With numbers like 500% growth in the next 5 years it’s no wonder there’s some serious buzz right for 3D printing and manufacturing right now. For me however with all the buzz there seems to be confusion on the consumer level with 3D printing – what is it actually for?
B2B makes complete sense with rapid prototyping and the manufacturing of components it’s easy to see why there’s surging demand for it but time and time again I catch myself wondering what the benefits are if you stop making ornaments and key chains with your home 3D printer.
Also I’m not one for start up/business buzzwords but I do feel that ‘tipping point’ resonates the right message when it comes to the current consumer mindset on 3D printing.
Right now I feel that the exploration of 3D printing is on the same level as what I can only imagine the discovery of fire was like – we’re throwing random things at it to see what it can do and what this new discovery is capable of. At some point 3D printing, just like fire, needs to start working for us, diving into the deep and untapped pool of potential that comes with creating something out of virtually nothing.
I personally feel that there are 2 ways that 3D printing will take off within daily home use.
The Amazon of 3D Printing
As consumers we’re always looking for 2 simple things – convenience and price. Those two have been greatly answered by the rise of ecommerce shopping over the last few years and none have done it better than Amazon.
For 3D printing to kick start it’s dominance there has to be some real need for the products it can produce. Ornaments and fancy looking lamp shades don’t cut it. Everyday things like food, clothes and electronics are what we desire and what we spend our daily lives using and being around.
3D printing at home needs to answer to these demands, there needs to be an online market place for everyday products that can be purchased and created through the 3D printer. Whilst websites like Thingiverse provide plans for wonderfully artistic ‘things’ to create and have in your home, it doesn’t really go beyond the levels of toys or gimmicks and factor in that everything is free it just doesn’t make it a viable more even sustainable idea.
3D technology is advancing at what seems a daily rate and the advances that occur aren’t minimal either. Time of manufacture is being cut by 40+%, costs are dropping dramatically, new materials are becoming available and all this signals to me that we’re still not even close to being ready for legitimate, daily 3D printing use.
The solution to taking 3D printing to the next level is to go back in time and look at the production line, see how it revolutionised the world and then take it and condense it down so everyone can have a personal production line in their home.
Home Production Line
A mini/micro-production line of 3D printers at home is what I’ve always felt will be the key to the rise of the industry. The products we need and use everyday at home and throughout the day are intricate pieces of equipment no matter how mundane they may look. Take for example the TV remote, a mass produced product that on face value seems easy to make, but try getting a single home 3D printer to make the most basic of TV remotes. It won’t happen.
‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ – if you look at 3D printing at home with this mindset you’ll realise that what we use on a daily basis, even what we consider to be very basic equipment, is in fact too intricate for a basic 3D printing set up to complete. It’s not impossible but by the time it takes to print and construct together each and every component of say the most basic TV remote, it would make far more sense to go out and purchase it.
This is where my ‘dream’ of a home based production line comes into play. The idea includes multiple 3D printers that have different jobs in the construction process. Literally a miniature production line. This allows for multiple materials, styles and processes of printing to take place throughout the process, if it works together and constructs the product in stages it shortens the time and more importantly with only a few clicks it becomes an automated process.
Whilst I’m a huge advocate and follower of the 3D movement, I do wonder if there ever will be a use for 3D printers within the home. Dealing with medical, engineering, automotive, aero etc makes 3D printing a perfectly viable and brilliant idea but as always the biggest profit and success comes from getting your product into every home. Right now I can’t see any benefit or need for a 3D printer in my home short of wanting to build a prototype car I’m certainly in no rush to get a Makerbot or likewise!
I’ve recently spent a lot of time diving into the the realms of vertical farming; from understanding the tech behind the ideas to actually setting up my own micro-versions at home using various breadboards and UV LEDs to test ideas and see what the potential is.
Honestly, I’m pretty excited to see the increasing progress in the world of vertical farming and the new push that’s happening to actually see farm designs come to fruition.
However I like to look at both sides of the equation – I take the bad with the good, which tends to make me sound negative. But looking at the negatives and understanding them first, limits how likely you are to become disillusioned with the initial idea, it also stops you from sounding like a crazed activist hell-bent on setting up a tent and forcing your opinion upon the disbelievers!
