3D Printing Primer

A collection of readings highlighting some recent developments in 3D printing.

 

3D printing (or additive manufacturing) is a process by which 3D objects are created from digital images by ‘adding’ layers of material (in comparison to traditional  subtractive manufacturing  in which objects are created by ‘removing’ material). Advances in 3D printing present opportunities in manufacturing:

Freed of the constraints of traditional factories, additive manufacturing allows designers to produce things that were previously considered far too complex to make economically.

Weight savings are part of the attraction of 3D-printed parts. With objects being built up layer by layer, it is possible to use just enough material to make the part work.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552892

 

At present 3D printers make things one at a time or in small batches. But if they could work in a continuous process—like the pill-making machine in the Novartis-MIT laboratory—they could be used on a moving production line. The aim would be to build things faster and more flexibly rather than to achieve economies of scale. Such a line could be used to build products that are too big to fit into existing 3D printers and, because the machine is digitally controlled, a different item could be built on each platform, making mass customisation possible. That would allow the technology to take off.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552897

 

3D Printing is also becoming cheaper – portable printers are now available for less than 1000 USD.

Introducing UP! mini 3D printer, the much anticipated follow-up of Delta Micro’s flagship 3D printer, UP! Plus. The all-new UP Mini 3D Printer, with its full metal, temperature stabilizing enclosure is available to pre-order at groundbreaking price US$899.

via pp3dp

 

 

Cheap printers, combined with better software, and portable scanners, could make Star Trek like replicators a reality. This in turn could span new businesses and business models.

The Replicator, a robotic rapid-manufacturing system made by Cybaman Technologies, a British firm, already gets close. The size of a large refrigerator, it is capable of both subtractive and additive manufacturing. It uses a laser-based deposition system to build a basic shape which is finished by machining. The Replicator, as befits its name, is also capable of reverse engineering by digitally scanning an object placed inside it to produce the data needed to build an exact replica.

The Replicator is as near as current technology can get to the teleporter of science fiction. It could scan an object in one place and tell another machine on the other side of the world how to build a copy.

Just as the emergence of e-books means books may never go out of print, components could always remain available. Service mechanics could have portable 3D printers in their vans, or hardware stores could offer part-printing services.

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552892

 

Similarly, a combination of crowdsourcing, and 3D printing can democratize the process of design and enable cheap, mass customization. See this video at http://www.economist.com/node/21553276

 

3D printing can also potentially change the way communities function:

In a farming culture like India, a 3D printer could allow small parts for broken tractors to be printed, or custom-made connectors for irrigation systems cobbled together from metre upon metre of different types of hose.

via http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120926-desktop-drugstores

 

However, the applications of 3D printing are not confined to manufacturing:

Some researchers are already using 3D printers to produce simple living tissues, such as skin, muscle and short stretches of blood vessels. There is a possibility that larger body parts, like kidneys, livers and even hearts, could one day be printed—and if the bio-printers can use the patient’s own stem cells, his body would be less likely to reject the printed organs after a transplant.

Food can be printed too. Researchers at Cornell University have already succeeded in printing cupcakes. The “killer app” with food, almost everyone agrees, will be printing chocolate

via http://www.economist.com/node/21552903

 

In this TED talk, living cells are used to print bone (at 7:20) and a currently experimental, human kidney (at 10:10):

 

There are also prototypes of 3D printers that can print parts for other 3D printers – giving life to the stories of self-spawning machines (and many potential applications).

Now Nasa has taken the RepRap concept one step further with SpiderFab, which proposes putting a large 3D-printing machine in orbit around earth and delivering to it the base materials it can use to build space-station components, satellites, modules and, eventually, entire spacecraft in space, thereby eliminating the vast cost of launching them from the ground.

via http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/gadgets/2012/09/26/3d-printing-now-out-of-this-world

State of the Social Network War

Facebook might be the biggest social network, but LinkedIn is clearly the stock market’s darling. 

 

While Facebook has been in the news recently for its dropping share price (which perhaps is not a fair reflection of future possibilities as I write in this earlier post), LinkedIn has been quietly going about its job. It has been announcing a slew of features. These include  new company pages, notifications, new mobile features, and Outlook integration.

 

Launching today is our new notifications feature, which will keep you notified in real-time when someone likes what you’ve shared on LinkedIn, views your profile, accepts your invitation, and much more.

 

 

 

 

On iPhone and Android:

  • Get notified: We will keep you notified in real-time when someone likes what you’ve shared on LinkedIn, views your profile, accepts your invitation, and much more.
  • Company pages goes mobile: Find out which connections work at the companies you care about, see recent news and updates from the company, and learn about current job openings.
  • Don’t want your employer to know you’re looking?: We’ve recently added access tojob listings and jobs you may be interested in directly within your mobile update stream.

 

 

Clearly, LinkedIn is doing better on the mobile platform (23% of LinkedIn users use its mobile apps) and on its ability to monetize its user base (for now). This is reflected in the rising share price – this wonderful chart by statista.com clearly shows that LinkedIn is thriving, while Facebook crashes (see the original chart here).

 

Image via Statista.com

 

And what about Google+? Well, this comic by xkcd says it all.

 

Google+

Image via xkcd

Is it really doomsday for Facebook?

Several issues are depressing Facebook’s stock price, but there seems an upside that the market is not tuned in to.

