Tag Archives: Forbes

The 3D printing market is set to soar

A recently published Forbes article has highlighted that nearly every research firm in the field is now predicting the lucrative potential for the 3D printing market. Ranging from simple, open=source printers to complex, engineer-to-order production, 3D printing has already begun to redefine the manufacturing value chain across a number of industries, including aerospace, defense and healthcare. As previously reported on Bits & Pieces, the next-gen technology is expected to continue its acceleration towards mainstream with forecasts calling for it to become a $16 billion global industry within the next five years. In support of these projections, Tech Pro Research recently highlighted that 60% of businesses have either already used or are in the process of evaluating 3D printing within the enterprise.


Major analysts Canalys foresee the global 3D printing market to grow from $2.5 billion in 2013 to $16.2 billion by 2018, reaching a CAGR of 45.7% in the forecast period, while IDC believes that worldwide 3D printer sales and installation base will grow at an annual growth rate of 59% through 2017. With these each of these research firms holding such lofty expectations of 3D printing, the customizable future surely looks bright.


Similarly, Forbes also reports that Wells Fargo projects shipments of 3D printers are expected to grow at a CAGR of 95% per year from 2012 to 2017 with revenue expected to grow at 82% in the same forecast period. Furthermore, Gartner predicts that 3D printer shipments will surpass 1.1 million units by 2017 and end user spending will rise to $5.7 billion, reaching a CAGR of 82% within that time frame.


Morgan Stanley analysts have called for the additive manufacturing or 3D printing range from $7 billion by 2020 on an 18% CAGR to aggressive market scenarios reaching $21.3 billion by 2020.


With 3D printers being shipped at higher rates, manufacturers must begin to build their practices around the new wave of technology. According to a recent PwC report, 67% of surveyed manufacturers currently use 3D printing tools and another 25% plan to take on the technology in the near future. PwC goes on to demonstrate that as process quality increases and process speed quickens and feedstock costs drop, the market will grow exponentially.


As you can see, it is quite obvious that many of the market power brokers believe 3D printing is here to stay, and will take up a large portion of the tech market in the future. With more resources in the marketplace, this can only bring positive things for the Maker community!

Eric Pan: From Seeed Studio to HAXLR8R

Born in Sichuan, China, Eric Pan (潘昊) graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree from Chongqing University. 

He founded the wildly popular Seeed Studio in July 2008 to help Makers transform their ideas into actual products, subsequently establishing the first organized Maker Community in Shenzhen. Known as Chua Huo, the MakerSpace facilitates interaction among DIY Makers, while encouraging dialogue and cooperation with both industry and academia.

Eric is understandably enthusiastic about the open source movement, as he also organized the Shenzhen Maker Faire and established the hardware incubation project “HAXLR8R” with Cyril Ebersweiler. In 2013, Eric was named one of the “Top 30 Entrepreneurs” in China by Forbes, which prominently featured the engineer on the magazine’s front cover.


Recently, the staff of Bits & Pieces had the opportunity to sit down with Pan for a wide-ranging interview covering a number of topics including the rapidly evolving open source movement, Atmel-basedArduino boards, Atmel-powered 3D printers such as RepRap, the Maker Movement and Shenzen, a major city in the south of Southern China’s Guangdong Province.

Bits & Pieces: 

How are Atmel-based Arduino boards and 3D printers such as RepRap helping to inspire the design and prototyping of new products in China?

RepRap Version 2 ‘Mendel’ (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Eric Pan:

Hardware development has traditionally been perceived as a complex process, with a product lineup often taking years to improve and perfect. However, tools such as Atmel-based Arduino boards and 3D printers have significantly lowered the entry barrier for hardware innovation, thus creating a much wider playing field for DIY Makers. 

Indeed, over the past a few years, we’ve seen designers and Makers create prototypes and iron out issues in days and weeks, rather than months or even years.

Clearly, hardware development is becoming a more agile process with the aid of prototyping tools like RepRap and Arduino boards – both of which are helping to facilitate innovation across the world and particularly in China.

Bits & Pieces: What role do MakerSpaces and Universities play in setting technology trends for Chinese tech companies?

The Atmel-powered uARM (UFactory, Shenzhen, China)

Eric Pan: 
Universities have established links and collaborated on a number of projects with various Chinese tech companies, with many engaging in pioneering research. In addition, MakerSpaces have evolved into innovation hubs responsible for encouraging a diversity of ideas and products. 

Essentially, MakerSpaces act as a virtual bridge for cross-boundary conversations between industry and academic research. This enables constructive dialogue about issues which are typically overlooked. Personally, I believe niche market Maker platforms and devices are analogous to indie movies that provide the commercial film industry with a hotbed of new ideas.