Firstly the obvious benefits of vertical farming:
– Reducing soil erosion
– Increasing output
– Improving nutritional value of food
– Preparing for the wave of population increases headed our way
– Reducing carbon footprint
– 1 acre of vertical farm space is equal to 10 – 20 acres of agricultural land
There’s plenty more benefits but for me these stick out the most and provide the best arguments for vertical farming.
Now aside for the more obvious, I’ve thought about some underlying factors that may not have been thought about. Ideas that are forward thinking rather than thinking about the right now and the more obvious.
Much of the North of the UK was once a thriving industrial area, jobs were abundant and housing was built around the many factories that were in full motion. As production and manufacturing shifted overseas these same towns have now become forgotten about ghost towns with outside investment being non-existent.
Many of these towns are in dire need of an injection from investment and opportunities and the way I see it with one vertical farm employing around 80 – 120 people it could mean these towns start to see a resurgence back into the areas of production and manufacturing.
The set up of the land and real estate hasn’t changed much since the booming years so it’s perfect with most streets and housing built close to the factories. It would be going back to the ‘old school’ methods of working and daily lifestyles but the potential for regeneration could be huge.
For the real estate developers amongst us, buying whole streets and redeveloping the housing wouldn’t actually be too expensive (some houses are being sold off at £1) and the profit would potentially be of a sizeable amount if vertical farming was to take off.
To me vertical farming won’t just be about creating food in a more sustainable way it’ll also be the potential to bring back life to towns that have become stuck in a rut.
Developers will be able to profit for the increase in activity and ghost towns will soon start to become places that are liveable and desirable. The good thing is that all of the above stands true for places like Detroit which has also experienced a similar fate thanks to the decline of production and manufacturing.
Land in and around, what seems to be 100 miles, of London is in high demand and prices are constantly going up. London real estate is practically a safe haven for down times so investors are flooding in.
As vertical farming starts to remove the need for agricultural land, developers will see the opportunity to swarm in, buy up land regardless of what may be there and go on a building rampage. Country sides with rolling hills will become construction lots and housing templates built in row upon row of endless clones.
For me the land that gets saved with vertical farming is of great concern. Rather than taking back what we’ve aggressively demolished or over-farmed our more profit hungry peers will look to develop anything and everything to get their fix of money.
Whilst I’m a huge advocate of vertical farming I’d be very scared to see what happens on the backend if the construction of farms took hold.
Realistically land would need to be regulated with stricter and more stringent planning permissions put into place, that being said real estate is highly profitable and again the demand will increase once the population continually increases and at that point the government will have no other option but to go ahead with construction on now what should be cheaper and abundant land.
Right now, even with the conversion of old unused buildings, the cost of creating a functional vertical farm is out of reach for many people. Even the wide eyed entrepreneur will struggle to get a vertical farm going with initial costs starting at $30 million and having the potential to reach $100 million it’s easy to see that seed funding will be pretty hard to come by.
So how do companies like Aerofarms create their vertical farms?
The high costs and lack of real evidence of financial success right now means that the government is your first and really only go to entity to get that large investment. But governments don’t hand cash out to anyone and more importantly, this one is for the conspiracy theorists out there, without some sort of hidden agenda (maybe Monsanto as an example?).
Vertical farms come with the potential ability to be totally off the grid with self sustainability thanks to various advances in LED technology efficiency and more importantly the prominent rise of solar power energy.
With enough square metre space on the roofs of factories and the introduction oftransparent solar cells it would be pretty difficult to not see these vertical farms as giant power cells with the potential to turn them into batteries for surrounding towns and cities.
The largest vertical farm in Japan is producing 10,000 heads of lettuce per day but with a 2,500 square/0.62 acres metres of space. Some photovoltaic numbers here – it takes 2.8 acres of solar panels to produce 1GWh of power per year so to power 1000 homes that would mean 32 acres of solar panels would be needed.
Whilst the acreage sounds like a lot it actually isn’t as land that is saved can be converted into solar panel farms and as technology advances at the current rate we have the potential to see panels increasing efficiency to 66% and decreasing in size.
