A1) AM Disruption at Different Scale – What is Happening and Wild Guesses (2)

In my first two articles of AfT blog, I already showed you the MECE deltas as the key to AM disruption, why those MECE deltas with current AM economics are difficult working towards profitability and the vitality and concerns of extra gains from AM product (check this and this if you missed). I hope that my data evidence, derivations, and explanations have helped clear a little fog of AM hype and doubt. But, I know that most of our AM hope, hype, and “harm” lie in the future instead of the present. We used to believe AM would fundamentally revolutionize how we manufacture. Instead, now we tend to believe AM will be a complementary tool to how we manufacture. We can’t resist looking into future, making our projections and asking

How will AM technology be developed in next 5 years? What’s the trend for the next decade?

And will those MECE delta work in the near future?

So do I. In fact, making projections, or wild guesses have always been my favorite “sport” throughout my entire research life: technology development projections, technology adoption predictions, and sometimes even political election wild guesses. I always learn a lot when my prediction meets reality, from both the goodness of fit and deviation. Of course, I am not a fortune teller. I proceed as a strategic analyst and my “crystal ball” is data. For additive manufacturing technologies, I’ve been collecting data for years to make those projections. In this article, I will share some of my “wild guesses” about the vital deltas and AM disruption I discussed before, based on the data I found.

The first vital delta I discussed in my last article is the machine depreciation. With the current AM machine price, generally AM production faces a yearly cost of $20k-$120k (polymer) or $60k-$270k (metal) from the machine itself. The machine depreciation can represent a huge cost segment ranges from 40% to even 70%. Knowing how AM machine will be priced can greatly influence the landscape of many technology strategies, and of course, the delta profit map I brought up in the AfT. The difficulty behind this is that AM has many factors (e.g., size, speed, accuracy, service, brand) that may influence the price, and sometimes impossible to standardize under different operating mode and conditions. I’ve tried many factors to connect with machine price, but in the end, I only found one that may work. A very simple one: the volume of the building envelope/chamber, or in an approximate but simpler word, the functional size of the machine.

C1 Wild guess trend line

Based on the data that I was able to find for the AM systems in the past decade, you can clearly see a trend that machines with a larger building chamber (or in simpler word, larger machine) tend to be more expensive, and metal AM systems tends to be one order of magnitude more expensive than polymer AM systems with similar chamber volume.

You may think so what? This is common sense to many people who are not even familiar with AM industry. Here is the fun part –

If we take those data and analyze their trend line following the temporal sequence (e.g., biannually as showed in my following analysis and figures), the pattern of how those trend lines move in the plot is very interesting. The trait may demonstrate how the price of AM systems was driven down over the decade, and possibly suggest how we project the future.

C1 Wild guess polymer

The price of polymeric AM systems has been driven down significantly in the last decade and seems to continue dropping especially large machines. The significant price drop of newly released systems seems to start at 2013 with about 20% decrease and follow with an even larger drop (even close to 90%!) until now. Reasons can be the cheap machines with moderate performance got bigger, or expensive machines with great performance got cheaper. My guess is both. Due to increasing competitions, the profit margin of the polymer AM machine has been squeezed out quickly. We possibly see that the price of more and more systems is reaching a fair margin close to their cost, even this year – 2018.

C1 wild guess metal

Metal AM is a different story but may turn out to a similar ending as polymer AM. From 2007-2014, the price showed nearly no changes. Even there is, a 10% fluctuation biannually at most as shown by the data, which is probably within the range of error. The drop of metal machine price started in 2015 with a possible speed of 30% biannually, although I don’t have enough data to get a trend line for 2017 & 18. The decrease seems to show no preference for machine size. It makes sense since the metal machine with large building envelope tends to have extra powerful components, such as bi or quad-laser and in-situ monitoring. Those components can be very expensive, which raises the costs of building such systems significantly and possibly rule-out a larger space of price dropping for larger systems.

