IoT nerd's Profile
The question around how NASA can retain its top talent in a world where the best ideas can come from anywhere is an interesting one that I believe other large companies who’ve adopted open innovation processes grapple with on a daily basis. I believe it comes down to identifying what the highest value-add tasks are, where expertise and sound judgement continue to play a big role. Even if a solution might come from outside NASA, their experts will still need to first figure out a way to select the winning idea, then once selected, test this idea and perhaps even iterate to come up with the final version of the product. Sound judgement and expertise will continue to be required throughout the R&D process–so they can frame this to their employees as freeing up their time to focus on other tasks which require their judgement. Between AI and open innovation, jobs are already being disrupted everywhere. Now it’s just up to companies to figure out how to retrain their employees to shift their focus to new areas where human cognition is still essential.
I agree with RC’s point that more qualitative aspects could perhaps be incorporated into Preseries’ algorithms to assess founder success. Particularly for pre-revenue startups, typically the key considerations VCs seek to evaluate is the founding team itself–why are they, specifically, well-positioned to launch that product/service/idea… why not another expert from that industry? Although perhaps some traits might be gleaned from their LinkedIn and articles, their soft skills might be harder to find purely based on publicly available information. And the second key consideration which I believe might be difficult for a machine to assess is around the quality of the founding team’s assumptions. But perhaps as more and more data on successful startups becomes available, these two considerations might be easier to quantify in retrospect, and reduce the human judgement and bias inherent in the current human-centric model.
Your question around aligning incentives from various parties to share data reminds me of a similar challenge faced by the airline industry. In that space, data is fragmented and distributed across different players with little incentive to (and at times legal requirements not to) share data with each other. On the ground, airports hold a multitude of information such as local weather conditions, passenger location (i.e. at the security line), and other logistical information that would be incredibly useful for airlines. Airlines hold passenger data, flight information, among other things. And–if the planes are leased–owners usually hold maintenance, performance, and design information among other things. Combining data across all these players could lead to significant efficiencies, but fostering collaboration is challenging. GE’s Digital Aviation business is working with customers to figure out ways to address this issue, but I believe what it comes down to is finding win-win specific use case scenarios–starting small–building trust for that one use case, and then expanding from there. For example, you could start by having airports share traveler locations in the airport (i.e. when they check in at a restaurant or at the security checkpoint) to help airlines find passengers and ensure they don’t miss their flights. The airline wins by reducing costs of having to rebook passengers on new flights, and the airports win by driving higher customer satisfaction. If customers find that they’re missing less connections in one airport vs. another, for example, they might be more likely to fly through that airport. So in sum… it’s all about finding mutually beneficial use cases in the construction industry where both parties can see the value, and starting small… then growing from there, one use case at a time.
Although the use of 3D printing already permeates industrial sectors such as aerospace, automotive, and manufacturing, I believe the benefits are even greater in the healthcare space, where a reduced time to develop and produce certain parts at a lower cost can have a significant impact on patients’ lives. An article I was reading mentioned that some key parts of the human body, such as a trachea, can already be 3D printed using “biocompatible and bioresorbable materials”, and in the future they expect to be able to “produce heart tissue, cartilage implants (for noses, ears, knees and vertebral discs), skin grafts and even corneas”. In a world where time is of the essence, a reduced “supply chain” timeline for organ transplants could actually save lives. Additionally, in response to rising Healthcare costs, companies like like OpenΒionics, an open-source initiative for the development of affordable, light-weight, modular robot hands and prosthetic devices, are using 3D printing to change the game: “robot hands cost less than $100 and weigh less than 200g while their new anthropomorphic prosthetic hand costs less than $200 and weighs less than 300g.”
And circling back to the topic at hand (space travel)… another benefit of 3D printing is being able to create items in hard-to-reach places. I wonder if we’ll ever see a day where food can be 3D-printed in space to address the challenge of supplying enough food on space missions and ventures?
Would the economics of a license-fee system for AM-made parts be cost-efficient?
Although I don’t have as much experience in the additive manufacturing space, if I draw a parallel to new SaaS models I do believe the license-fee system makes economical sense and could be profitable for both the defense contractors who own the IP and for the military. Conceptually, what 3D printing does is allow the user to reuse a blueprint (the IP) multiple times, extracting value every time a new unit is printed. And in this case, whomever owns the IP should get compensated a royalty fee for its use. One way the military can aim to reduce their costs as they scale, however, is to negotiate volume discounts (i.e. if they print > x number of parts in one year, the license price per unit reverts to a reduced amount). On the user side, this would allow for economies of scale, and from the vendor side, this would be beneficial in that it encourages higher use of its technology (and thus higher total royalty revenue).
If the jet engines in Boeing Dreamliners can be 3D printed–engines that withstand various objects colliding with it at high speeds and extreme conditions–I believe military parts certainly can be as well. Like all new technologies–hopefully it’s just a matter of time until new advances lower the cost and increase the quality of the finished products!