JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 307 : 19 October 2012

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

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The 3-D printing revolution is here

3-D printing is now reaching the inflection point, when it is moving from sophisticated early adopters to people who just want to print something in 3-D for the obvious benefits. It won't be used for everything. The big idea is that it provides the choice between customization and mass-production.

If you injection-mold for production in a factory the old fashioned way, the initial tooling will cost $10,000. But it'll cost just pennies for the raw material and machine-time for churning out copies. On a 3-D printer, the first printed product will cost just $20, but there are no economies of scale.

Many products actually make more sense in small batches, not millions. Practically every consumer item you own has been prototyped on a 3-D printer. Up to about a couple of decades ago, the only option was handcrafting the prototype. Today digital fabricators can bring automated processes and provide near perfect quality for small batches.

With conventional manufacturing, the more complicated a product is and the more changes you make, the more it costs. But with digital fabrication, it's the reverse.

  • Variety is free. It costs the same to make every product different, or to make them all the same.
  • Complexity is free: A minutely detailed product, with many fiddly little components, can be 3-D printed as cheaply as a plain block of plastic.
  • Flexibility is free: Changing a product after production has started means just a simple software tweak.
The whole 3-D printing process is almost magical to watch. (See video link) The beauty is that you don't need to know how the machines do their work or how to optimize tool paths; software figures all that out. Just like with inexpensive 2-D printers, you don't have to think about how your 3-D printer works, only what you want to produce with it.

People make jewelry, geometric brainteasers, sculptures. Children ask for strange toys, and they can be conjured up before their eyes, first on a screen and then in the real world.

Once you have a design on your computer, you can prototype a single copy on your desktop fabricator, or upload it to a commercial manufacturing service and generate thousands. Essentially, you "print local" on your home 3-D printer, and "print global" with soon to be widely available cloud manufacturing services.

Take a look at MakerBot, a well-financed startup that is manufacturing affordable 3-D printers. These are not kits - they don't require wrestling with software. Simple desktop applications turn CAD files into physical things as easily as printing a photo. The entry-level MakerBot Replicator for generating objects up to 11 x 6 inches is priced at $2,199.

So far, HP, Epson, and other 2-D printing giants have been content either to license technology or focus just on high-end professional printers. But it won't be long until consumer volume becomes big enough. In the next few years, the market will be ready for mainstream 3-D printers that will cost $99 and sold by the millions at Walmart and Costco.

Click Wired - The New MakerBot Replicator Might Just Change Your World

Click Video: 3D Printing's Future

Click NY Times: 3-D Printing Spurs a Manufacturing Revolution

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Technology Megatrends

Four mega-trends are shaping the technology future: Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Nanotech - "GRIN" a useful acronym. Complicating this technology shift are the emerging global middle-class, environmental challenges, global warming, water scarcity.

Occupied with today's "busyness", most of us tend to think that outlandish future possibilities are far out. But I remind myself - my grandchildren will still be in their teens when these things emerge.

Two new books outline the revolutions that will occur in the next decade. "Our Molecular Future" and "Forbidden Gates". They discuss the exponential changes that are about to be wrought by the coming genetic, nanotechnology and robotic revolutions.

Genetics research includes, among other things, rewriting human DNA and combining men with beasts ? developing live non-humans to perform work that humans don?t want or cannot do.

Leaps forward in computing power will fuel artificial intelligence and will create robots capable of independent thought, emotional response and reproduction, producing what effectively is a new species, "Robo Sapiens". One supposes that we'll need to redefine what it means to be human to deal with issues of robot rights.

On the bright side, computing power will jump to almost unimaginable levels, bringing hitherto undreamed-of capacities to transform our environment and ourselves. How will this help us cope with climate changes, earthquakes, and other extreme natural threats? What will happen to jobs, health care, and investments when these revolutions arrive?

Click Book: Our Molecular Future Will Transform Our World

Click Book: Forbidden Gates: The Dawn of Techno-Dimensional Warfare

Click How the Acceleration of GNR Will Create a Flat and Equitable World

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Pricing to Win

The price of a service or product is based on three basic costs: direct materials, labor, and overhead. After these costs are determined, a price must then be selected that will be both profitable and competitive. Setting pricing is not an easy process.

The traditional 4Ps of marketing: product, price, place (distribution) and promotion - is fairly well known and practiced. The second P - Price - Is something many have difficulty figuring out. It requires clear knowledge of competition and keen awareness of relative strengths and weaknesses.

Offering the lowest price puts the seller in a weak position. You have to avoid being the lowest bidder by considering the following:

  • Competitive analysis is not just about looking at competitor's pricing. Look at their entire offering and consider your company's competitive advantages. Are there any value-added services and benefits included?
  • Consider the maximum price. Determine the high/low limits. Compare FABS (features-advantages-bebefits) that are being offered.
  • Consider price elasticity. Low elastic demands usually depends on limited competition, and customers who are not accustomed to seeking the lowest price. Offer additional valuable FABS which can attract the customer.
Hey, read my article: "Never, never be the lowest bidder." This, together with the Youtube video with the same title, continues to get lots of hits on my website. And, it has been published around the world.

Click Pinto: Never, Never be the Lowest Bidder

Click Youtube video - Never, never be the Lowest Bidder

Click The 10 Most Common Pricing Mistakes Made by Instrument Suppliers

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Poverty in America

The US census bureau reported that 2.6 million more Americans slipped into poverty last year, and the 46.2 million people living below the official poverty line was the highest number in the 52 years the bureau has been publishing figures.

