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Imagine a future in which a device connected to a computer can print a solid object. A future in which we can have tangible goods as well as intangible services delivered to our desktops or highstreet shops over the Internet. And a future in which the everyday “atomization” of virtual objects into hard reality has turned the mass pre-production and stock-holding of a wide range of goods and spare parts into no more than an historical legacy.
Such a future may sound like it is being plucked from the worlds of Star Trek. However, while transporter devices that can instantaneously deliver us to remote locations may remain a fantasy, 3D printers capable of outputting physical objects have been in both development and application for over three decades, and are now starting to present a whole host of new digital manufacturing capabilities. 3D printing may therefore soon do for manufacturing what computers and the Internet have already done for the creation, processing and storage of information. Such a possibility has also started to capture mainstream media attention.
The following provides an overview of 3D printing technologies and their present and likely future application.
Current 3D Printing Applications
Most current 3D printers are not used to create final consumer products. Rather, they are generally employed for rapid product prototyping, or to produce moulds or mould masters that will in turn allow the production of final items. Such printing of 3D objects already enables engineers to check the fit of different parts long before they commit to costly production, architects to show detailed and relatively low-cost scale models to their clients, and medical professionals or archaeologists to handle full-size, 3D copies of bones printed from 3D scan data. There are also a wide range of educational uses.
The range of products that have employed 3D printers in their design process or to produce final moulds or mould masters is constantly growing. To date such products include automobiles, trainers, jewellery, plastic toys, coffee makers, and all sorts of plastic bottles, packaging and containers. More usefully, some dental labs have for some years been using 3D printers to help create appliances, for use in the creation of crowns, bridges and temporaries by dental technicians. Using this technology, even long-term temporaries can now be created, meaning that 3D printers can quite literally already print you new teeth! 3D printers are now also widely used by many major hearing aid manufacturers to produce ear moulds and shells for final consumer use.
Medical uses of 3D printing:
Direct Digital Manufacturing
While most 3D printers are currently used for prototyping and in pre-production mould making processes, the use of 3D printing to manufacture end-use parts is also now occurring. This is becoming known as direct digital manufacturing (DDM), for low-volume manufacturing DDM is more cost-effective and simpler than having to pay and wait for machining or tooling, with on-the-fly design changes and just-in-time inventory being possible.
Many believe that 3D printers have a great future in the creation of fashion items including jewellery and shoes. For example, with injection moulding set to give way to 3D printing to allow maufacture-on-demand and higher levels of customization. You can see even more 3D printed shoes.
It is also already not just a few specialist plastic items that are being made using a 3D printer. For example, engineers at the University of Southampton recently 3D printed a flyable aircraft (well, aside from its electric motor). A driveable prototype of a new electric car called the Urbee has also been 3D printed. Mainstream automobile makes are also already in on the DDM act, with Audi now 3D printing parts of its cars using Objet Polyjet 3D printers.
Some artists are now also using DDM to create their masterpieces. For example, sculptor Bathsheba Grossman already uses 3D printers to create her works. In the future, museums could also print out exhibits as required from their own digital collection — something that the Smithsonian is already working on — or indeed from a global archive of artworks scanned from long-lost or too-delicate-to-display originals.
Future 3D Printing Applications
Whether or not they arrive en-mass in the home, 3D printers have many promising areas of potential future application. They may, for example, be used to output spare parts for all manner of products, and which could not possibly be stocked as part of the inventory of even the best physical store. Hence, rather than throwing away a broken item (something unlikely to be justified a decade or two hence due to resource depletion and enforced recycling), faulty goods will be able to be taken to a local facility that will call up the appropriate spare parts online and simply print them out. NASA has already tested a 3D printer on the International Space Station, and recently announced its requirement for a high resolution 3D printer to produce spacecraft parts during deep space missions. The US Army has also experimented with a truck-mounted 3D printer capable of outputting spare tank and other vehicle components in the battlefield.
As noted above, 3D printers may also be used to make future buildings. To this end, a team at Loughborough University is working on a 3D concrete printing project that could allow large building components to be 3D printed on-site to any design, and with improved thermal properties.
The following video is a good example of 3D printing on the construction site:
Another possible future application is in the use of 3D printers to create replacement organs for the human body. This is known as bioprinting and is an area of rapid development. You can learn more on the bioprinting page, or see more in my bioprinting video or the Future Visions gallery.
