The Next Big Thing
Posts about next generation technologies and their effect on business.

3D printing and the demand for custom

camera mount.jpgWhenever I talk to people about 3D printing there is always interest in being able to create new, custom objects but eventually it gets to a point where they say “Wait a minute, how often will I need to actually do this?”

 

Granted not everyone will have the skills to create their own designs but it is actually not all that hard when you use tools like SketchUp. I’ve printed out designs for neighbors, relatives, friends… Many people have these custom ideas sitting around but no way to do anything about them. 

 

For example, I have two monitors that I stack vertically one over the other, at home. I’d like to put my webcam in a very specific position between the two monitors. This would allow it to appear that I am looking somewhere near the middle of the screen when I am doing a video call – so they don’t get the bald headed view or nostril cam. I also don’t want any of the cables to get in the way of the screen.

My monitor has a strange shape at the top of the housing that is ideal to clip onto, so I made a custom part that positions my camera so that it is out of the way (within the bevels of the two screens). There was zero possibility that this design existed so it took me about 4-6 hours to design and make this rather convoluted shape, with 2 prototypes along the way.

 

There are no fasteners to mar the surface of the monitors and when it clips into place, it is not going anywhere. I’ve taken it on and off a number of times and that was just what I wanted.

 

Here is another article that might give you some ideas about The world's five most fascinating 3D printing projects

Tags: 3D| 3D printing
Labels: 3D| 3D printing

Are printed houses in our future?

futureplanning.pngOne of the areas I’ve touched on before is the concept of large scale 3D printing, essentially enabling the printing of houses. I came across this article on Why 3D-Printed Houses Matter. It is an interesting view of the current state and current misconceptions of what is possible. It also includes a link to a documentary being created about The Man Who Prints Houses showing the issues one person and his company had in making his dream a reality.  

 

May people have trouble wrapping their mind around a 3D-printed house, thinking it would be done board-by-board or brick-by-brick, when in reality much of the structure would be extruded (relatively seamlessly) onsite out of specially created materials. This will enable radically new topologies and techniques.

 

In the same way that 3D additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques are changing how we fabricate components and products, the same shifts could easily take place in the building market for some situations. The following TED Talk Video gives a great overview:

 

 

It makes me wonder about other industries and their future integration between computing and the basic tasks that need to be performed.

Medical application of 3D printing

3D print samples.jpgI mentioned a while back that I purchased a 3D printer (PrintrBot). After many hours of assembly and calibration, I actually produced some parts that look close to the models (chip bag holder and a cube calibration model).

 

Making my printer work made me even more impressed when the story broke about a 3D printed tracheal implant saved a baby's life. Essentially, they were able to print a splint to keep the baby’s air passage open, using a material that can be absorbed over time once it is no longer needed – this is another example of the intersection of 3D printing and medicine.

 

I was talking last evening with a product developer at a large food manufacturer who met with his tooling supplier yesterday. The supplier is producing production tooling direct from models using 3D printing and food grade plastic. You can expect to see some really interesting approaches to seasonal cookies/snacks in the future. These techniques are definitely entering larger volume mainstream manufacturing as well.

Disruptive Technologies, Impact and interplay

futureplanning.pngRecently the Atlantic had an article where they took a McKinsey report on disruptive technologies and turned it upside down to say which ones were the most overhyped. The Atlantic reporter based their analysis on economic impact vs. number of relevant articles.

 

The technologies were (in order of least impact to most):

  1. Renewable energy
  2. Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery
  3. Advanced materials
  4. 3D printing
  5. Energy storage
  6. Next-generation genomics
  7. Autonomous and near-autonomous vehicles
  8. Advanced robotics
  9. Cloud
  10. Internet of Things
  11. Automation of knowledge work
  12. Mobile Internet

This approach by the Atlantic may be a novel way to look at technologies but not all that accurate or effective from a strategic perspective, especially since I doubt that was the intent of the McKinsey article.

 

I was also a bit surprised by some of the technologies left out of the McKinsey report. Technologies like User Interface Advances were not really mentioned, and the interplay between technologies was just touched on.

 

The best example of interplay magnifying impact is the intersection of the mobile internet, the internet of things and automation of knowledge work. Where these intersect, the role of employees change – human augmented automation. An approach that takes advantage of the fact that people are not fungible, as opposed to how many business may look at employees.

 

A visioning document based on the interplay of technologies is likely worth its own report -- aiding IT leaders in thinking about enabling their business in whole new ways. In any case, the McKinsey report is worth the read.

Have you seen the new crop of personal devices on the horizon?

slatebookx2.pngAfter I got my Slate7 last week (which I have been very happy with by the way), I now see a whole new set of tablet-based platforms being discussed in the press. The Split x2 (for Windows 8) and the SlateBook x2 a serious tablet/laptop for Android.

 

It is clear there is a great deal of innovation and anticipation taking place in this space. When I think about how you use a tablet (e.g., less than an arm’s length away but a relatively fixed distance) it seems to by crying out for glasses free 3D – if you could only spare the power.

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About the Author(s)
  • Steve Simske is an HP Fellow and Director in the Printing and Content Delivery Lab in Hewlett-Packard Labs, and is the Director and Chief Technologist for the HP Labs Security Printing and Imaging program.
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