With over 250 data points, my dataset is definitely not exclusively, may not objective, or even not accurate enough to have a bulletproof prediction. But I will make my projections not too further way (for the year 2020) with my confidence anyway and call them “wild guesses”. I hope these “wild guesses” can help you regarding strategy for AM development and deployment.

My #1 wild guess: starting at 2020, all newly released polymer AM systems will cost no more than $150k, despite the performance, size or functionality.

(I am pretty confident about this one. Although with limited data, we can already see such trend line now 17-18. In fact, HP released new full-color 3D printing systems yesterday at Feb. 5th, 2018 with a price range from $50k to low $100k)

My #2 wild guess: the metal AM systems released in the year 2020 will cost 50% less compared to a similar size machine in 2015.

(Assuming a continuing 30% reduction as suggested in 15-16, it takes 4 years to reduce 50%. I even leave myself some space for error. 😊)

The second delta I discussed before is AM material costs, which lives the devil sometimes. The material price is extremely high (10-400 times more expensive) as I showed you before. The reason behind is complicated including the physics of the process, the supply & demand, and the business model. Producing AM materials with a desired quality and form sometimes require extra processing steps, which inevitably raise the price by some. Especially for metal AM powder, the requirement of spherical shape and particle size distributions limits the yield of the extra step of atomization, which chains the bottom line of the price (check this). Additionally, the AM material demand is still marginal comparing to traditional material markets (e.g., total metal AM material consumption is about 1000t), which the economy of scale is poorly leveraged. But more importantly, the high material price set by AM OEMs may not even reflect the material production costs. AM material can be the cash cow for many OEMs. You can easily buy similar AM materials for a much cheaper price from an independent material supplier, but at a risk of less optimum output and losing machine warranty. All these factors can be improved when AM markets grow, which drives down the material price, open up new markets and keep driving it down. So the price of AM material is predicted to drop in the near future

But by how much? Unfortunately, unlike the machine, the data for the material price is much harder to find or ask as a researcher. As a result, my projections on the material price will be closer to wild guess and based on my speculation and other people’s projections.

My #3 wild guess: By the year 2020, AM polymer material price will decrease by 60%

C1 wild guess carbon

(I made my speculation based on the recently released news by Carbon3D. Carbon plans to reduce their material price through a production-scale materials program, which aims at offering sub-$100 per liter material comparing current material price at about $250. The saving comes from the economy of production scale. Although we didn’t know how large their resin volume increase in production in the year 2017, but we can see with a similar range of volume increases, the price can hit a 60% reduction. I am betting such rule can be applied to other polymeric AM materials, and we can see such volume increase before 2020)

My #4 wild guess: By the year 2020, AM metal material price will drop by 40%

(Actually, you can buy 40% cheaper material now from independent suppliers. I am projecting that their material can reach the standard of the AM OEMs somehow by 2020)

Now I showed my projections for the year 2020 on the two major deltas I discussed in my last articles. Those new numbers for the year 2020 may change the landscape of AM disruptions. Such economics improvement can open up markets that you can charge extra $100/kg, but still may not be enough to tear up instead of knocking on the door of automotive industry or other industries with load bearing/engineering functional parts.

C1 wild guess delta

So my #5 wild guess: By the year 2020, AM will keep penetrating to the markets where deltas can be compensated by $100/kg, and we will not see a wild adoption in the automotive industry.

Here are my 5 wild guesses, do you agree or disagree?

Watch out for my next article for our blog “Additive for Thoughts” next week!



C1) Additive Disruption in Different Industries – How?

Preface of my first blog: I know it is weird to start with Series C instead of A, but I have a reason. What I discussed in this blog will be the foundation of many ones following. You will feel the rationale through reading this one labeled as “C1”. But if you think this is too long, fundamental, or bored to read, you can just jump to the end where I summarize take-away messages. Thanks a lot for your patience! Now let’s start. 😊

Skyrocketing? Hype?

Disruptive? Niche?

