While scale is required for AM companies that want to cater to large corporations, I don’t believe scale is a necessary requirement in order to succeed in the 3D printing business. As long as the end goal is not global market share, small 3D printing shops can still remain profitable as long as they maintain their quality standards, customer service, and reliability. With thousands of companies starting off each day, there will always be a need for small AM companies that can cater to these new businesses, whereas someone like Proto Labs might not want to service such a small deal. Although I agree that for Proto Labs, scale might be their end goal, they should be careful in scaling their business too fast at the expense of quality and of their reputation. I think short term they should continue focusing on their excellent customer service and quality while allowing for an organic growth rate to their business.
Very interesting article on the possible uses of 3D printing in fashion. I was surprised of the possibility of using 3D printing for clothes as I’ve only heard of 3D printing being used to produce metal or ceramic objects that are hard and unmalleable: a direct contrast to what a customer would want out of a piece of clothing. Regarding France’s rule on ‘Haute Couture’, I believe it will be a non-issue as long as the quality and design of the clothes are up to standards. The reason ‘Haute Couture’ has such recognition is due to the high quality it’s able to deliver on a consistent basis; a quality that can only be achieved if it’s manufactured by hand through skilled labor. However, as soon as a different method of manufacturing clothes is able to produce the same level of consistent quality, ‘Haute Couture’ will lose it’s competitive advantage and no one will bat an eye.
Another interesting question, however, is how do you stop the piracy of designs and ensure fashion companies make a profit when everyone will have a machine that can build their own clothes? Piracy is already rampant and it could be disastrous to a company solely focused on selling designs. It’s for this precise reason why I think there will be push back from fashion giants into moving into 3D manufacturing for clothes.
I love the way Betabrand uses open innovation in order to design it’s products. It’s very reminiscent of the Valve case, where Valve allowed outside users to create modifications (mods) to their games and sell them on their virtual store. In doing so, both Valve and Betabrand essentially have millions of designers working for them at no cost at all. This means no health care, no vacations, no salary. In addition, by allowing other users to vote on these products they have an automatic filter on the thousands of designs that come in. They have to deploy very little manpower in order to select the top choices and through small redesigns they now own a right to the design of the clothes they sell. In addition, by forcing users to commit to the clothes and only making clothes that have minimum number of customers, they ensure that they will never incur a loss on any product they sell.
I agree, however, that Betabrand should worry about retaining it’s current customers and, more importantly, retaining it’s top designers. I think Betabrand needs to track top designers on their site and bring them in-house and give them full-time employment (this is exactly what Valve has done and has had tremendous success with). In addition, Betabrand needs to differentiate themselves from competitors that are bound to pop up. If they can continue to grow and build a sizeable user base, then the risk of someone replacing them will be small. Therefore, I think it’s important for them to drop prices (even if it means they are hemorrhaging money to start off with) in order to maintain healthy user growth and it will eventually lead to their success (very similar to what Amazon did in the 2000s, and what Netflix is currently doing).
I had never realized that MyFitnessPal used machine learning in order to analyze caloric content of foods. I was always under the impression that all of this information was pre-loaded into the system. It is interesting to see the extent that AIs can be used even in industries that have simple mathematical concepts like diet and exercise, where in order to lose weight, calories in = calories out.
While you bring up an interesting point about users having reservations in others gathering data about them, I believe that most would be ok with MyFitnessPal obtaining this data. As shown by the recent Facebook data breach scandal, it appears that as long as the use of this data doesn’t have an immediate harmful effect on the user, most users are willing to share this data. In and of itself, however, data on what type of food users consume is less dangerous, even if someone is able to breach security measures and trace it to individual users. However, data on where users eat, what time they eat, and the amount of money spend on what they eat, is significantly more critical in preserving the privacy of the end user, while this data is also most valuable to MyFitnessPal. The question remains will MyFitnessPal be content to only store data on amount of food and caloric intake of it’s users in order to improve their health, or will they venture out to collect as much data as possible about the user, which puts the privacy of the user at risk?
Although I agree with the sentiment that the use of autonomous weapons can lead to a slippery slope in warfare (similar to nuclear weapons) I do think that the benefits outweigh the risks. Many theorized that nuclear weapons themselves would lead to the destruction of humanity, however, studies have shown that the effect of nuclearization has actually decreased conflict throughout the world. Similarly, while autonomous weapons could be equally destructive, I believe that their effect will lead to stability in conflict ridden areas of the world. There is still the possibility that governments will learn to abuse these weapons and limit freedom of the population, however, as long as there are stringent policies put in place in order to limit their use, the overall net impact on the world will be positive.