofc) but a very important distinction wasn´t part of it; 3D printing now exists in two versions: (1) consumer 3D printing and (2) enterprise 3D printing - each with its own "plateau estimation" 5-10 years years vs. 2-5 years.
This is an important correction and so far is not part of most market estimations regarding market growth and size. Definitely both - consumer and enterprise 3D printing - are closley connected to each other (e.g. accessible technologies and materials as well as pricing) but don´t take the same course towards target groups, distribution and connected timeframes. This may also apply on an even deeper level when viewing possible developments in the small and medium-sized enterprises vs. micro business sector (which so far seems more or less untried).
One more approach to make the creation of 3D models easier and therefor detach it from expert knowledge (at least a little bit). It´s also interesting that so far a lot of hardware projects try to cover several steps of the "3D manufacturing supply chain" especially 3D modeling, the 3D printing hardware itself as well as attached services (especially market places, e.g. thingisvers, shapeways etc.).
IMHO it leads to interesting combinations/company setups but also to suboptimal results - especially the market places leave a lot space for optimzation. Additionally decentralization seems to work well (so far) in regards to software and hardware solutions but makes things harder for micro businesses as well as end consumers regarding services/market places.
Finding Inspiration at the U.S. PTO If you are looking for novel designs that can be 3D printed, New York-based intellectual property lawyer Martin Galese has lots of ideas, and none of them are his own.
This is an interesting approach to find "new products" and make them available for 3D printing - researching the data of the US PTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) for patents long gone (expired).
On the one hand you may find lots of burried products or product parts for a revival party on the other you avoid intellectual porperty law infringement right from the beginning.
The potential of 3D printing and robotics is nothing if not inspiring, but it's difficult even to imagine the extent of the inroads they will make in our manufacturing base or the myriad products they'll eventually produce.
Interesting headline but IMHO disputable article regarding the main topic (connection between 3D printing/manufacturing, robotics and its impact on todays manufacturing industry):
It´s true that 3D printing/3D manufacturing is going to reach more and more product segments (depending on developments in different areas: material, resolution, size, hardware costs etc.) meaning the product portfolio based on 3D manufacturing . It´s also true that changes in production will be severe.
I guess it´s justifiable to estimate that two different types of businesses will be most involved during the first wave: emergence of micro businesses ("new business") and small and medium-sized enterprises (e.g. by shifting their production to 3D manufacturing, facing new and maybe unexpected competition by copy cats/innovators/low(er) cost production [lower market barriers etc.], extinction/emergence due to higher developed new products).
The article states ("What´s a Manufacturer to Do?") that manufactures need to stay on the leading edge of technology and ensure competitive pricing, high quality and rapid delivery service. Furthermore it references on two main protective barriers against new players using 3D manufacturing technologies: patents and economies of scale.
To ensure competitive pricing seems a given, high quality is only partially interesting and always competes with lots of other aspects such as target groups, brand etc.. Especially regarding the named barriers several objections may be of relevance:
A. Patents: the world of physical goods is not dominated by other key laws of intellectual property as the world of digital media (creative work = copyright) - or to be more specific there are tons of physical goods not protected at all.
Unlike copyright patents are not automatically granted with the creation of a work, you have to apply for a patent, it expires a lot sooner and you have to sue to gain recompensation for an supposed infringement. Even more important a manufacturer/patent holder has to prove that the infringement actually led to monetary damage.
B. Economies of scale: "Economies of scale can also help a manufacturer and offer some insulation against the competition. In such cases, the product becomes cheaper as production increases, making it difficult for a competitor to survive operating on a smaller scale."
IMO especially *that* (so-called) barrier seems to work against and not for lots of "traditional manufacturers" (influence and range growing over time). As seen in many other industries it´s not very likely that traditional manufacturers will be able to adapt fast or at all - it takes a lot more effort (and therefor time) to change a business model/supply chain than to start a new by building up on existing fragments of an emerging market (e.g. hardware, software, scanning technologies etc.). Races between old and new econcomy (and the incoming changes regarding means of production are attracting tons of people that grew up with the mind set of that new economy) seem to favor agility and methods of the later when it comes to survival rates.
Furthermore 3D manufacturing in combination with robotics (not solely related to assembly lines but to ideas of self replication and merging of several production steps into one [e.g. combination of 3D printing with milling etc.]) will reach those product segments first that are especially eligible for these new technologies - for those old economy players the economies of scale barrier probably will fall very fast.