So why do I mention all of these numbers? For investment opportunities to flood into vertical farming there needs to be some sort of benefit. For the government the idea of turning vertical farms into giant power plants as a secondary mission is where the benefit comes from and for investors the chance to charge for power stored and generated from these farms is another revenue stream.
At $30 million seed capital that’s a lot of lettuce heads that need to be sold to get your money back. With the introduction of solar energy generation and the profit from selling into the grid it adds another piece of value and reward to the risk ratio making the cost still expensive but ultimately that little bit extra inviting.
What are your thoughts on the future of vertical farming?
Content marketing is the process of creating and publishing material to ensure you gather and retain customers. Personally I think nothing beats some good old fashioned lead generation activity, even if it can be soul destroying at times, but nonetheless content marketing is here to stay.
However with my generation – the millennials – content marketing has become somewhat of a buffer to avoid making phone calls and attending meetings. Phone calls and meetings are unfortunately the life and soul of most businesses so it’s pretty much unavoidable.
Now I want to mention that I’ve got no issues with content marketing, in fact I enjoy the process of researching, designing and reaching out BUT I’d never replace it as my main source of lead generation. So I’ll explain why I’ve got beef with content marketing below.
1. It’s Too Fluffy
Get down to the basics of content marketing and it’s just another form of lead generation that’s masked as something less intrusive. Whilst some content marketing tactics will work and they will drive leads, they’ll also drive even more people that aren’t interested or are simply wasting your time.
To me content marketing, even though it gets very specific with targeting and where it’s placed, it runs the risk of getting published and lost in the WWW, attracting vanity metrics that make us believe it was a success.
If you stick with the knowledge that content marketing is a lead generator and accept that getting views and visitors isn’t an actual metric of business then you’ll be OK. Saying that, we’re placing more value on vanity metrics than ever and that is scary when it comes to projecting real business growth – cash, debt, expansion etc.
2. It’s Too Slow
To survive in business you need money, you need sales/leads and you need it from day one. To be honest any form of traction that involves some sort of money transaction is great, small or big it all adds to the financials at the end of the day.
Now with content marketing it takes time, serious time that involves research, design, creation and then the marketing. Personally I’d rather invest that time and money in sales training to ensure everyone and myself is fully focused on initial traction and growth of the business. Sales training is some what more successful in delivering tangible results from day one.
A lot of online marketing strategies tend to revolve around the magical 6 month time period before any of your investment starts to see some fruition with results. Even on a bad day or week of cold calling and email prospecting you’ll probably find more leads and success with traditional lead generation than you would waiting and marketing your content.
Realistically it’s a time:risk:reward ratio that needs to be addressed with content marketing, more so during the early days of a business when traction and money is so important.
3. It’s Hard to Justify
There have been many projects and ideas that have been put on hold, why? Because these ideas involved investing a lot of time for potentially no results. Whilst we read plenty of successful and wonderful case studies of wildly profitable content marketing campaigns we don’t hear about the many attempts that fall flat.
Content marketing takes a lot of time to research and determine what content is needed to answer a problem or an issue. For me I found that in the worktops industry there’s hardly been any innovation or progression into a newer age of online business and awareness. This has been ripe for content and marketing with, so far, a number of pieces doing considerably well.
But again if you’re not a decision maker when it comes to spending the cash then you’ve got to think long and hard about how you’ll pitch the content idea for the time and money it needs to have allocated to it. From this perspective you’ll see that it’s very hard to justify it, the hours dedicated to it alone can make business owners squirm with the thought of lost productivity on something that might flop.
My final take
Whilst this whole article may come across somewhat negative in nature I want to ensure that I’ve got no problems with prospect of content marketing. What I have beef with is that the process itself tends to distract and takeaway from real business developing actions with false hope coming in the form of number of views and visitors.
I’ll always look for material that I can create and market to grow my audience and grow my brands but in the end I’d be hard pressed to even consider giving up old school methods of building business during the crucial traction stages. Until there’s a solid line of business coming in and the time is right I’m sticking with emails and phone calls.
