This paper discusses some current challenges limiting the adoption of 3D printed metal parts in numerous industries. I review the development of new approaches, methods and strategies that could enhance existing 3D printing processes for metal components and for the manufacturing industry to fully exploit the advantages of additively manufactured metallic components.
Metal additive manufacturing (AM) or metal 3D printing has come to be progressively popular recently owing to the numerous advantages [1-3]. Today’s advanced 3D metal printers are capable of producing tooling quality pieces that are functionally comparable to the material properties and qualities required of a final manufactured component . The benefits have attracted interest in high-value industries such as aerospace [4, 5] and in biomedical applications .
Just as the multi-axis Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling machine facilitated the production of high-precision and high-quality components, metal 3D printing is now opening a new frontier of design engineering capabilities.
3D printing metal parts allows complex designs with intricate internal structures that were once impossible to be manufactured by traditional machining techniques. Novel complicated designs with hollow internal structures are now possible to be printed with a metal AM system, allowing designers to integrate cooling circulatory systems directly within the structure of the part itself, simplifying manufacturing for high-temperature parts such as gas turbines  and rocket engines [8-10].
The ability to design complex internal structures directly into a part allows engineers to reduce the number of individual parts drastically by integrating many components into one printable design. This reduced the overall weight of the 3D printed rocket, which led to substantial improvement in performance and reduced fuel consumption .
2. Advantages of AM
For an engineer to design features in a way that is possible to manufacture and assemble, is a skill that has usually required an understanding of conventional tooling and machining limitations. Poor understanding could lead to a design where mounting holes are inaccessibly located at odd angles which no milling machine can accomplish. A fatal flaw that could prevent that design from being realized.
3D printing eliminates all these design limitations. Much of today’s engineering capabilities are determined by what can be built and 3D printing ushers in new design paradigms once deemed impossible. Complex geometries and labyrinthine channels can be accommodated into a design, and where part counts are reduced by combining features into a single shape that previously required the assembly of several components.
Another immediate benefit that 3D printing provides material savings over traditional machining or casting methods. Engineers can perform topology optimization where finite element analysis is used to predict possible stress locations within a design before it is printed and yet remove unnecessary material within the structure, thus allowing the designer to generate an ideal structure prior to printing . The result is a strong yet lightweight component, a property critical in high-performance motorsports or the aerospace industry. On the note of material savings, it then translates to cost savings as well, conventional methods of machining are known as subtractive manufacturing and is an inefficient method as large portions of the original material are wasted.
In the aerospace industry, where parts are milled down from large blocks of raw metals to a final component – up to 90% of the material is cut away . This waste metric is known as the buy-to-fly ratio in aviation , which divides the weight of the final part by the weight of the raw material it was manufactured from , and expensive materials such as titanium alloy (Ti6AL4V) used in manufacture could have a ratio as high as 1:22 to 1:33 [16, 17], which means more than 90% of the material is wasted.
This massive source of wastage is a cost that 3D printing immediately reduces, where more than 90% of the material powder constitutes the final component. This weight and material savings are fundamentally valuable to the transportation and aviation industry and translate to fuel savings.
Figure 3 depicts the impact of metal 3D printing to a manufacturing infrastructure. Now managers can reduce spare part inventories, as spare parts can now be produced on demand on-site [18-20], this not only minimizes warehousing and logistics costs, the capability also reduces transportation delays and streamlines the delivery of parts and components to where it is crucially needed.
For many engineers, metal 3D printing is both a boon and bane, there is much hype surrounding the promises that 3D printing claims to bring. However, poor understanding of the capabilities and limitations of metal 3D printing at senior management could generate unrealistic expectations of metal 3D printing. Even with all these amazing applications we rarely see 3D printed parts outside of prototyping applications, it is clear the 3D printing can bring about the next industrial evolution – so what is holding metal 3D printing back from going mainstream?
To get a better idea of the obstacles preventing metal 3D printing parts from being approved for mass manufacture, we need to understand some fundamental developments achieved in material science today.
