Category Archives: Imaging

3D Printing: Myths versus reality; today versus tomorrow

3D printing continues to be one of the most disruptive technologies of the era: it looks set to transform everything – age-old manufacturing techniques, hardware supply chains (why warehouse parts when you can print them on demand?), healthcare etc. Just a few years ago, the hype said everyone might have a 3D printer in their house one day, but the reality is that the technology, while ground-breaking, is still complicated. We take a look at a few areas covered recently under the 3D-printing banner in the popular press.

Can you 3D print organs?
No, you cannot 3D print organs today. There are some printers which can extrude (i.e. print) biological matter, and there are indeed research and development efforts to print human tissue, but, in 2017, these represent a very, very small portion of the $5B 3D-printer market. However, the technology is catching on big-time in other aspects of the medical world. One of the key advantages of 3D printing is that it can be used for mass customisation, meaning that one machine can make many subtly unique things. The best examples of this are hearing aids and clear dental braces, both of which have been made by 3D printers for more than fifteen years.

prostetic-1273183_1920There are many of these items produced, and each is unique to an individual patient. Likewise, orthopaedics is a big market for 3D printing. You are probably aware that plastic limbs are 3D printed, but super-high-end metal printers are being used more and more often to make internal prosthetics as well. Hardly a day goes by without a story being written about the production of a titanium skull section or another bone being replaced with a custom-manufactured metal part. These are realities today, not just R&D projects for tomorrow.

Can you 3D print food?
Sort of. This was one of the things all the hype focused on a few years ago. Most of the printers simply extruded different pastes into shapes. True 3D printing is also sometimes called additive manufacturing (the seven core technologies referred to above are actually defined by a manufacturing body called the ASTM). Today’s food 3D printers are not really used for mass-manufacturing, and the number sold to-date is so small as to be hard to count. So the 3D printing of food is really a PR activity rather than a real market (or even sub-market).

Can you 3D print cars?
While a few companies have showcased their ability to 3D print cars, there isn’t yet a car you can buy that that is completely made this way. That said, there is hardly a car you can buy today which doesn’t use 3D printing for some element or part of its construction: the technology may have been leveraged for prototyping the vehicle at all stages of development, or – more and more often – the intricate metal components may be mass-produced using 3D printing.

The automotive industry at large is ripe to make greater use of 3D printing as the falling cost of technology and materials allows additive manufacturing to move beyond the prototyping that was once its niche application, into the much larger market of general manufacturing or mass-production.

The crossover point, where it is less expensive to use 3D printing than traditional manufacturing techniques (such as injection moulding), can be hundreds of thousands of units or, now, even tens of thousands. Mass production in the automotive industry generally refers to much lower volumes than for manufacturers of say smart phones or televisions: if you consider specific companies and their distinct models of car (many of which do not share common components), then mass production can mean tens of thousands of parts (versus millions) – a volume now viable with the reality of today’s 3D printers.

Can you 3D print buildings?
This one continues to catch a lot of media attention, especially in the Middle East and emerging markets. You can indeed use some of the techniques of traditional 3D printing at VERY large scales to, for example, extrude cement instead of plastic. To be honest, however, this is not really part of today’s 3D printing market, and with the references to “3d printing” made mostly to help describe the technique used to create structures layer-by-layer.

Can you 3D print jet engine parts?
For sure. The best use case of 3D printing today, the poster child if you will, is in GE’s jet-engine fuel nozzle. This complex, unique part can only be made by metal additive manufacturing – traditional techniques are not capable of creating such an object. GE continues to be one of the world’s biggest users of 3D printing and is so bullish about the technology that it is buying metal 3D-printing companies to make machines not only for their own use but also to sell to others. The aerospace industry as a whole is one of the largest markets for 3D printers today, with the technology now being leveraged for true mass-production of parts as well as prototyping.

by CC

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Don’t dismiss the Printer

I wondered why IT sales are doing so well, despite these extraordinary, uncertain times with Brexit, growing isolationism across the rest of Europe and insults thrown between Trump and Korea. According to the latest figures from the CONTEXT Distribution panel, revenues are up in the Eurozone by 6.7% compared to last year, with the UK steaming ahead with revenue growth of nearly 13%.

