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has a lot to do with that. Every day, each Carbon printer generates 1 million data points, precisely tracking the zaps of the UV light, the movement of the printed object, the rate of the printing, and so on. One customer was alerted to a rash of errors based on a change in room temperature.
Jason Lopes is the lead systems engineer at special effects studio Legacy Effects, which uses 11 kinds of 3D printers. “By default, I’m going to the Carbon machine first,” he says. In three hours, the Carbon prints body armor props that take other machines more than four times as long. Ellen Lee, Ford’s technical head of 3D-printing research, says Carbon’s advantage is the diversity of its plastics, which allows her team to make an especially wide range of models and prototypes from a single printer.
Chip Gear, founder of an industrial manufacturing firm called Technology House, has been using a beta version of the Carbon printer for six months. It has cut printing time for a radio-frequency connector from 12 hours to 40 minutes, and printing eight at once takes just 43 minutes total, says Gear, adding that he bought a second printer in March and is talking with his chief financial officer about ways he can afford more. “I’m trying to find out how many they can let me have this year,” he says.
Desimone and Alex Ermoshkin, Carbon’s co-founder and chief technology officer, began developing their printer technology in 2013. Desimone is a chemistry professor at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he and Ermoshkin worked together. They noticed most 3D-printing companies were trying to print items one layer at a time and bet they could improve the process with a continuous building technique. That year, Ermoshkin built the first prototype printer with his teenage son. By the end of 2013, Sequoia had led Carbon’s first round of funding, totaling $11 million.
Sequoia partner Jim Goetz says the co-founders have laid to rest any worries that Carbon’s early prototype wouldn’t translate into commercial production. The next test will be getting a wider group of customers to pay for it. Carbon charges $40,000 a year to rent one of its printers and get software updates, plus an installation fee of $10,000 and $79 to $399 for every fifth of a gallon of liquid plastic. The company says it isn’t profitable and declined to disclose revenue. Desimone says he also wants to create an online marketplace where other chemists can sell their own materials for its printers.
Industry analysts warn that Carbon has yet to prove its light-forged plastics wear well. The properties of the plastics “tend to degrade over time, which is why they’re not used for the manufacturing of most products that use plastics,” says Terry Wohlers, president of consulting firm Wohlers Associates. Carbon’s method of printing could hurt the stability and strength of its final products, says Joe Kempton, an analyst with Canalys.
Carbon’s vice president for materials, Jason Rolland, says the company runs industry-standard tests and its materials “look great out to at least six months.” Desimone says his unique processes help, not hurt, the finished product, especially the way Carbon mixes its plastics from distinct components just before printing. This makes them stronger, he says, because they finish binding together after they’ve been hit with the UV light.
Early users Lopes and Gear say they haven’t had any trouble yet. Lopes says the materials from Carbon hold up “10 times better” than those from others. None of his customers, he says, has come back with any broken parts. �Jack Clark
① A sequence of images is projected through an oxygenpermeable window into the reservoir of liquid resin.
② Controlling the oxygen flow through the window creates a “dead zone” of uncured resin between the window and object, providing a steady supply of material.
③ A build platform lifts as the object grows. “By default, I’m going to the Carbon machine first.” �Jason Lopes, lead systems engineer at Legacy Effects
Projector The bottom line Carbon has collected $140 million in three years to develop its superfast $40,000-ayear 3D printer.
during Google’s annual cloud conference in San Francisco. “We didn’t give the right steppingstone.”
Last year, Google made $500 million of its $80 billion in revenue from the cloud, Morgan Stanley estimates, compared with $1.1 billion in cloud revenue for Microsoft and close to $8 billion for Amazon. Researcher Gartner says the $20 billion business-cloud market could grow as much as 35 percent over the next year. In November, Google hired Diane Greene, one of its directors since 2012, to grab a bigger piece of that market. “The plan is to take all the unbelievable core strengths that Google has and fill in the gaps in how we communicate about it and deliver it,” Greene says.