As a seemingly endless stream of companies work to bring the world its first truly mainstream desktop 3D printer, a number of folks are attempting to
Susanne Kahle's insight:
Next to 3D Printing all connected areas (3D manufacturing supply chain) deliver new and interesting steps towards an easier and more affordable way to get to the key step of 3D manufacturing: the 3D model. One of those areas is 3D scanning. Next to platform based solutions aiming to use uploads of "2D pictures" (e.g. taken with your iPhone) into "ready-to-use" 3D models new hardware solutions are on its way as well - one of those is the Kickstarter Project "Fuel3D" mentioned in an Engadget article. The 3D scanner is supposed to cost below $1k. Since the scanner is a handheld device it promises a high flexibility due to free movement. For more information check out the Kickstarter project (video included): (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/45699157/fuel3d-a-handheld-3d-scanner-for-less-than-1000)
One of the fun things about traveling to a distant land is bringing back a souvenir to remember the journey. That's easy enough when visiting France or China, but what about trips to the World of WarCraft?
To use game worlds, characters and avatars to create gorgeous 3D prints seems to be a logic step since the 3D models are a given/inbuilt part of games. As the wired article states even with the 3D models "at hand" additional work is needed to get optimzed results - if you order a 3D print of your beloved Worl of Warcraft Paladin healer you want the real thing and not a heap of plastic. Overall what works for games may become an additional way of merchandising business for the movie industry as well - so far "micro businesses" take care of the demand for fan articles. Operating in the legal limbo they deliver ready to print and/or edit 3D models - looking for the Millenium Falcon"? They also fill voids (e.g. you can get very specific Game of Thrones (HBO) models including furniture pieces, weaponry and your favorite character).
There are even more exiting projects regarding the possibilities of 3D printing when it comes to games: One of those is mineways - it allows for an export of your self-built items and conversion in a 3D printable file format. Hte interesting part is the idea to use a game to create unique/highly personalized constructions and then get your a physical version of it. The game (in this case: Minecraft) more or less fills the role of a "easy/fun to use" CAD program.
The main focus of the article follows a possible "new boost" for 3D manufacturing technology and its development into consumer households due to the expiration of patents regarding laser sintering technology (probably leading to tons of new hardware models, reduced hardware pricing and a big leap towards 3D printed objects that are delivered in a "ready to rumble" version.
Some of the other insights in regards to shapeways (3D printer farm) situation are likeways interesting: fulfilling orders (3D prints) takes them around two weeks - reason is an (at least for me) unexpected bottleneck: a 12- to 18-months waitlist for printers from 3D Systems (DDD).
Discussions about copyright or patent infringement related to 3D printing often revolve around the idea of individuals stealing designs from corporations.
Susanne Kahle's insight:
A very interesting article regarding the unavoilable discussion of intellectual property rights and 3D manufacturing - as long as 3D scanning and 3D printing mainly "occured" in an industrial production environment the playground more or less was well defined. With the growing distribution of hardware and software solutions (especially when it comes to 3D scanning) to end consumers it´s getting more and more obvious that it´s going to get a lot harder to protect or control objects. After the (still ongoing) war between media comapanies against their once beloved end consumers as well as new business companies (e.g. Google) a new frontier will rise - but this time the stakes are even higher since the size of the content market compared to the market size of industrial production/physical objects is like picturing a sand grain next to a desert.
Although the complexity of laws regarding "objects" is a lot higher - all key parts of intellectual poperty rights come together in a quite challenging mix that has to be sorted out: copyright - patent - trade mark/trade dress...
The article cites Michael Weinberg (VP Public Knowledge) who published two very interesting ebooks - both are well written and I promise you will not be endangered to fall asleep should you decide to read them - in case one book is enough for you I recommend to go with the first:
Scientists have created a dome printed by thousands of live silkworms. The dome is the first 3D printed structure made out of 100% natural materials.
Susanne Kahle's insight:
It´s not always traditional hardware you need to "3D print" a structure - in nature 3D manufacturing basically is a very old way of production - therefor some guys from MIT used an army of small living beings to get to work.
Another step to enhance the avaiblibilty of 3D products (and to promote their existence) which probable will boost the emergence of small and micro sized businesses around the 3D manufacturing supply chain.
Scientists are trying to get graphene (an allotrope of the chemical element carbon, "C") ready for 3D printing which would be a HUGE step (e.g. due to its special properties graphene is in high demand for batteries/to store energy and also to manage extremly high temperatures).
"Complex electronics, unbreakable frames and brackets, and even sources of renewable energy could be printed in graphene. Hell, since carbon is floating around us, it may be possible for a 3D printer to pull graphene literally out of thin air."