The census bureau's findings were worse than many economists expected. This brings into sharp relief the painful declines of the financial crisis and recession.

Among rich countries the US is exceptional in the tolerance of poverty. The latest edition of UNICEF's report on child poverty shows that the US ranks second highest out of 35 developed countries - 23% of US children live in poverty. Only Romania ranks higher.

In 2010, 20.5 million Americans were living on less than half of the Federal poverty level. Families like this go to food pantries and raise tomatoes in pots. Some often are down to peanut butter sandwiches at the end of the month. Some live in isolation in dark houses in dangerous city neighborhoods.

The "American dream" that so many have taken for granted for many decades, is disintegrating. Most Americans still have the delusion that the US will always be the wealthiest nation in the world, and that our economy will always produce large numbers of high paying jobs, and there will always be a large middle class. But that's not what is happening now. Millions of Americans are slipping into the devastating grip of poverty. We are beginning to have very serious problems.

Most of our politicians have absolutely no idea how to fix the economic disaster that we are continuing to create. Americans are treated to endless media coverage of leaders from both political parties proclaiming that the primary reason that we are in the midst of such an economic mess is because of what the OTHER political party has done. Do you really want to know who is to blame?

The political polarization comes from these arguments: The Republicans say that if we just give the rich more tax cuts, it will "trickle-down" and make everyone's life better. But, this theory has been tried before and it doesn't work. The Democrats keep pushing to help the poor, But that simply means more deficits, which postpones disaster.

As committed individuals, we need to really think about this problem. What can I do to help the poor and disadvantaged in my own backyard?

Click Poverty in America: Why Can't We End It?

Click U.S. Child Poverty Second Highest Among Developed Nations

Click What if the rich lost 40% of their wealth?

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Female discrimination in America

Many Americans are suffering under the delusion that women in America have achieved equality. It's a feel-good illusion. We watch Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice proudly, and believe that America has come far. But it's just an equality mirage.

Consider these statistics: Women hold 17% of the seats in the US Congress; abortion is legal, but more than 85% of US counties have no providers; women workers everywhere are paid only about 76% of men's pay in equivalent jobs; women make up the majority of Americans living in poverty. In Iraq and Afghanistan, women serving in the military are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.

According to the 2005 Catalyst Census of Women Board of Directors, only 14.7% of all corporate board seats in the Fortune 500 list are occupied by women. Only one in nine have a woman on their board. Women oversee 83% of direct consumer spending, own half of all public stock, and make up more than 50% of the talent pool. But, they're still unequal.

Despite gains over the years, women are still being raped, trafficked, violated and discriminated against - not in other parts of the world, but right here in America. Feminists continue to fight gender injustices, but most people think those are exceptions.

It's an epidemic of sexism. So where's the outrage?

Click How Corporate America is Betraying Women

Click Background on Discrimination Against Women

Click For women in America, equality is still an illusion:

Click Jim Pinto column (AW August 2012) - Women in Automation

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Junying (Michael) Ding [dingjunying@gmail.com] from China writes that his country is not as strong as people think.
    "The whole world is talking about 'the rising China' and the impact it brings, as if the western world does not know how to accommodate the rising eastern dragon. As a Chinese, I wish that this above scenario is true. However, in my opinion China has a long way to go to be a threat to US or other developed nations.

    "While young generations aspire to be innovative, and struggle for their entrepreneur dreams, the comprehensive environment in China does not support long term development of an enterprise, especially for private companies. The recent trend is increasing middle-class immigration to other countries. This is demonstrated by quite a few enterprise owners selling their companies for cash.

    "Let's take an example in the automation industry. A local private automation company, named Xinhua, grew up well during year 1995 to 2002 in China. They had a very strong impact on the DCS market which, at that time, was dominated by foreign automation giants such as Honeywell, Westinghouse, Yokogawa, GE, etc. To the surprise of many, Xinhua was sold to GE in 2003, and now the company name has almost disappeared from the market.

    "Another example is the increasing number of people who are planning to leave this country. Many of them are young and smart entrepreneurs. They regard China as an exciting market rather than a land for enterprise.

    "Healthy and long term enterprise is the foundation for a nation to keep competitive. Behind the scenarios, a couple of factors are to be blamed, which I don't want to elaborate now. But, it is a big challenge for China to face."

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My old friend Rodger Lovrenich [rlovrenich@yahoo.com] was pleased that his copy of JimPinto.com eNews appeared again in his Inbox. Roger writes:

    "The emerging India/China production miracle is not a zero sum game with the West, but it is a rising financial tide that will lift some boats much more than others. A global community where some members double in wealth while others increase ten fold will not lead to peaceful coexistence. The 'level playing field' world view of firebrand liberals will little tolerate anything less than 'level results'. This, I fear, is where success creates its own nemesis.

    "I hope humans are brighter than that. But I see little evidence of it."

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John Gardner [John.Gardner@emerson.com] writes about the graying of the Automation industry:

    "I will have been in 30 countries this year since 1 January. The common thread around the globe is PEOPLE; PEOPLE; PEOPLE - with the right skills; experience; and willingness to make a difference using technology as an enabler to change work processes and the behavior of operations teams at the sites and in projects to create meaningful business results.

    "The graying of the Automation Industry comes at a time when we have a huge upturn in demand for Energy Projects from Shale oil/Gas in North America, to Coal seam Methane, Offshore gas and LNG Production in Australia, just to name a few. Demand for strong-skilled Automation Professionals is at a perceived all time high!

    "This would be a good topic for you to sink your teeth into. Challenge the Industry to step up and excel again to make a difference to the World!"

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