My colleagues are often blogging about the exciting new or “interesting” products that start to appear in our sales data – wearable devices, 3D printers, games consoles, mobile phones. Printers, on the other hand, can sometimes be overlooked but this is a market not to be ignored. In fact, in Germany, which represents around 20% of all revenues we pick up from the Distribution channel for IT products, Printing Consumables is ranked 2nd, behind only mobile computing. A similar picture emerges for France and the UK.

So, what is impacting the print market at the moment? We notice, particularly in the UK, workplaces transforming as millennials are looking beyond the traditional office. Working from home is increasing motivation and productivity and new technology is changing the way we work. Vendors are faced with new opportunities, and are rising to the challenge of how to best support the customers’ needs, be it savings on print costs, digitization, unified platforms – essentially, solutions for wherever your ‘office’ is at this precise moment.

Each quarter, the shift is moving from single to multi-function printers. We demand more from a printer than just printing. Unit sales of Inkjet and Laser multi-function printers grew around 6% in Q1 this year and now account for around 70% of all printers sold in Western Europe.

Inkjets are marking their return in the B2B sector with consistent double digit revenue growth of both the consumer and the business inkjets since Q2 2016. With more emphasis on lower print costs for businesses, vendors, particularly Epson and HP, are moving further into the higher price bands with revenues for business inkjets over Euro 400 growing by 37% year-on-year in Q1 2017. Business inkjets now account for almost 40% of all printer revenue in the SMB channel.

Finally, we’re also seeing a return in consumer confidence in some of the countries that have been struggling in the last couple of years. Spain has demonstrated an overall growth year-on-year of 16% in the print market, with a 12% growth in IT sales overall.

So, World disorder? I guess so, but business goes on and the printer market is still alive and well.

by DC

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Global Desktop 3D Printer Market Rises +27%

According to our latest figures, worldwide shipments of 3D Printers rose +25% year-to-date (YTD) through the first three quarters of 2016 thanks again to shipments of low priced Personal/Desktop 3D Printers.

Of the total 217,073 3D printers shipped year-to-date, 96% of these were Personal/Desktop printers, carrying an average price of just under $1,000.  This represents a 27% year-on-year growth for this sub-category compared to a decline in shipments of -12% YTD in the Industrial/Professional segment which saw only 7,726 units shipped through the first three quarters of 2016. While the market is still largely defined by the shipment of Industrial/Professional printers – which accounted for 78% of the global revenues – the market is clearly settling into two distinctive segments.

Vendor wise, in the Desktop/Personal 3D Printer segment, Taiwan’s XYZprinting remained the global leader so far in 2016, seeing its share grow to 22% through the first three quarters.  This side of the market saw the exit by the #3 global overall player 3D Systems and the continued repositioning of the #1 global 3D Printer market Stratasys of its MakerBot line away from the lowest end.

The Industrial/Professional segment was marked by the official entrance of HP into the space but printers did not begin shipping until the end of the year. While the Industrial/Professional segment has, in general, cooled off in the past few years, the shipment of additive manufacturing devices capable of printing in metal materials was one major bright spot within this category.  This Metal side was not immune to market changes in recent quarters either however, with a slow-down seen in this sub-segment as well in the 2nd half as General Electric (GE) acquired two of the top five metal making 3D Printer companies (Arcam and Concept Laser).

Projections for the full year 2016 remain reserved for the Industrial/Professional market and bullish for the Desktop/Personal market, largely in-line with trends seen through the first three quarters.  Forecasts turn more bullish in the Industrial/Professional sector in 2017 and beyond as the HP and GE ramp results in a return of growth; the Desktop/Personal market is expected to continue its unfettered growth.

by CC

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Tech Predictions: 2017

Untitled.pngPC’s in 2017
In 2017 European PC sales in the business segment are likely to benefit from a gradual pick up of Windows 10 refreshes. In Western Europe in particular, the commercial PC segment is expected to also benefit from the need for enterprise mobility solutions which will be a co-driver in sales of both notebooks and mobile 2-in-1 products.

