Ah, yes, I covered tech, too, Ann, and saw a lot of market consolidation in the time I was writing about it. I remember writing about all the software (middleware) being used to run the Web and how it used to be sold separately by different vendors but more and more became part of a larger platform offered by a big company. Some consolidation is inevitable in nearly all markets, I think.
Liz, with the exception of silicon chips, and some things made with them, many industries follow similar paths assuming other things are equal. I find the history of technology especially interesting. That book intrigued me partly because of what he says, but also because the products he did his classic analysis on, hard drives, were ones I had covered as a reporter during the time of his analysis, just as new tech was disrupting the market.
Trenth, thanks for your comments. It's always good to hear from people using the products we write about. I think what will drive prices down is more machines, i.e., competition, and an open materials market.
It's really interesting to see how markets follow similar paths, Ann, especially with disruptive technologies that everyone wants a piece of. I will have to check out that book, it sounds really interesting.
Time will tell. 3d printing is another old business model destroying disruptive technology. It's distributed super low cost manufacturing.
Stratasys deserve a lot of credit for making it a practical tech, but now, they are trying to keep it a high priced elite tech, buying up little companies that might threaten that model like makerbot, and service bureaus to keep a monopoly on the business. Ultimately that will fail, but it may buy them another decade. Protolabs is giving them an early run for their money and may drive price down faster.
Our company has a 35k$ Stratasys system, mostly it's been a great investment, though our Stratasys tech took a long time to get it calibrated right. We also recently bought a makerbot, the first one with open source, and it's rather impressive, but much more difficult to use in production.
I agree, Liz--that's certainly a traditional, and well-proven, interpretation of consolidation in an industry in its early stages, especially one based on a truly disruptive technology like 3D printing. There are some other acquisitions that have occurred recently in this space, as well. (Consolidation in later stages often indicates a downhill slope toward the end of an industry's life, when demand is shrinking.) BTW, one of the most interesting business books I ever read was by the guy who invented the term "disruptive technology." It's "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen (1997).
Cadman-LT as you point out, buying outside expertise requires a lot of cash. But even if you are Google or Facebook or 3D Systems, it also requires correct business strategy, correctly executed on several fronts.
It's interesting when consolidation begins in any industry; it's sort of a sign that the industry is evolving from early stages to maturation, I think. This seems like a good decision and reminds me of when technology companies began adding services to their portfolio to become more well-rounded. Indeed, less competition means less options for customers, so there is always a fear that people won't get top service because there's no one to pushing a company to strive for more. But I think it's too early to say this will happen here.
An MIT research team has invented what they see as a solution to the need for biodegradable 3D-printable materials made from something besides petroleum-based sources: a water-based robotic additive extrusion method that makes objects from biodegradable hydrogel composites.
Alcoa has unveiled a new manufacturing and materials technology for making aluminum sheet, aimed especially at automotive, industrial, and packaging applications. If all its claims are true, this is a major breakthrough, and may convince more automotive engineers to use aluminum.
NASA has just installed a giant robot to help in its research on composite aerospace materials, like those used for the Orion spacecraft. The agency wants to shave the time it takes to get composites through design, test, and manufacturing stages.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is working with architects Foster + Partners to test the possibility of using lunar regolith, or moon rocks, and 3D printing to make structures for use on the moon. A new video shows some cool animations of a hypothetical lunar mission that carries out this vision.
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