In an age in which the news, books, music, video and even our communities are all the subjects of digital dematerialization, the development and application of 3D printing reminds us that human beings have both a physical and a psychological need to keep at least one foot in the real world. 3D printing has a bright future, not least in rapid prototyping (where its impact is already highly significant), but also in the manufacture of many kinds of plastic and metal objects, in medicine, in the arts, and in outer space. Desktop 3D printers for the home are already a reality, and should cost no more than a few hundred dollars by 2015. 3D printers capable of outputting in color and multiple materials also exist and will continue to improve to a point where functional products will be able to be output. As devices that will provide a solid bridge between cyberspace and the physical world — and as an important manifestation of the Second Digital Revolution — 3D printing is therefore likely to play some part in all of our futures.
For a fascinating glimpse at a wide range of amazing and unusual printers — including concrete printers, glass printers, bioprinters, and printers that print on toast! — click here.
Welcome to the world of 3D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution
1. Element optimization.
For any given element on a page — for instance, the headline — you can test to find the best version. This is the lowest level of landing page optimization. It’s important in the context of a particular page, but in the big scheme of things, it delivers the least overall value.
2. Page optimization.
This is what is usually meant by “landing page optimization”. It’s about finding the right combination of elements — each of which gets optimized — as well as the best layout and design of the overall page. This can have a significant impact on the performance of a specific page, and if you do this
across all of your online marketing, it can contribute a noticeable bump to
marketing’s overall results.
Enlightened Landing Page Optimization
3. Path optimization.
A page is merely a single step along a path — one that starts with the ad or email that the respondent clicked on and carries through to the second and third pages the user clicks on and beyond. Optimizing the path is about
message match and expectation management to make the prospect’s
overall experience the best it can be. Optimizing at this level lets you leap ahead of competitors who are stuck in the disconnected underbrush of individual pages.
4. Segment optimization.
Not all clicks are equal. Different respondents arrive with different needs and varying frames of reference. At this next level up, you start optimizing different paths to cater to those different audiences. With this optimization, you can reveal tremendous insights about who your customers are and how they view themselves and their interest in your company. These discoveries not
only improve your conversion rate for specific paths — they can help optimize your segmentation strategy at a higher level too. Big dividends.
5. Campaign optimization.
Even as “campaigns” are giving way to a more fluid marketing environment, there are still different initiatives in the field that connect certain messages, offers, audiences, and tactics with common threads. At the campaign level, landing page optimization becomes about matching the right pages
and paths with the right slices of the campaign, and using the front-line results to inform and improve overall campaign effectiveness. It requires
coordination and continuity . Even in large enterprises, this is where the outcomes are now visible to senior management.
Advanced Landing Page Optimization
6. Operations optimization.
At this level, landing page optimization is about maximizing the efficiency of your overall landing page capabilities. How good is your landing page management for producing, organizing, and optimizing landing pages across all your different campaigns? This is about increasing your cycle speed and reducing your per-page and per-path overhead. The more optimized you can make your landing page management processes, the more optimization you can execute at the tactical levels below.
7. Strategy optimization.
At the very top of the pyramid, the focus is on optimizing the big picture marketing strategy. At this level, landing page optimization becomes abstracted from the gory details, but it makes two very important contributions: (1) the option to execute highly segmented strategies and (2) the ability to quickly test strategic assumptions in micro-campaigns and to use that learning to optimize the overall strategy.
The difference between this more strategic landing page optimization and traditional landing page optimization can mean the difference between myopia (i.e., optimizing the deck chairs on the Titanic) and visionary marketing leadership.
Landing page optimization in the big picture isn’t just important. It’s very important.
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The job of search engines such as Google, AOL, Yahoo! and others is simple: Deliver relevant results to searchers. This is also a very complicated task.
1) There are literally billions of web pages out there, and tens of thousands being added every day,
2) EVERYONE wants to be number one, and
3) Many people “cheat” to get higher rankings
To deal with these issues, search engines have developed increasingly complex mathmatical formulas to determine relevancy for different search terms. These formulas, called algorithms, are at the core of what search engines do. For example, when you go to Google and type in “Seattle restaurants” you get a list of almost 100,000 web pages that Google has determined are relevant. This list is different from the one you would have gotten a year ago. Not only because of all the new web pages that did not exist then, but also because Google has changed its algorithm. In theory, the results it gives you will improve over time as their engineers make changes to its formula.