The consumer PC segment is expected to remain more challenged across Western Europe. There is a possibility that component shortages, which impacted product availability in 2H 2016, will lead to price increases in the first half of 2017which could affect demand. However, on a positive note, the market is likely to benefit from continuing high demand for gaming PCs. While this segment remains small in terms of volume, new technologies – including virtual reality – will also drive growth that will have a positive effect on revenue and margins.

From a wider, macroeconomic perspective, PC sales in a number of EMEA countries are likely to continue to be affected by uncertainties including currency fluctuations and political instability.
Marie-Christine Pygott, Senior Analyst, PCs

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View on Apple
Although you never know what Apple will pull out of the hat when launching new products, the last few years have been quite staid. The last “new” new Apple product was the Watch: but this was heavily trailered so, when it finally arrived, it wasn’t a surprise. We have waited in vain over the years for an Apple TV, and recently yawned when the new MacBook’s Touchbar was announced. In 2017 we have the prospect of yet another phone, the iPhone 8, and not much else.

Except, after much speculation, Apple has acknowledged for the first time that it is investing in autonomous car technology. In a letter to US transport regulators, Apple said the company was “excited about the potential of automated systems in many areas, including transportation”. Apple was first rumoured to be working on an autonomous vehicle in early 2015, when reports suggested that the company already had 600 employees working on an electric car design. Later that year, more rumours suggested that the company hoped to launch an electric car to the public by 2019.

So maybe Apple can surprise us next year. The race for electric vehicles is hotting up, and with the word being that Apple has been in talks to buy luxury-supercar maker McLaren, we may just see a prototype iCar roll onto the stage in 2017 after hearing those words, “one more thing”.
Jeremy Davies, CEO & Co-founder

Enterprise
CONTEXT will be closely tracking the evolution of storage systems and converged architecture: as cloud-managed wireless network service companies slowly but surely replace in-house wireless LAN appliances, we expect continued strong growth on these two fronts. Companies to watch: Cisco Meraki, Open-Mesh, Zebra (part of Extreme Networks), Ruckus.

Sales of solid-state drives (SSDs) have increased throughout 2016 and, for the first time, surpassed those of hard disk drives. As the price of SSDs fall and their capacity increases, 2017 will see this trend continue. In 2014, we predicted that 90% of storage components would be SSDs by 2020, and the industry is well on track to achieve this.
Gurvan Meyer, Senior Research Analyst, Enterprise Team

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Displays
Large Format Display sales in 2017 are expected to continue to grow strongly with demand being driven by the education and corporate sectors. For AV providers, the corporate business market continues to be a huge growth opportunity, with a big shift towards interactive products for meetings rooms, as corporates increasingly collaborate over multiple sites, with numerous remote attendees.  The education market is also expected to be a key driver of growth in the LFD segment with educational institutions increasingly adopting display solutions to change and enhance the ways they communicate with students, staff and visitors.
Lachlan Welsh, Senior Analyst, Displays

Imaging
Printer hardware sales will continue to contract overall, though some segments are expected to register growth in 2017, such as business inkjets with higher end products due to be released in 2017 to compete with laser devices. The shift from hardware to contract sales continues, therefore, the importance of partnerships and focus on channel partners will prevail. HP’s acquisition of Samsung printer business is expected to complete in the second half of 2017, as companies join their efforts aiming to disrupt the A3 copier market business.
Zivile Brazdziunaite, Senior Market Analyst, Imaging

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3D Printing
2017 will continue to see the two sides of 3D printing – the personal/desktop side (those under $5,000) and the industrial/professional side – evolve separately.  Desktop 3D printers will become even more affordable (some already cost as little as $300!) while the some of the world’s biggest brands will increase their presence in the Industrial/Professional market where technology will continue to advance and improve.