 

Facebook’s plummeting market value has been a major talking point of late. Its share price recently fell to below half of its IPO level and the doomsday forecasts are arriving thick and fast. Most analysts suggest that this is due to a combination of factors – expiry of a moratorium means that insiders are flooding the market with stock; Facebook is barely meeting its revenue and profit guidance numbers; and, the market is adjusting to the ‘real value’ due to reduced future expectations .

 

This article, on TechCrunch, presents three reasons why the future is bleak for Facebook –

Decelerating growth in users, unfavorable change in user mix, and a question mark in ARPU. In the short term, Facebook is certain to grow, but the question of Inferno vs. Paradiso will take quite some time to sort out.

This infographic by statista illustrates the market saturation and user mix problems faced by Facebook:

 

Image via Statista

 

Facebook’s major user growth in the coming years will occur in developing markets – where average revenues per user are traditionally much lower as compared to developed markets. Another major trend is the the movement of users to mobile platforms.

This second infographic by statista makes this more clear:

 

Image via Statista

 

It seems clear that Facebook’s future (or at least future stock price) is dependent upon its ability to monetize its mobile and developing world users. Or is it?

 

A bigger upside depends upon Facebook’s ability to make itself a platform for commerce and creativity. If Facebook can set rules that protect the privacy and security of its billion plus engaged users, while providing an environment within which application developers and entrepreneurs can offer Social network driven, Mobile based, Location triggered services, it can potentially earn billions in revenues through commissions alone. A scene illustrating this viable future is:

 

You are deciding where to get lunch. You launch the FB app, and use the smartphone camera to view a restaurant. The image is augmented by a bubble which states that 78 of your FB friends have recently been to the place, 80% of whom rate it 4+ out of 5. The app also says that if you eat there today, you will get 10% off your bill in the form of FB credits.

 

How does Facebook make real money in the scenario? By taking a cut on the sales of FB credits (for example, $1 = 1 FB Credit, but you can buy 10 credits from Facebook for $11 and sell 10 credits back for just $9).

 

However, these are big IFs and THENs.

Revisiting Prezi: New features for all and free stuff for Edu users

I recently revisited Prezi and set up a new Edu account, which provides the ability to have private, secure content for free (note that Prezi’s created using standard free accounts are public).

Core Features

500 mb Storage Space

Make prezis private to secure your content

Use your own logo instead of Prezi’s

via Pricing | Prezi.

Also noted that Prezi has a new PowerPoint import feature:

There are also new 3D background and fade in zoom features. In case you are wondering what Prezi is all about, either see the short video below:

Or see this slightly longer, but more informative video:

Bottom line: Prezi is an exciting new (ish) information viewing and sharing service based on a freemium model, which is a harbinger of several future trends in information & content discovery. Give it a whirl!

Prezi Logo

Prezi Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apple: finally making a play for riches at the bottom of the pyramid?

Apple’s iPhone 3GS is now available in India for less than 200 USD (Rs. 9999).

Image via Wikipedia

This represents a price reduction of 50% over the past year or so and might signal a change in strategy. Apple might be finally moving to tap the riches at the bottom of the pyramid and trying to gain a foothold in the fast growing smartphone market of India. As this article correctly points out, the iPhone 3GS is still a superior when compared to the low-end Android phones offered to the Indian consumer. Coupled with its ability to upgrade to IOS 6, Apple might finally have a winner.

Or this might just be another ‘inventory clearing exercise’ as Apple readies for the launch of the iPhone 5. Either way, one hopes that increased iPhone sales in India will lead to an improvement in the Apple Experience and service coverage available in India.

Zynga: Downward Ho?

Electronic Arts has accused Zynga of copying its long running ‘The Sims‘ franchise and thus is taking it to court. This bad news follows not so exciting Q2 results from Zynga. As this chart from statista shows, Zynga has a monetization problem (something that many had suggested during the IPO hype). Zynga’s average monthly revenues per user have been declining for the past year. Zynga’s stunted growth also reflects upon Facebook’s slowing revenue growth figures, due to their deep integration.

Or in the words of Statista

After crunching the numbers, we found that Zynga is still having trouble monetizing its ever-growing user base. Average bookings per monthly unique user are on a downward-slope, having declined year-over-year in each of the past four quarters. If Zynga doesn’t manage to turn this trend around, the company will have trouble justifying the hype that surrounded its IPO last year.

zynga-s-monetization-problem

Image via Statista.com

See the original infographic here.

Smartphone Wars: iPhone Trade-Ins

 

 

On the heels of recent news that Samsung has overtaken Apple as the largest Smartphone manufacturer, one is seeing more aggressive marketing. There was a recent deal on Groupon in Hong Kong, which offered a Samsung Galaxy SIII in return for an iPhone 4S plus 90 US dollars. While this seems quite a steal, there were not many takers for this deal. This implies that either folks are not keen on the switch (iPhone 4 s to SIII), or that there are better (cheaper!) trade-in offers available in the Hong Kong market. Note that long-term contracts are not in vogue in this market, hence contract lock-in can be plausibly ruled out as the cause for low uptake of this offer.

 

Image via Groupon (Hong Kong)

 

Facebook Q2 Earnings

This infographic, by Statista, presents Facebook‘s Q2 earnings report. The bottom line – revenue growth is slowing as more users access Facebook via mobiles. The sinking stock price reflects investors’ concerns about the lack of a clear mobile monetization strategy.

 

Image via Statista

 

See the original infographic here.