Metallurgy and the art of forming of metal parts is a precise process developed over thousands of years of experience beginning from the blacksmiths of the copper age [21, 22], from learning how to change the carbon content during ore smelting to developing forging processes that affect the crystalline structure of the metal, engineers have perfected methods of hot and cold working to effect the desired material properties [21, 23].
Unfortunately, metal 3D printing processes dispense with most of the established forging techniques of metal part manufacture, and engineers must develop new procedures and develop completely novel techniques for studying and optimizing desired 3D printed-derived material properties.
One of the foremost challenges to adoption of 3D printed metal parts is mechanical performance . Strength- and reliability-related concerns become a critical issue with 3D printed parts that are required for load-bearing  which is the primary purpose of many metal parts.
Unfortunately, 3D printed metal parts produced today have inferior mechanical characteristics when compared to a traditionally milled or machined component. Metal 3D printing methods today inherently introduce structural defects that include porosities, residual stress, shrinkage cavities, warping, cracking, and often resultant parts have a surface finish and mechanical performance inferior to parts made by machining  and is a contributing cause for premature failure.
3D printing process-induced defects have been discussed extensively, and these defects cause delamination and fissure formation of the printed part under stress due to weak bonding between layers [27, 28]. One study (see Figure 5) used high-speed synchrotron X-ray imaging and discovered multiple phenomena and molten metal fluid mechanical forces occurring at the melt tracks of the laser-matter boundary.
The team found that the laser-matter melting and subsequent solidification of the molten metal experienced thermo-capillary convection, also known as the “Marangoni effect”, and captured splattering of metal droplets and powder particles. As the laser continues its path, the powder in front of it gets blown away by the vapor pressure, which is undesirable, now there is an insufficient metal powder to melt in that region and instead new beads of molten metal forms ahead of the original track deeper into the powder region which eventually coalesces with the original, see a video of it occurring here.
This study also varied several factors like laser speed and laser power to study their effects on the melt tracks properties where they increased the speed of the laser to a point where the metal particles did not have enough time to heat up and coalesce.
These mechanisms and forces have shown to produce pore migration, void formation, and surface imperfections due to splattered droplets dispersing, cooling, and ensuing re-melting by the laser. The physics behind laser-matter solidification has led to a better understanding of why defects form .
Earlier discussed, pore and void formation can be formed by uneven fluid flow and gas-vapor formation from the laser-matter interaction. Porosity occurs when microscopic cavities form throughout the structure as the part is being printed .
Porosity defects can be caused by the AM process itself or from non-homogenous metal powder being used. These voids and pores decrease the general density of the printed part and is a contributing initiator of crack and fatigue stress failures .
When the metal powder is atomized/sintered by the incoming energy beam, gas pockets can form contained by the metal powder and if there is insufficient laser intensity, the powder particles could fuse unevenly or may not fuse at all.
Pores could also be formed when the powder particles are larger than the layer thickness of the part or if the molten metal fails to flow adequately into the immediate melt region. On the other hand, when the incident laser energy that is too high for the powder material or scan speed, it could cause molten metal droplets to splatter from the laser area, where droplets are ejected from the molten region into surrounding areas, creating a keyhole void [29, 31].
These factors contribute to an imperfect lack of fusion of the metal powder, and under microscopic examination, un-melted powder particles can be observed near a void or pore .
3.1.2 Residual Stress
3D metal printing is fundamentally an advanced welding process in 3-axis. Throughout the course of the print, innumerable cycles of repeated heating and cooling, expansion, and contraction occur which result in unpredictable temperature gradients and phase structural changes.
Thermal energy from the sintering causes localized expansion and when the melt pool cools and contracts a high level of residual stress remains. Residual stress in a printed part is highest at the interface of the build plate substrate, being more compressive at the center of the part and more tensile at the edge of the print . When residual stress exceeds the tensile strength of the metal material or substrate, cracking, warpage, deformation, and delamination of the part layers can occur.
3.1.3 Delamination, warpage, and oxidation
If residual stress is not addressed adequately and in addition to pore and void defects within the part, delamination of the layers could occur when the print cools which is considered a print failure and it becomes an unusable part . An irreparable loss of time and material especially if the build time was long or if the part is large.