MakerSpaces will likely enable a new wave of tech startups in China as in the US. To be sure, Makers working with their peers are now able to more easily realize their goals, while bringing products to market with new platforms such as e-commerce sites and crowdfunding. 

Nevertheless, major companies in China are somewhat cautious about encouraging grass-root innovations, even though some of them are actively involved in a collaborative dialogue with Makers as part of a strategic open innovation strategy. So for now, MakerSpaces are gradually helping Chinese tech companies discover additional possibilities, although the Maker role is likely to increase, with participants in the DIY culture setting technology trends in conjunction with major industries.

Bits & Pieces: The Maker Movement seems to be particularly active in Shenzen and Shanghai. Why do think this is?

Eric Pan: The most important factor is the intellectually fertile ground of the two locations. Shanghai is particularly active, first and foremost because of its foreigner base and natural Maker culture.

Local tech and art people are also enthusiastic about the trend, which helps bolster the DIY attitude. 

Meanwhile, Shenzhen has an established manufacture and supply based chain which is attractive to Makers from all over the world. If you look at the bigger picture, it is quite clear that these local two MakerSpaces have inspired a larger group of Makers and Makers-to-be across China. 

Unfortunately, the cost of living in both Shanghai and Shenzhen are too high for many Makers to realistically design and develop their products. As such, I hope to see more Makers gathers in smaller cities where the cost of living is somewhat lower and more amenable to a DIY crowd.

Bits & Pieces: What is the future of open source hardware and the Maker Movement in China? Does it face any specific hurdles?

Shenzhen (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Eric Pan: 
There are currently a number of opinions being heard about the future of the Maker Movement in China. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain. The inherent entrepreneurial spirit of the Chinese people will help the Maker culture grow – and vice versa. 

The biggest hurdle, from what I can tell, may very well come from established educational facilities, simply because Chinese students expect to be trained in traditional methods when specific professional skills are required. 

However, exposure to multiple academic disciplines will encourage people to people think out of the box and explore different ways of approaching problems and opportunities. In addition, being asked more open-ended practical questions instead of simply memorizing facts would go a long way in encouraging students to try out real-world solutions.

Bits & Pieces: What can companies like Atmel do to help encourage the growth of the Maker Movement in China?

Eric Pan: Atmel has already played a very important role in engineering universities through its programs. The inspiring part is that art and design students are using Atmel chipsets which power Arduino boards – effectively building a bridge for major cooperation between Makers and the corporate world.

Continued support from Atmel for future Maker events will definitely contribute to the evolution and growth of the DIY movement in China. On the business side, hardware generated by Maker projects will also help encourage major industry players to create more varied products using Atmel microcontrollers and microprocessors. Last, but certainly not least, the direct involvement of Atmel engineers in local Maker communities will undoubtedly help nurture and grow the DIY movement across China.

Brock Hinzmann talks 3D printing

Silicon Valley Node Chairman Brock Hinzmann has tracked the 3D printing industry for over 20 years. Hinzmann, who also describes himself as a technology navigator, recently told Rakesh Sharma of Forbes that he has observed a number of interesting trends over the past year, including the intersection of 3D printing and robotics, as well as the increased viability of 3D printing metal.

“3D printing machines are now being used to manufacture a large variety of consumer products, such as home robots (as opposed to being used to manufacture heavy machinery such as aircraft),” explained Sharma. 

“In turn, this trend also marks the first time that 3D printing is being used for printed electronics (such as the design and manufacture of circuit boards), as opposed to making structural components such as aircraft parts.”

In terms of 3D printing metal, Hinzmann says the increased accuracy and strength of metal 3D printers makes the machines “more capable and attractive” for manufacturing, as the density and finish of 3D printed metal parts “is just as good” as those manufactured using conventional manufacturing methods.

“Part of the reason for this is because 3D printing makes manufacturing cost-effective. The entire part can be 3D printed in a single machine, thereby reducing the number of points of failure,” Sharma noted. 

“This is unlike traditional manufacturing which fragments a single product into multiple pieces, each of which is manufactured separately and assembled together later.”

Hinzmann also emphasized that a number of industry improvements would have to happen for 3D printing to gain additional traction in 2014 – including a more intuitive user experience along with an expanded ecosystem.

“People who use the machines don’t have to be experts in CAD software and hardware,” he concluded. “Consumers want to push a button and have the object printed out just like their 2D printers.”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has been using Atmel-powered 3D printers like RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing has clearly entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical spherearchitectural arenascience lab and even on the battlefield.

Big Bang disruption and the IoT

Writing for Forbes, Paul Nunes and Larry Downes note that every one of over a trillion everyday items will one day include at least some ability to store, process and share information over the Internet.

