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Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Politics / Policy -

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

Build plat­form

Uv-cur­able resin

Dead zone

Oxy­gen-per­me­able win­dow

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

2015

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