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

Recent 3D printing advances

3d printed art.jpgFunny how life can play with you. I wrote a blog post about time and how we all get the same amount every day and then I go for a whole week without the time to post again. So I better get back at it…


I've blogged about 3D printing many times before but have been giving the process quite a bit of thought this week. There are some pretty interesting innovations and applications of 3D printing coming about.


Some of the recent activities:

  1. Adobe expanding the 3D capabilities of Photoshop CC.
  2. Hershey talking about having a 3D printer (for chocolate!)
  3. Microsoft’s 3D builder application for Windows 8.1 in the apps store

show how various capabilities are advancing.


Some of these announcements are likely fallout and response to the 3D vendors at the CES earlier this month or preparation for the 3D Printer World Expo at the end of this month.


Although the 3D printing space is definitely the domain of specialists today, there are numerous innovations that are making it easier to use and more reliable. Since additive and subtractive manufacturing techniques are being applied to the creation of the printers themselves, this is a market with incredible price pressure as well as continuous innovation – that may confuse others.


By the way the picture is a 3D piece of desk art that I printed on my 3D printer. It's about an inch and a half across.

Innovative companies for 2013

innovation2.jpgThe Boston Consulting Group has released an interesting report on the most innovative companies for 2013.  It focused on the how and why innovation continues to increase as a company’s top strategic priority. The report includes various measures of successful Innovation. The great news from my perspective is that HP continued to be in within the top 20.


It is interesting though that there are more automakers than high-tech companies in the top 20. It makes me wonder if that is spurred by a focus on next generation manufacturing, sensors and automation… or something else. I talk about how resolving conflicts spurs on innovation and it is clear that the automakers have numerous conflicts on their plate.


The report goes on to analyse the sources of innovation strength:

  • Commitment to innovation
  • Leveraging IP
  • A managed portfolio of innovative initiatives
  • Strong customer focus
  • Strong processes


This last one is where people may be surprised. Some see innovation as something that is uncontrolled and spontaneous, to me strong processes help focus innovation where the creativity is needed.


The report was definitely worth looking at since it is example-based including a variety of perspectives.

Next generation manufacturing

animated_cloud_factory_22924.gifIndustry 4.0 is a project of the German government to promote the automation of traditional industries such as manufacturing. The goal is to implement intelligent factories (Smart Factory) that are adaptable, efficient and deliver a high quality product. They are also integrated up and down the supply chain. The approach is based on cyber-physical systems and the Internet of Things.


I saw a blog post from earlier in the year titled: The Future of Manufacturing: Industry 4.0, that seemed to be a good example of a large scale approach to the issues of automation, an industry and the government issues associated with it. Many are concerned that when automation takes place that the only jobs left for the masses will involve fast-food. The other point of view is the advent of mass custom manufacturing.


The United States, an initiative known as the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition that is also working on the future of manufacturing.

Happy Birthday to the Moving Assembly Line

Captain James T. Kirk said "Genius doesn't work on an assembly line basis. You can't simply say, 'Today I will be brilliant.'"  and this dichotomy is at the heart of the evolution of businesses.

3D printing in space – an example of agility

space station.pngI’ve written before about the alignment of 3D printing and space exploration. I just saw the news that NASA is preparing their first 3D printer for space. This makes a great deal of sense to me since anyone who has seen Apollo 13 knows that sometimes things need to be cobbled together to meet the needs of the moment and the only things the astronauts can use are those that came with them.


There still is quite a bit of confusion about what 3D printing really can do, as you can tell if you read this post about the announcement. I doubt they will be printing anything more complicated than a framework for holding satellite hardware (as opposed to the whole satellite, the way the article states).


I view this approach as analogous to what businesses are trying to do looking to adopt a new style of IT. They are trying to be more agile in how they can address the needs of the day, without having the same level of investment as needed in the past.


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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.