“We’ve been hearing about intelligent refrigerators and product packaging for years, but now, thanks to relentless price/performance improvements in the enabling technologies, the IoT has finally arrived. Of course we’ve long had connected computing devices and, more recently, connected television sets and connected cars,” the two explained. “[However], in the last few years, an explosion of wearable sensing and monitoring devices, promises to revolutionize healthcare, fitness, child monitoring and services for the elderly. We’re on our way to the connected self. ”

Adafruit’s ATmega32U4-powered Flora

According to Nunes and Downes, the Internet of Things (IoT) has the potential to disrupt and reconstruct the supply chain of every industry – significantly improving the efficiency of manufacturing, distribution, retailing and customer service.

“Marketing, for example, can become truly scientific, not based on sample data but on complete data. Manufactured goods will diagnose their own problems and contact the manufacturer for solutions. When products break, we can determine immediately why and how We’ll be able to predict failure in advance, turning maintenance from a reactive to a proactive function.”

Perhaps most importantly, they say, the IoT will allow consumers to become collaborators.

“While many IoT applications are still several generations of technology improvement away, the next major disruptor is already massing at the borders: making homes and offices intelligent and networked. We’re entering the age of the connected building. Early market experiments have already begun, some of them with the potential of Big Bang Disruption,” said the duo.

“Appliances, sockets and switches are being upgraded with sensors and antenna, making it possible to collect vast information about the performance and energy usage of device that draws power. 
Once collected, that information can be sliced and diced to improve energy efficiency, building maintenance, security and future product design.”

Indeed, say Nunes and Downes, the connected building will disrupt real estate developers and property managers, as well as manufacturers of appliances and lighting fixtures.

“[However], the impact of having near-perfect information on the performance of so many ‘dumb’ (and often expensive) pieces of infrastructure could reach far beyond the obvious–and deeply into the energy sector… It’s no exaggeration to say that connected buildings could change where and how we live and work, or even how we distinguish between the two, especially for an aging population,” the two added.

Paul Nunes and Larry Downes are the authors of “Big Bang Disruption,” which can be purchased here on Amazon.

Analyst Patrick Moorhead talks IoT

The rapidly evolving Internet of Things (IoT) is clearly an idea whose time has finally come. Indeed, falling technology costs, developments in complementary fields like mobile and cloud, together with support from governments have all contributed to the dawning of an IoT “quiet revolution.”

In fact, over three-quarters of companies are now actively exploring or using the IoT, with the vast majority of business leaders believing it will have a meaningful impact on how their companies conduct business. In a recent report sponsored by ARM, Clint Witchalls confirms that consumers will likely soon be awash with IoT-based products and services – even if they may not realize it.

Commenting on the Witchalls report in Forbes, analyst Patrick Moorhead notes that business leaders seem to be highly optimistic about the IoT and its ability to transform their business, either by driving new sources of revenue or by making operations more efficient.

“This is a good sign that leaders think they can make more money and save more money. It isn’t often that you can find both of these together,” he explains. “The [Witchall report] also shows that most companies are investing in IoT right now, but most are just researching what they can do with it versus planning, piloting, or implementing projects.”

So how far are we along the continuum from early adoption to mass adoption?

Well, 95% of those surveyed in the above-mentioned ARM report say they believe their companies will be using IoT in three years.

“While most in surveys are optimistic, this is a huge number when you think of it, even if, in reality, it’s four to five years,” Moorhead notes. “While I think 95% is overly-aggressive, this would be as pervasive as a smartphone or a personal computer use.”

Interestingly, Moorhead splits the concept of IoT into two distinct segments: the Industrial IoT (IIoT) and the Human (HIoT).

“The IIoT brings autonomous monitoring and operations capability to factory boilers, HVAC systems, and hospital medical systems,” he says. “IIoT systems are very high availability and companies like General Electric GE  and Echelon ELON play in this space. The HIoT comprise of more interactive, consumer-based devices like a FitBit, Revolv Hub and a Nest Thermostat. ARM, the study sponsor, obviously plays heavily in both the IIoT and the HIoT.”

Interested in learning more? The full text of the Forbes article can be read here, while the ARM-sponsored Witchalls report is available here.

The “monumental” shift of 3D printing

In a recent Forbes article, Natalie Burg confirmed that 3D printing is well on its way to “monumentally” changing the world – beginning with the traditional supply chain.

“The proliferation of 3D printing feels like a ‘this changes everything’ moment. The devices are making their way into businesses [and] some experts believe they’ll make their way into [mainstream] homes one day,” Burg observed. “[However], it all begins with disrupting the supply chain. With the power to print customized, single items quickly, 3D printers in businesses and homes will entirely change how goods move around the world.”

