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3-D printing creates unusual alliances
Dateline: 26 August 2016
Five years ago, it would have seemed an unlikely partnership. But the alliance announced today between BHP Billiton, the world's largest mining group, and printing technology company Hewlett Packard, makes perfect sense.
And the reason? 3-D printing has gone mainstream as an industrial production technique, and HP-BHP wants to corner the market.
There's hardly an industry within which 3-D printing is not hard at work, from construction to aerospace. And the demand for the specialized metal powders - like titanium, chrome, and molybdenum - to feed the printers has skyrocketed.
Thus BHP (and a few innovative other mining houses) quickly recognized the potential of this new market, and bought into startup companies producing printable powders, to develop new markets for the metals they mine.
Meanwhile, HP was pouring tens of millions into becoming a leading player in producing 3-D printers, from tiny home gadgets to massive, high-end industrial machines. It was a marriage made in... well, made in a 3-D printer! Just like ink-jets, consumer metal printers are sold below cost; the profits are made in the high tech, high priced metal powder refills.
Experts are predicting virtually unlimited demand for the new powders, as everything from jewelry to turbine blades are churned out of the metal printers. And one side effect is that traditional manufacturing has gone into a slump, as the cost of 3-D printing falls lower and lower.
Published 18 September 2014
Hazardous Thinking At Work
Despite appearances to the contrary, FutureWorld cannot and does not predict the future. Our MindBullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright FutureWorld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer. Public domain image.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be
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Doug Vining   Printing up a new industry
3D printing is becoming big business. In fact it's building an entirely new industry. There are still many challenges and obstacles to be overcome, but think back on the original personal computer industry, and how that stumbling infant grew to be the giant commodity industry it is today. There are several niche industries being spun out of the development of 3D printing, and new metal powders is just one of them.
A FuturesForum post (titled: "Printing up a new industry") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here:

Posted: 23 September 2014 at 17:32 Delete Reply to this comment
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Doug Vining   HP gets its 3D groove on
So we're finally going see the biggest name in printers getting onto the 3D bandwagon. This will be a pivotal point for HP. It will either become a big name in 3D printing or fade into irrelevance like it did with pocket computers and smartphones. It's a big deal, either way, and something that HP doesn't want to mess up.
A FuturesForum post (titled: "HP gets its 3D groove on") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here:

Posted: 29 October 2014 at 21:22 Delete Reply to this comment
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Few places offer a higher cost for storage of spare parts and more urgent need for "just in time" delivery than spacecraft. NASA has intelligently begun to solve both challenges by printing objects on the International Space Station (ISS). The greatest benefit is likely the ability to spontaneously create objects that no one could have thought to bring along, making the ingenuity of the huge earth-bound support team almost immediately available on the ISS. "Huston, we have a problem, could you invent a widget for that. We'll print it up here." Check this article:

Aircraft could be “reconfigured” in flight, employing a low resistance, “rocket-formed” configuration for launch, that “grows” printed lift surfaces, solar power arrays, debris shields or re-entry heat shields, (or maybe just printing new plates and cups for the service of meals later in flight).

Building space outposts becomes much more feasible through employing 3-D printing capabilities adapted to utilise the materials present on other planets as “ink”.

Inter-corporeal printers could be used to manufacture medical devices, for example stents, directly at the location required. Just put the print head on a catheter, which serves as a duct for the printing material.

Posted: 26 December 2014 at 17:32 Delete Reply to this comment
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Doug Vining   Metal printing dreams and reality check
We've enthused about the potential for 3D printing in titanium and other metals to completely revolutionise manufacturing as we know it, and indeed, in the aerospace industry, printing specialised components from titanium powder is enabling novel designs.

But in 3D printing titanium and the bin of broken dreams Spencer Wright takes a deep dive into the current state of the art, and science, of metal printing. And it's a bit of a nightmare, but with a lot of potential to improve in the future.

"Today, 3D printing metal parts via a distributed supply chain is a myth, full stop. And while I’m as excited about that vision as the next guy, distributed manufacturing will continue to be a pipe dream for the foreseeable future. A distributed manufacturing ecosystem can only exist once there’s a robust network of suppliers capable of making parts repeatably."
A FuturesForum post (titled: "Metal printing dreams and reality check") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here:

Posted: 18 March 2015 at 12:50 Delete Reply to this comment
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