You are not alone if you have those question marks for the additive manufacturing industry. I had such mixed feelings for AM for a very long time, especially after I read different sources with various opinions. If you ask questions, such as whether AM will be disruptive, or continue to grow fast in future, to those related sources or experts, most of the answers would be:

It depends.

But depends on what?  The following answer can be vaguer, such as technology development, adopted industry and applications, product quality, and so on. Correct or not? Correct. Helpful? Not really.

As a trained researcher and data analyst, I believe that most hypes and doubts are generated due to lack of transparency. Whether it is missing data, limited evidence, unstated assumption or hearsay story, the lack of information blocks our eyes and compels us to derive conclusions and decisions from past experience, knowledge, or even intuition. Sometimes we can be right, but other times we can far deviate from the truth. I have battled hard over intransparency for my doctoral dissertations through data collection, model development, and quantitative analysis to better understand the implications of AM. I don’t think I fully answered such a complicated question through my 300-page dissertations, and hell no that I think I can answer it now with this blog in 1000 words. But what I can offer you here is some leads, tools, resources, and findings from my research to help you better structure your thinking, navigate yourself through your own “mist”, and see what I peeked for the future of AM.

One of the core questions that are asked very often, but also leads to hypes, doubts and uncertainties is:

How additive manufacturing is disrupting or will disrupt my industry/business/product/process and so on?

There already are very good resources to start with if you want to learn for this question. For example, some resources that I benefited a lot:

“3D opportunity” series of reports from Deloitte (high quality, well & widely covered most related topics)

Marc Saunders’s posts & articles (leading expert at Renishaw, I am following him, reading his posts and learning all the time)

and Direct Manufacturing Research Center (DMRC) annual reports (I was amazed by their analysis and vision for additive manufacturing)

If you want to further try something dryer and maybe less interesting, I can share some literature including my own publications. 😊

But if you still have little clue for your own specific disruption questions, the first thing I’d like to share with you from my research experience is that whatever your question for AM disruptions is, you actually only need one simple equation to start with. Nothing more, but very effective.

It is the basic profit equation used in the income statement:

Profit = Revenue – Expenses

Think this through: whatever disruption of whatever technology is, the fundamental changes definitely reflect somewhere in the bookkeeping at a certain time. It does not have to be yours, but can be your customers’, your suppliers’, and/or your competitors’. It does not have to be now or short term but also long term. If no changes can be materialized in someone’s financial performance at a certain time, highly unlikely a disruption can be claimed.

Straightforward, right?

As a result, the potential disruptions of AM can be treated as delta in the profit function for a certain time period: delta revenue, delta expenses, and

Delta Profit.

This is fundamentally how AM disrupts. Delta profit.

C1 DeltaIf your delta can reach positive through certain time with relatively high confidence, the disruption is happening and you should jump in; if your delta will be negative due to your competitors’ positive deltas in near future, the disruption is coming and you should be prepared; if your customers’/supplies’ delta will be positive but not yours, you need to find a way to lead the disruption to you.

I believe you may already consider AM from a financial point of view, but I’d like to emphasize it can and should be the ground zero for any considerations, strategies, and decisions regarding AM adoption and disruption. Forget about the fancy AM machines, cool parts only achievable through AM, or other claimed amazing benefits AM can bring. Those should be reasons for adoration, but not for decision.

Start with Delta Profit.

Take several steps further, the delta of the operating profit function (the total net profit without revenues/expenses from finance and tax, let’s assume little changes in those parts due to AM) can be written as

ΔProfit = ΔUnit Sold x (ΔUnit Price – (ΔUnit Material + ΔUnit Direct Labor + ΔUnit Production Supplies)) – (ΔUtilities + ΔDepreciation + ΔIndirect Labor) – (ΔAmortization + ΔSelling, General, and Administrative Expenses + ΔR&D Expenses)

C1 Breakdown

Since we are estimating future for most disruption questions, every delta on the right of the equation is a sum of expected values under uncertainties and risks at a given time period (e.g., quarter and year).  For example,

ΔUnit Sold = E[ΔUnit Sold] at year 1 + E[ΔUnit Sold] at year 2 + …

I keep the derivation as below, you can skip this part if you are bored or want to save time.