Indeed, a 2012 report from Transport Intelligence – titled “The Implications of 3D Printing for the Global Logistics Industry” – examines what impact such a paradigm shift would likely have.

“A proportion of goods which were previously produced in China or other Asia markets could be ‘near-sourced’ to North America and Europe,” the report concluded. “This would reduce shipping and air cargo volumes.”

Gavin Davidson of NetSuite expressed similar sentiments.

“It’s not just for the designer of the end product, but imagine a global supply network where every supplier has a 3D printer that the designer can ‘print’ to at any time,” he said. “It’s almost Star Trek’s replicators.”

Meanwhile, the Harvard Business Review noted that the 3D printing of commercial products will likely prompt the manufacture of goods which are “infinitely more customized.”

As previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the rapidly evolving 3D printing industry is projected to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016, with Credit Suisse analyst Julian Mitchell recently expressing bullish sentiments about the 3D printing market.

“Most corporate guidance defaults to the assumptions of industry consultants who estimate the 3D printing market will grow at ~20% annually,” Mitchell wrote in an industry note published on Business Insider.

“We challenge this assumption and attempt to quantify the addressable market by investigating the opportunities within key verticals such as aerospace, automotive, healthcare and consumer. We conclude that these four markets alone (which comprise ~ 50% of the AM market today) represent sufficient opportunity to sustain 20-30% annual revenue growth, bolstered by the technology’s transition from prototyping to end use parts and expansion into metals.”

According to Credit Suisse team, the most rapid expansion of 3D printing will be seen in the consumer market.

“[This] is the fastest-growing portion of the 3D printing market, with expectations for 100%+ YoY growth in 2013. [The Atmel-powered] Makerbot describes its offering as intended for the ‘pro-sumer’ market (manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $2,200-2,800), expecting many systems to be dual professional / personal use among small business owners or serious hobbyists,” Mitchell added.

It should be noted that the DIY Maker Movement has used Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing recently entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical spherearchitectural arenascience lab and even on the battlefield.

Computer programming tips

I ran across a neat article in Forbes (of all places!). Titled ”What Does It Take To Be An Expert In Computer Programming?” When I went to look up the author, Eric Pepke, there was not a lot of information other than he worked in Atlanta. Then I noticed he posted a YouTube video titled “DimiDraw v. 0.1”. The description explains “DimiDraw v.0.1 is an as yet unreleased graphics library for the Arduino and similar microcontrollers.” Well anyone that writes code for Atmel-powered Arduinos is OK in my book. So I sent the article to a couple crack programmers I know. Michael said:

Before reading it, I was also thinking that having a basic understanding of hardware architecture was important.  Also, for me, learning Assembly code back in the day gave me a very good understanding of how a processors “thinks” especially when it came to registers and writing complex arithmetic operations.

Back then we didn’t have these fancy development environments with debugging tools, breakpoints, stepping, etc.  Well, actually we had some of that but we were also taught the basics to understand programming better.  Speaking of “basics”, I actually taught myself that in the early 80s.

And Andreas over on the 3rd floor noted: “All I can add is that of all the classes I had during my education ‘algorithms and data structures’ was by far the hardest one. (But also really useful.)”


And regarding Basic, I note Peske was a contributor to the NS Basic language. Modeled on Microsoft Visual Basic, and meant for phones and mobile platforms, a code snippet might be:

Function OKButton_onclick()

   MsgBox “Hello World”

End Function

Now that is a language I can endorse—less gibberish and more directness. I never thought there was any shame in programming in Basic. Especially once I came across complied Basic, QBasic I think it was. I did an little program that spit stepper motor commands out the printer port to exercise a wafer elevator that was in a million-dollar semiconductor etcher I was working on. Once I compiled it, I had to add loops to slow the thing down. It ran so fast the motor could not keep up.


I remember BASIC programming in 9th grade back in the 1960s. Yeah, the Brecksville Ohio school system was really that advanced (still is). One of the problems was to take 5 numbers from the keyboard and then print them out in order. We all slogged into it– a bunch of if-than compares. I think most of us ended up with 200 lines of code. Except for one kid. I think it was Gooding, can’t remember his first name. He just counted from 1 to 1000 and printed out when a match to any of the input numbers hit. There there were, printed out, in order. I think it was 10 lines of code. We all went ballistic– pretty much accusing him of cheating– “It only works for integers!”  or “It won’t do negatives!” or “It stops at 1000!” The teacher was probably trying to get us to think more than to reward Gooding, but she gave him full credit– saying he solved the problem, and in a very elegant way. Yeah, merit badge for Gooding– that is thinking outside the box, and he deserved more than full credit. I hope he is rich and famous now.

And as an added bonus, that Forbes website as a good privacy tip about never giving out your zip code when you shop.