Google Compute Engine, announced in 2012, looks a lot more like Amazon’s service. Google has been slow, however, to push it to potential clients. Greene, who spent a decade as the founding chief executive officer of cloud pioneer Vmware, says that’s changing: She’s recruiting more marketing and sales staff, including a chief marketing officer. A person familiar with the matter says the West Coast cloud sales team has roughly doubled, to 50 people. Schmidt said on March 23 that thousands of employees will be building Google cloud tools over the next few years.
More grandly, on March 22 Google said it plans to open 12 new cloud “regions” around the world in the next 18 months, each consisting of at least one data center. Currently, Google has four; this would bring its reach roughly in line with Amazon, which has 12 such data centers operating and five more planned. To seriously compete, Google needs at least that many, says Gartner analyst Lydia Leong.
Google is working to build more of the features businesses demand into its cloud, particularly back-end stuff such as regulatory compliance monitors and advanced privacy settings. Greene says her next upgrades will focus on machine learn learning and data analysis, including spee speech-transcription and imageimage-tagging systems develope developers can rent.
“Two y years ago, the hard problemprob was: How do I store all this data without goinggo broke?” says GregG Demichillie,
who runs cloud product management for Greene. “The question now is: How do I find these needles in all these thousands of haystacks of data?”
It’s a problem Greene is familiar with from Vmware, where she helped develop and sell its virtualization software, allowing one computer to do the job of many. Former lieutenants at Vmware say Greene’s technical acumen was superlative, and she’d often correspond directly with rank-and-file engineers about their products. She led the company through its sale to EMC and a subsequent initial public offering in 2007. (She was fired a year later by tempestuous EMC CEO Joe Tucci. The next day, Vmware shares lost close to a quarter of their value.) More recently, Greene founded the secretive businesssoftware startup Bebop, which Google bought late last year for $380 million.
Google will need to make a sustained effort to prove to businesses that its cloud products are the equal of Amazon’s or Microsoft’s, says Carl Brooks, an analyst with market researcher 451 Group. “They are alien technology compared to the way most enterprises run data centers,” he says. For all the company’s innovation, it hasn’t focused enough on selling customers the things they want. “They are probably the most advanced cloud operation on the planet,” Brooks says. “It also doesn’t matter.” �Jack Clark notable exception is the batteries used to power electric vehicles. Panasonic makes 36 percent of them (it’s partnered with Tesla), compared with less than 8 percent for LG Chem and 5 percent for Samsung SDI. That’s becoming a bigger deal: Worldwide demand for electric vehicles swelled 87 percent last year, to 672,000, according to SNE Research.
To increase their share of the market, LG and Samsung have been counting on demand from China, which last year made up a third of the market for electric-vehicle batteries. The Chinese government says it’ll reduce smog by putting 5 million EV cars and buses on the road by 2020. Both Korean companies have been making major investments in new production facilities in China, but a change in government policy threatens to upset their plans.
Buses are about half the EV market in China, and the government has suspended its once-generous consumer subsidies for EV buses using batteries like the ones Samsung and LG make—a combination of nickel, cobalt, and manganese (NCM). Subsidies will continue for less-advanced lithiumiron-phosphate (LFP) batteries, according to the state news agency, Xinhua. Samsung’s battery unit, which last year opened an NCM battery factory in China and plans to invest $600 million there by 2020, said in a statement that the company is “considering various ways to respond.” LG’S battery unit declined to comment.
Hundreds of Chinese manufacturers are now making EV batteries, with mixed results. Last year there were at least six cases of electric vehicles catching fire on Chinese roads. The government can’t afford to ignore the safety issues, says Paul Gao, a Mckinsey senior partner in Hong Kong. “Most of the Chinese battery players still have difficulty mastering NCM,” he says. “Chinese players are not able to provide consistent quality and reliability.” By contrast, Gao says, they’ve enjoyed success with LFP batteries, which are heavier and less powerful.
Without government subsidies,
The bottom line Google cloud chief Diane Greene is quadrupling data centers and adding features to better compete with Amazon and Microsoft.
thousand Global demand for electric vehicles in