The company hasn’t revealed what kind of product it is working on, but its CEO said affordability and speed are big focuses.
Susanne Kahle's insight:
Seems one of the big "2D"-printing companies moves toward consumer 3D printing. It will be interesting to observe HP`s strategy. Even more interesting since HP`s competition won´t be secluded to various products and services from the maker movement and crowdsourcing projects but also includes established (native) 3D manufacturing companies such as Stratasys (SSYS) and 3D Systems (DDD). Towards the first category (maker/crowdsourcing/educational institutes…) can rely on some advantages including a fine tuned production and distribution net as well as tons of hardware experience. Compared to big players of the second field of competition (industrial 3D manufacturing) HP has one key advantage: it´s long build experience in the end consumer business. But at least Stratasys already made a big move to overcome this gap by acquiring makerbot.
An interesting video regarding the possibilities of 3D printing in architecture and housing projects (discussing cost savings, "freedom of form" and speeding up the building process).
There are several other Ted Talks with a focus towards 3D printing and architecture. One of them is especially interesting cause it (IMHO) provides a deeper insight and connects the topic into a wider scope:
Alastair Parvin: Architecture by the people for the people
(http://www.ted.com/talks/alastair_parvin_architecture_for_the_people_by_the_people.html) --> It seems to start with a focus on architecture and city planning only but then opens up by developing into a very "radical" idea of future open source/sharing - the wikihouse project. In this project changes regarding "means of production" and distribution of knowledge merge into a very exciting preview of a future that enables people around the world to shape their environment and enhance not only their own circumstances but also those of others connected (basically a merger of several movements such as DIY, Makers, Crowdsourcing, "Rise of the machines" etc.).
Another interesting example of "enhanced" 3D printing hardware - by adding additional capabilities (milling, etching etc.) these machines are able to not only allow the creation of 3D prints within a "1step-production" but also to include additional processes to create even more complex (e.g. personalization, customization as well as prost-processing/finishing) products.
This (further) establishes three main developments regarding 3D printing hardware:
(1) (even more/additional) opportunities for a fast growing product portfolio
(2) maker movement, crowdsourcing and decentralized hardware development enables wide range of different approaches and solutions (especially regarding areas of expertise in "close range" such as robotics and bionics)
(3) growing need for new/more powerful file formats and 3D modeling software (ease of use/higher level of abstraction)
First Staples and now UPS - both are integrating 3D printing stations within their chain stores. On the one side it´s similar to the distribution of "2D printer technology" via post offices and retailers on the other hand two aspects may be noteworthy:
1. 3D printing is especially interesting to all companies involved in logistics - and the stakes are high: so far the severe decline in the snail mail business has been accompanied by a huge increase in the parcel service. Global companies with a foot in both areas (such as the Deutsche Post AG [DHL]) used the growth in one sector to diminish impacts from the declining business in the other and so on... In case 3D printing seriously hits the market within the next decade (meaning a noticable amount of products won´t need transportation/traditional logistics anymore cause their physical form simply "emerges" where needed or at least very close to the recipient) it´s the same effect that the kindle book store has on the amount of hardcopies delivered to customers… only spread to more and more product segments. Therefore printer farms and 3D printer shops (similar to former copy shops) are likely to threaten logistic companies on a whole new level.
2. There are lots of aspects relevant to the general distribution of 3D printer hardware on an end consumer level (<<3D printers in the living room>>) - it´s a lot more likely that the (mass market) accessibility of 3D printer hardware will be granted via centralized printing farms (like shapeways), new forms of copy shops (fab labs come to mind) and chain stores (Staples, post offices etc.). On the one hand the range of products available via 3D models and new file formats will grow, the complexity of these models as well as the size will increase - both likely to increase the need for highly developed 3D printers using several materials and tools at the same time and also requiring a lot of space (at least when places next to your couch).
Another interesting 3D scanning project: Disney Research developed an algorithm that compares 2D views of a scenery/environment and then calculates the depth per pixel (or at least an estimation for it). To use 2D pictures to create 3D models is not a new approach but in this case it´s not "one specific object" but instead a complex scenery consisting of lots of objects on different levels (watch the video to get an better idea :-) ).
The researchers used a 21-megapixel camera combined with hardware to ensure a unified geometry - then a standard graphic processor calculated the 3D scenery based on 100 pictures taken.
Future development of the algorithm is supposed to ensure an equal quality based on pictures taken with a handheld camera.