Desktop market leader XYZprinting has already expanded its brick-and-mortar retail presence – at Best Buy, Toys-R-Us, and Barnes and Noble in the US, and Darty, Dixons and Media Saturn in Europe – and it is expected to continue with aggressive price points in to promote further retail expansion around the globe. Next year will see HP fully enter the 3D printing world with the first shipments of their professional Multi-Jet Fusion 3D Printers, and a new business is to emerge from GE after their acquisition of two of the top five metal 3D printing companies in 2016.  HP and others will champion a change of focus in the plastics 3D printing market from rapid prototyping to mid-range production.
Chris Connery, Vice President Global Analysis and Research

VR & Gaming
The world of eSports will continue to grow in both popularity and recognition, as a movie is planned starring Will Ferrell on the burgeoning phenomenon. Vendors and retailers will pay more attention to PC gaming as the category offers them the chance to make up for losses in a sector which has been declining in the last few years. High average selling prices for gaming products, excellent attach rates and margins for gaming accessories, and the availability of unsecured consumer borrowing will be major drivers. Virtual reality will also continue to grow in the consumer space, although still at a modest pace. However we expect to see more HMDs going into the B2B and corporate reseller channels for which products such as the Hololens are a gift.
Jonathan Wagstaff, Country Manager UK & Ireland

Smart Home – Battle of the Giants
Back in October 2015 we predicted that new forms of control for smart home devices would stimulate growth in the market. We highlighted three: voice activation, gesture recognition and mind control. The first two are already here: voice control has exploded since Amazon launched the Echo in 2016 and 5 million devices have already been sold. We predict that this trend will grow quickly in 2017 with the Amazon Echo continuing to sell and the launch of Google Home in 2017. Google will apply a massive marketing budget – in the US they are already paying for end-of-gondola slots for Google Home devices.

With this in mind, we see four, and potentially five, giants battling for the smart home in 2017: Amazon, Google, Apple (with Homekit), Samsung (with Smart Things) and Microsoft. The ace up their sleeve for Amazon is entertainment (access to Prime Music), for Google it is search, for Apple and Samsung it is interoperability (potentially using the TV), and for Microsoft it is building out from the PC. We are optimistic that consumers will benefit: with a more coherent offer, small start-ups will no longer be able to create proprietary systems and existing systems will make themselves linkable to the big five in order to survive. It is too early to place bets on a winner, but Amazon has rapidly taken advantage of being first-mover. Gesture control will grow and develop in 2017, but mind control will need to wait for another year!
Adam Simon, Head of Retail

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Filed under 3D Printing, Displays, Imaging, IoT, IT Distribution, Mobile technology, PCs, Retail, Smart Home, virtual reality

Thoughts on HP Samsung acquisition

Last month, HP Inc. formally announced its acquisition of Samsung’s printer business in a deal valued at $1.05B – the largest in its history – bringing in 6,500 printing patents, over 1,300 engineers and researchers worldwide, as well as numerous channel partners. The acquisition is expected to be closed within a year, after which Samsung agreed to invest in HP through open market equity purchases of between $100m and $300m.

Their stated ambition? Disruption of the $55B Copier Segment.

But why now? To summarise, as the printed page continues to decline in an era of digitised private and professional communication, printer vendors are fighting it out to sustain revenues and market share. One major opportunity to do so resides in the contractual business space, which holds the promise of additional, ongoing revenues from the sale of supplies and services.

Will it work? Both Samsung and HP have failed in the past to make much headway in a market currently dominated by Xerox, Ricoh, Canon and Konica Minolta. With its acquisition however, HP appears to be in a particularly strong position to accelerate its efforts to crack the copier dealer channel, gain market share, and grow its contractual managed print business.

Indeed, combining Samsung’s A3 know how with its own proprietary technology, HP Inc. is confident that they have a strong value proposition and strategy in place to disturb the copier market space. Its new A3 LaserJet and Page Wide printers mount a comprehensive challenge to A3 incumbents: plugging the gaps in its portfolio, and offering reduced cost per page, affordable colour printing, as well as lower servicing costs for partners.