Adjusting your web pages for higher ranking is called “search engine optimizing” or SEO. This highly specific set of skills includes modifiying meta tags, changed the copy on the page, acquiring in-bound links, researching keywords, and other such things. It’s following all the rules of the search engines while putting the best possible face on your web site. Be aware that shady optimizing techniques risk having a site banned entirely, so it is very important to stay abreast of the rules of the game, and never do anything to damage a site’s ranking.
Because people try to manipulate the rankings, the search engines are constantly revising their algorithm to detect the latest cheating technique.
Just how DO they rank sites, anyway?
It is important to remember that the algorithms themselves are closely guarded trade secrets. Other than the basic information given by the engines themselves, most of what we know about how sites are ranked comes from years of observing the search engine results pages, or SERPS. There is also a lot of reverse engineering going on. People will put up several almost identical sites and make tiny changes to each one, then watch the SERPS.
It’s also important to distinguish between paid and non-paid results. “Search engine ranking” generally refers to objective results determined by the engines themselves. These are also called “organic results”. You cannot buy placement in these results. You can, however, purchase advertising space in the designated ad area. When you search at Yahoo!, for example, you will see the “Sponsor Results” at the top and right side of the page. The sites listed here paid for this placement. The organic, objective results are numbered and begin below the advertisements. You will see the same thing at Google, where the paid listings are called “Sponsored Links”. When people talk about pay-per-click advertising, this is what they are referring to.
In an effort to deliver relevant results, most search engines look at many factors. Google, for example, cites over 100 factors in determining ranking. Most engines use similar criteria though, including Title, Keyword, and Description tags, on-page copy, in-bound links, percentage of a given keyword throughout the page, and freshness of content. Also weighed are features of the site such as a search function, out-bound links to related sites, text links, and of course relevant content.
A few years ago the meta tags were weighed very heavily by most engines. However these tags, which are not visible to the viewer but are easily modified by the webmaster, are easy to use in a misleading fashion. More and more the search engines are relying on factors that are not easily abused, and most important of these are inbound links. Links are important because they are a somewhat objective measure of a site’s popularity and legitimacy. Google is largely credited with creating this technique.
“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.””
Copy on the page is also weighed heavily since it’s tough to have a page about one topic while the words on the page refer to another topic. You will still see gibberish pages out there displaying thousands of random words in an effort to generate traffic that is redirected to other sites, but for the most part the SERPS are giving ever more relevant results due to changes like these.
If you build it (fairly) they will come
While each search engine has different methods of ranking web pages (Google values inbound links quite a lot, while Yahoo has recently placed additional value on Title tags and domain names), in the end all search engines strive to deliver relevant results. As long as you optimize your site honestly, fill it with content that is related to your business, and get inbound links from relevant websites, you will stand a good chance for ranking high in SERPS.
Remember, time is your friend. Over time you should be acquiring in-bound links, getting listed in the major search engines and directories as well as specialty search engines, and of course, building a quality site. As search engine algorithms evolve, they will do their jobs better and better, weeding out the cheaters and presenting the most relevant sites to their users. With a little work and some patience, the search engines will find you and your ranking will increase.
The following 223 words are key to you keeping your clients happy and fostering good relationships.
To keep any client relationship alive and sustainable, you’ve got to think like a client.
Every time you send an invoice, consciously or unconsciously, your clients are asking themselves a bunch of questions like:
Why did we hire these guys?
Is this worth what we’re paying them?
Are we making progress?
Are we seeing the results they promised?
Are these the best guys for the job?
Remember, it’s usually a lot of little things that add up to the decision to terminate a relationship. If you are aware of, and address those things from the start and keep focused on them throughout the relationship, you’re in a much better position to sustain the relationship for years.
• Keeping your clients engaged in the process
• Making sure they’re clear on the terms of the deal
• What it takes in resources and commitment to get the job done right
• Closing the loop – keeping your company and the client focused on the goals, strategy, and process that enable those goals
You may not keep every client every time. But at least if you do get served with those divorce papers you won’t say, “Boy, I should’ve seen that coming.”