Interesting approach to gain more control regarding material and related properties. Could provide a wider range of 3D printed products and even more interesting ... products with new and/or innovative characteristics.
The "internet of things" for sure is not a new idea - but it´s still... an idea. Although RFIDs, barcodes etc. manage to scratch on the surface of the vision behind that "buzz term" things are still nothing more than a sturdy visitor in the digital world - specially when it comes to aspects like logisitics, ownership and availability (e.g. edit, create, share).
3D manufacturing and its supply chain are going to change that in several ways - and it´s not so much the 3D printing itself but the steps before that magic moment when an idea of something gets a real object; easier (and cheaper) solutions for scanning and modeling will boost the number of things that are not only visitors of the digital world but natural habitants with all the advantages (and from some points of view disadvantages) regarding their characteristics: you can move these things without moving anything physical, they are availabe for sharing, editing, they can be created anywhere by anybody and materialize in your living room. thing = object (3D object).
Karl D.D. Willis (Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh) uses a technology named "InfraStructs" that reaches even beyond that step - by seamless (the process doesn´t stop the printing process but instead is part of it) integration passive information into the structure of 3D printed objects. Next to the usual information about country of manufacture or creation date the data could include machine-readable data (e.g. telling a machine what to do with the object, the form, how it can be manipulated etc.).
InfraStructs uses terahertz imaging to read volumetric information - instead of attaching additional tools to an object (RIFD etc.) the object inherits the information right away from the moment it´s printed or more specific the machine-readable information is part of the object itself. Imagine a Kinect device that doesn´t only scan its environment but can gain tons of deeper information from its inhabitants. That would open doors to a whole new defintion of interactivity (regarding objects) even when after the digital/virtual object reached the state of an physical existence.
An interesting Indiegogo-Project (Origin: South Africa) instead of using plastic filament or powder the I-AM 3D uses ink or to be more specific inks in different compositions. Those compositions are supposed to allow 3D printing with several metal alloys (e.g. gold, platinum and maybe aluminium and titanium as well).
Another anouncement regarding the Windows 8.1 support of 3D printing. The article contains an interesting comment related to the "maybe biggests bottleneck"when it comes to the distribution of 3D printing technology and software: know-how - or more specific: special know-how you need nowadays to develop 3D models with CAD and modeling software. Basically it´s possible to leapfrog this step in case you can scan an existing model, but even then you´ll usually need to edit/repair the file to optimze the print result/object.
While Gartner research director Pete Basiliere names this fact as a severe roadblock regarding the distribution of 3D printer hardware to (end) consumers one could argue against that prediction on several levels:
- the development of software e.g. HMTL - already some companies (not only startups but established companies as well) are on their way to develop new a lot more intuitive user interfaces to simplify complex steps in developing or editing 3D models.
- the key to 3D printing and whether it makes sense to have a 3D printer in your living room may not be that deeply connected to the consumers ability to use modeling/CAD software as it seems: the combination of a fast growing number of easy to obtain 3D models (market places, sharing platforms - e.g. shapeways, thingiverse etc.) and the development of "smarter hardware" (partially replacing "assembly lines" by offering a set of tools in on package; e.g. milling) as well as more capable file formats (I remember a presentation from Adrian Bowyer stating the disadvantages or shortcomings of *.stl) may reduce the necessity of know-how a lot. You search and discover the item you want, you buy the model, you print it - end of story.
- micro tasking may also be a factor (but with a smaller impact regarding mass market). There are already several platforms offering (payed) help in case you need a specialist to create a 3D model based on a sketch.
- roadblockers for 3D hardware distribution may lie in other areas of 3D manufacturing: size (restrictions towards the size of printed objects), materials (availability, usability) and complexity added by necessity to use several materials in one production step, easy access to high tech printers via 3D printing farms (e.g. shapeways but also staples and may be other retailers)
A funny thing happened on the way to our supposedly 3D-printed future: A simpler, older, but no less revolutionary technology made its way into every automated factory on earth, and now it's coming to a garage near you.
Next to printer farms like shapeways fab labs and other initiatives (e.g. Staples starting a first project to offer 3D printers in some stores) are going to make 3D manufacturing resources more and more available to (so-called) end consumers.
Regarding the Chicago library project two aspects seem especially interesting: (a) in terms of production: next to 3D printers you can also use a milling machine and therefor experiment with some interesting production methods; (b) librarians have to approve of the designs to be printed - which could become tricky towards the legal side of 3D manufacturing (copyright, patent, trade dress etc.).