This being said, these are still early days. Certainly, HP Inc.’s strategy is appropriate, and their offering meets market demands. It is hard however to predict how the channel and HP Inc.’s competitors will respond, and the extent to which they will be able to effectively leverage Samsung’s technology, people, and channel partnerships – a space therefore to watch closely.

by ZB

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3D Printing as a Marketing Tool

In a modern, fast-paced world, people typically spend only a few seconds to decide whether or not they are interested in a product. Marketing executives have the difficult task of finding ways to attract the attention of potential customers. In today’s highly saturated media environment it is really hard to get noticed. So is there a magic pill? Maybe!

The general public is hungry for sensation; it is drawn to anything out of the ordinary. I hope you agree when I say that 3D printing fits this profile perfectly. Anything published on this subject is met with huge interest. At the same time, the 3D-printing community reacts at lightning speed to any new product on the market, be it a movie or a game. Here is fertile soil in which to plant promotional seeds.

Social media works perfectly for everyone,- you don’t have to be connected to 3D printing at all, and still use it to stand out from the crowd. On the other hand, an unknown 3D designer or ‘maker’ can publish his or her creation on a social site and become known to a much wider audience.

The new Pokémon Go game provides a number of great examples. While it was still only available in the US, 3D-printing enthusiasts around the world created dozens of miniature Pokémons. And who wouldn’t want to hold a cute little Pokémon in their hands after catching its virtual twin?

Pikachu

Pikachu caught in the park

 

One designer came up with a 3D-printed phone cover with a targeting tool for catching Pokémons and became a mini-celebrity. Initially, his profile on myminifactory.com had about 10,000 views. When someone liked his design idea and placed a picture on Twitter, the previously unknown designer accumulated nearly 75,000 views within 2 days! By the end of that week about 180,000 people visited his page on the 3D-printing community website. For this type of niche community it is a huge success.

So has anyone thought of using 3D printing as a clever marketing tool? Doing so raises the question of who promotes whom: those in the 3D-printing community who make innovative designs can become the talk of the town, while the producer of a new product who places a 3D-printed replica on a popular social site stands to increase sales. Both sides reap the benefits.

by NF

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Channel to Print Vendors: Clearer labeling is needed!

According to the latest CONTEXT ChannelWatch, European channel players believe print manufacturers could do “a lot more” to stop counterfeit toner cartridges flooding the market.

The call to action for vendors to label their products better comes from over 2,000 business owners and senior managers at key channel businesses across Western Europe. The in-depth report is compiled from interviews with these organisations including resellers, vendors, retailers and distributors.

When asked who they thought could do the most to stop the growing problem of illegal printer consumables in the region, a clear majority (55%) claimed print vendors could do “a lot more”, although a significant minority claimed the channel (37%) and government (35%) could do the same.

When it came to government, however, a large number of respondents (30%) claimed they “don’t know” what role it should take.

The problem as the channel sees it lies in the packaging of illegal toner cartridges.

Over half (58%) of resellers told us it would be easy for them to spot counterfeits, but just 15% of them said they thought it would be simple for their customers.

Clearly labelled packaging (73%) for re-manufactured and legal compatibles was called out as the best solution to the counterfeit problem amongst other suggestions.

Some major print vendors are taking the initiative, raising public awareness, training channel partners, monitoring sales via distribution channels, and most importantly – seizing counterfeit goods and taking their manufacturers and resellers to court.

HP Inc. seized more than 12 million items and enforced over 1800 actions across EMEA between 2011 and 2015, while Kyocera seized €10m worth of counterfeit goods in FY 2015. But between just April and May this year Kyocera reported the capture of goods worth over €5m – an indication of the escalating scale of the problem.

Some vendors have also responded with secure holographic seals, serial numbers and other innovative features to help distinguish genuine from counterfeit products.

The new ChannelWatch report from CONTEXT covers this and other key channel trends in detail, shining an important light on what resellers from the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany and Italy really think. To request a copy of the report or to speak to someone, please contact tgibbons@contextworld.com.

by TG

 

 

 

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