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Metal needed to show mettle of 3D printing

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Metals are the fastest-growing segment of 3D printing, with printer sales growing at 48% and material sales growing at 32%, writes RACHEL GORDON, Technology Analyst at IDTechEx

Plastic 3D printing has its place in prototyping and education, but 3D printing in metal is being used to manufacture parts in a wide variety of industries. Metals are the fastest-growing segment of 3D printing, with printer sales growing at 48% and material sales growing at 32%, according to the brand new IDTechEx report 3D Printing of Metals 2015-2025.

Adoption by high-value low-volume industries 

Because of the current speed, size and cost limitations, the high value, low volume industries such as aerospace and biomedical, have been the earliest adopters. GE Aviation are investing $3.5bn in new plant to house EOS M-280 printers to print 100,000 fuel nozzles by 2020. Arcam claim their 3D printers had been used to manufacture over 50,000 orthopaedic implants so far. Both these industries demand titanium alloys, giving them a market share of 31% by volume. Aerospace is also heavily investing in cobalt alloys, nickel alloys and aluminium alloys.

Fig 1. Breakdown of installed base and 2014 sales by company showing most companies are experiencing huge growth in sales and there are many new players in the market. Source: IDTechEx Research

Fig 1. Breakdown of installed base and 2014 sales by company showing most companies are experiencing huge growth in sales and there are many new players in the market. Source: IDTechEx Research

Jewellers are also early adaptors of SLM technologies. There are many reasons jewellers are able to quickly adopt the technology; there are no qualifying standards for jewellery; jewellery designers are already good at CAD; they are used to subcontracting; they are skilled in finishing and polishing; they used to making bespoke items; and they crave design freedom and unusual designs. The jewellery industry is driving 3D printing in precious metals, with gold powder having a 49% market share by revenue.

More and more industries are adopting 3D printing 

Dental suppliers, Argen Digital, offers metal substructures to make copings and bridges with the same properties as cast parts. Siemens are producing blades for gas turbines for power generation. NASA have said that they intend to 3D print 80-100% of their rocket engines in the future.

Wide range of technologies, alloys and applications 

3D Printing of Metals 2015-2025 (www.IDTechEx.com/3dmetals) covers the full range of metal 3D printing equipment including selective laser melting, electron beam melting, blown powder, metal + binder, welding and other emerging technologies…using a wide range of precious metals and engineering alloys including aluminium, cobalt alloys, nickel alloys, steels, nitinol, gold, platinum and many more…in a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, dental, jewellery, oil and gas, orthopaedics, printed electronics and tooling.

Worldwide forecasts of equipment and materials to 2025 

The report includes a very detailed breakdown by company and technology of the worldwide 3D printer sales during 2014 and installed base at the end of 2014. The properties of all commercially available 3D metal printers are mapped by speed, volume, precision, and price. Powder shipments in 2014 by volume and revenue are detailed. Forecasts to 2025 are for the total installed base, printer shipments each year, printer prices, revenue from printer sales, and metal powder sales split by volume and revenue.

The information has been gathered by IDTechEx analysts from 29 formal interviews (included as profiles) and many informal conversations, since we started tracking the 3D printing market. However, this is the first time all the information on equipment, materials and applications related to metal 3D printing has been clearly displayed in one report.

This report is valuable to anyone involved in equipment or materials for metal 3D printing, developing the technology for new applications or concerned about the impact on the aerospace, automotive, dental, jewellery, oil and gas, orthopaedics, printed electronics, tooling and general engineering industries.

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Huawei Mate 20 unveils ‘higher intelligence’

The new Mate 20 series, launching in South Africa today, includes a 7.2″ handset, and promises improved AI.

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Huawei Consumer Business Group today launches the Huawei Mate 20 Series in South Africa.

The phones are powered by Huawei’s densest and highest performing system on chip (SoC) to date, the Kirin 980. Manufactured with the 7nm process, incorporating the Cortex-A76-based CPU and Mali-G76 GPU, the SoC offers improved performance and, according to Huawei, “an unprecedented smooth user experience”.

The new 40W Huawei SuperCharge, 15W Huawei Wireless Quick Charge, and large batteries work in tandem to provide users with improved battery life. A Matrix Camera System includes a  Leica Ultra Wide Angle Lens that lets users see both wider and closer, with a new macro distance capability. The camera system adopts a Four-Point Design that gives the device a distinct visual identity.

The Mate 20 Series is available in 6.53-inch, 6.39-inch and 7.2-inch sizes, across four devices: Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, Mate 20 X and Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS. They ship with the customisable Android P-based EMUI 9 operating system.

“Smartphones are an important entrance to the digital world,” said Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer BG, at the global launch in London last week. “The Huawei Mate 20 Series is designed to be the best ‘mate’ of consumers, accompanying and empowering them to enjoy a richer, more fulfilled life with their higher intelligence, unparalleled battery lives and powerful camera performance.”

The SoC fits 6.9 billion transistors within a die the size of a fingernail. Compared to Kirin 970, the latest chipset is equipped with a CPU that is claimed to be 75 percent more powerful, a GPU that is 46 percent more powerful and an NPU (neural processing unit) that is 226 percent more powerful. The efficiency of the components has also been elevated: the CPU is claimed to be 58 percent more efficient, the GPU 178 percent more efficient, and the NPU 182 percent more efficient. The Kirin 980 is the world’s first commercial SoC to use the Cortex-A76-based cores.

Huawei has designed a three-tier architecture that consists of two ultra-large cores, two large cores and four small cores. This allows the CPU to allocate the optimal amount of resources to heavy, medium and light tasks for greater efficiency, improving the performance of the SoC while enhancing battery life. The Kirin 980 is also the industry’s first SoC to be equipped with Dual-NPU, giving it higher On-Device AI processing capability to support AI applications.

Read more about the Mate 20 Pro’s connectivity, battery and camera on the next page. 

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How Quantum computing will change … everything?

Research labs, government agencies (NASA) and tech giants like Microsoft, IBM and Google are all focused on developing quantum theories first put forward in the 1970s. What’s more, a growing start-up quantum computing ecosystem is attracting hundreds of millions of investor dollars. Given this scenario, Forrester believes it is time for IT leaders to pay attention.

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“We expect CIOs in life sciences, energy, defence, and manufacturing to see a deluge of hype from vendors and the media in the coming months,” says Forrester’s Brian Hopkins, VP, principal analyst serving CIOs and lead author of a report: A First Look at Quantum Computing. “Financial services, supply-chain, and healthcare firms will feel some of this as well. We see a market emerging, media interest on the rise, and client interest trickling in. It’s time for CIOs to take notice.”

The Forrester report gives some practical applications for quantum computing which helps contextualise its potential: 

  • Security could massively benefit from quantum computing. Factoring very large integers could break RSA-encrypted data, but could also be used to protect systems against malicious attempts. 
  • Supply chain managers could use quantum computing to gather and act on price information using minute-by-minute fluctuations in supply and demand 
  • Robotics engineers could determine the best parameters to use in deep-learning models that recognise and react to objects in computer vision
  • Quantum computing could be used to discover revolutionary new molecules making use of the petabytes of data that studies are now producing. This would significantly benefit many organisations in the material and life sciences verticals – particularly those trying to create more cost-effective electric car batteries which still depend on expensive and rare materials. 

Continue reading to find out how Quantum computing differs.

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