You’ve probably got the bug – the big data and IoT bug, I certainly have! I’ve got the bug so bad that I recently started a Programming with R course but it got me thinking…
Whilst we all talk about these 2 buzzwords there’s something else lurking in the background which, I have a funny feeling, will profit far more than anything else in these industries.
Firstly let’s take a quick look at both Big Data and IoT.
Big Data like the chart above suggests has become increasingly popular, so much so that it’s got a worthy place in the Business Buzzword Dictionary. I do love Big Data, I love the potential it brings but I know that the benefits are really only applicable to businesses right now.
For the everyday consumer Big Data means nothing more than a multi-billion dollar industry that provides information which businesses may not have seen before. Great. What now?
Everyone I’ve spoken to that’s a little in the shade with Big Data seems concerned about all of this information being stolen or used against them.
Every little detail is now known and in most cases these details coming from Big Data are not being used by businesses who want to help you, no, it’s people like me who want to market products and services to each individual on a pinpoint basis attempting to relate any minute detail to whatever is being sold.
The argument is that Big Data provides valuable insight, it gives marketers and business owners an idea how to target and appeal to individuals but the fear for the consumer is that this data is inevitably going to be exploited, used to attack the senses every time they use a device with a screen on it.
Cloud storage, general Cloud based apps, marketers and IoT are all capable of turning Big Data into something useful but without them Big Data is nothing more than just numbers and useless information. In order for the consumer to widely adopt Big Data there needs to be a heavy focus on trust and security of the data that’s being collected and used.
Which brings me to.
Internet of Things
I’m wildly excited about the opportunities and potential that comes with IoT, with the added tracking and monitoring we’ll be able to combine data to create efficiencies in our lifestyles like never before.
The IoT feels like a gateway to unlocking so many secrets about our body, our home, our eating habits, our financials – basically everything. But the challenge here is, how do you ensure the safety of all that data? I’ll get very James Bond and say that data and the potential control of an entire home can be of great value to someone with alternative motives.
I embarked on a personal project recently, I wanted to build a Jarvis (Ironman) replica that attached to a tracking camera around the home. The idea was set in place and the ball started rolling with the initial steps taking place to build Jarvis.
Then I had a sudden chill across my neck.
What if someone got into the system and used the tracking camera to watch me? This really didn’t sit right at all. It actually put me at such unease that I’ve gone totally off the project. Instead I started to think about security and protection.
How can the data we’ll soon be producing and the level of automation we’ll be implementing become safe and secured within our home? We’ve got fears of current cloud based storage providers but we will inevitably need somewhere to store this mass of information.
Big Data right now is only applicable to business but as more and more IoT integration takes place within our homes and daily lives we’ll soon be producing our very personal Big Data.
All of the above is when cloud storage will really come to fruition. The level of data and information will put a heavy demand on storage and services that make sense of this information.
However, I’m going to call cloud storage for what it is – a shared server. Personally the idea of storing all of my sensitive data within a shared server just doesn’t sit right, it feels too open even if Dropbox tells me there’s levels of encryption that take place when you load files into the system.
Security might be tight with the current storage providers but without knowing and seeing anything it becomes difficult to accept, I’m highly paranoid of these claims especially since the likes of Apple’s iCloud was hacked.
This is where my prediction of security being the real winner of the mania comes in. Even though we love the magic of the Cloud we still want to be well in the knowledge that all of our private data is easily accessible and visible.
So how is all of this cloud storage, visibility and accessibility going to become a reality?
NAS (network attached storage) systems are essentially personal clouds, they are what I believe will be the future of consumer cloud storage. It’s a piece of physical hardware that sits in your home and works as a storage unit and can be accessed through various synced devices wherever you may be.
But in order to make NAS systems really become a key part of the consumer Big Data appeal it’ll need a very smart, very encrypted form of security. It does sound incredibly similar to having a computer with anti-virus software on it but a NAS system will need something a little more meatier to fight with the inevitably vicious demand for hacking into personal data and automated devices.
The real profit form this mania will be without doubt be security. Data is becoming a currency, which requires levels of attention and counter-measures like never before. A combination of NAS systems and smart security will place the consumer at ease but give them total control of their data, which let’s face it we all probably need to focus on doing.