Profit = Revenue – (Cost of Goods Sold + Operating Expenses)

= (Unit Sold x Unit Price) – (Cost of Goods Sold + Operating Expenses)

= (Unit Sold x Unit Price) – (Variable Costs of Goods Sold + Fixed Costs of Goods Sold + Operating Expenses)

= Unit Sold x (Unit Price – Unit Variable Cost of Goods Sold) – Fixed Costs of Goods Sold – Operating Expenses

Variable Cost of Goods Sold = Material + Direct Labor + Production Supplies

Fixed Costs of Goods Sold = Utilities + Depreciation + Indirect Labor

Operating Expenses = Amortization + Depreciation + Selling, General and Administrative Expenses + R&D Expenses

This equation should be your GPS for strategic thinking about AM disruption. The delta you need to know is disseminated into different MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collective Exhaustive) deltas. Your questions such as how AM will disrupt my business can be disseminated into questions like:

How AM will change my delta of unit sold?

How AM will change my delta of unit price?

How AM will change my delta of SG&A?

How AM will change my customer/competitor/supplier’s delta of unit sold?

Getting more structured and clear right? In fact, those MECE deltas for AM can be categorized as disruption at different scales – process, product, and management:

C1 Map edit

This figure will be the foundation of my offering of blogs (Strategy & Impact) and appear again and again. In the next blog, I will discuss details of those MECE deltas and what AM is impacting or will impact in the deltas through data, cases, and analysis. Watch out for my next one “AM Disruption at Different Scale – What is Happening and Wild Guesses” early next week. Follow us if you are interested!

My ending question for you:

By following the map, how AM is disrupting your delta?

Looking forward to your comments & discussions. Thanks!

Take-away message:

  1. Delta profit reflects AM disruption and can be used as guidance for strategic thinking
  2. The MECE deltas structure map for potential AM disruption

Kickoff post for “Additive for Thoughts”

The first few weeks of the new year is always a good time to review the past year and refresh your plan & goal for the coming 12 months.

What I have learned about additive manufacturing in the year 2017 is surprisingly more than my past years combined, even though I have already studied & researched for AM for several years. I learned detail about different AM systems and design optimization from Dr. Lin Cheng; I learned how material microstructure, performance, and process interact from Dr. Ming Tang; And every weekend the three of us sat together and had a “gathering for AM”, where we shared our passion for AM, asked sometimes naive questions, discussed hypothesis, and challenged each other’s ideas & assumptions. I enjoyed this so much and benefited significantly.

2018 I plan to bring our “gathering for AM” online, and start sharing & offering our knowledge and experience through this platform. Along with Dr. Lin Cheng and Dr. Ming Tang, I am launching an AM blog “Additive for Thoughts”, which discuss our insights and ideas based on our expertise for additive manufacturing for your thoughts. The blog will cover three topics: 1) Strategy & Impact, 2) Design & Optimization, and 3) Material & Performance, each of which falls into our doctoral research. For each topic we will launch three series of blogs: a) What is Happening?, b) Why or Why Not?, and c) How?, in which we will discuss current state and trend of AM, quantitative analysis/evidence/explanations, and data-driven insights. Each blog we will start with an open question to address and end with an open question for you to consider. Look forward to hearing your thoughts in the discussions.

Blog plan

Figure 1. Blog plan of “Additive for Thoughts” (AfT)

As the blog name suggests, I sincerely wish our AfT blog can be an additive to stimulate your thoughts for AM and take your thoughts back to the additive manufacturing community!

If you are interested, please follow us on our website and our LinkedIn profile, like & share our post, and even better, connect with us! Watch out for our first release of “Additive Disruption in Different Industries – How?” this week.

Thanks a lot!