As a print progresses, the build experiences many cycles of thermal stresses, and as soon as thermal stress surpasses the strength of the substrate, warpage could occur. This is mitigated by positioning appropriate anchor supports in the right locations which are challenging to determine for every geometry.
Another issue that could cause cracking and failure is exposure to oxygen and humidity. Ambient factors can cause composition changes in the metal, wherein the instance of titanium alloy (Ti6AL4V), a corresponding increase in oxygen could decrease the content of aluminum.
This is because aluminum has a much lower melting point than titanium, and the energy required to sinter the titanium could potentially vaporize the aluminum and thus altering the composition of the material in the process. To mitigate this issue – an argon-helium environment was developed and reduced oxidation defects at an increased cost of maintaining an inert atmosphere .
3.2 Earlier failure
Metal parts are used widely in an industry primarily for their high tensile strength over other material types (e.g. polymers, ceramics). The structural strength of the material is critical to the performance of the machinery (engines, moving parts, fastening bolts, and screws) and premature failure is undesirable – a risk engineers cannot afford to take in high-demand applications.
Fatigue life is a measure of how many cycles of stress loading a part can sustain before failure, because of microstructure crack growth and propagation. When a fatigue crack is formed, each loading cycle will increase the size of the crack, producing striations till the part breaks [21, 23]. The fatigue properties of a material are determined by the amplitude of stress applied cyclically to a sample (S-value) and measuring the number of cycles until failure of the specimen (N-value).
The presence of defects discussed earlier within a printed part could invariably lead to failure from metal fatigue – the weakening of material due to stress, materials could fracture below the maximum strength if the part exposed to cyclic stresses such as vibrations and movement for extended periods and this property is a reason why continued preventive maintenance is always needed for machinery.
Figure 5 shows an inferior average fatigue strength of an 3D printed titanium component when compared to a traditionally manufactured counterpart. Earlier cyclic failure of the produced part and reduced stresses to failure have been recorded of the printed component [34-37].
Another issue is that different printer systems will also yield parts of different tensile strengths , for example in Table 1, we can see that the same design, when produced by different 3D printing systems, exhibit drastically different strength and performance characteristics. This introduces undesirable tolerances that are critical in aerospace or biomedical applications.
Direct Metal Deposition (DMD)
Laser Metal Deposition (LMD)
Electron Beam melting (EBM)
Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS)
Tensile Strength (MPa)
1.164 + 22
1.211 + 31
Yield Strength (MPa)
1.105 + 19
1.100 + 12
Table 1 Tensile properties comparing a titanium alloy (Ti-6Al-4V) component produced by different 3D printing processes, data from 
The impact that 3D printed parts fail much sooner which is stopping many of the parts from being approved for applications they are best suited for like aviation.
3.3 Post-processing requirements
The science of metal forging is a well-established industrial practice where careful manipulation of a metal’s internal crystalline structure is done to achieve the desired final properties. Traditional techniques of metallurgical manipulation include annealing, tempering, carburizing, case hardening, and quenching.
Typically, when molten metal is cooled, crystals grow at random from specific nucleation sites and form crystal grains, where the size and structure of these grains then account for the metal’s final material properties. Engineers can control the metal’s hardness and ductility by managing heating and cooling profiles in a specific manner [21, 23].
However, 3D printing processes do not follow conventional metallurgical principles, and as discussed earlier, clearly 3D printing processes are much more complicated than just melting some metal powder together and, in the end, the final products that come directly out of a 3D printer are far from finished still need significant post-processing to obtain the desired material properties .
To stress-relief and reduce pore cavities, heat treatment is often required and one post-processing technique is a method known as Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP) where extremely high heat and pressure is applied, removing pores in the printed part [3, 27, 39, 40]. The process increased the tensile strength of the material by up to two times [40-43], with some processed parts showing tensile properties comparable with annealed wrought samples .
Unfortunately, this post-processing step inevitably increases the cost and adds to the necessary infrastructure required, reducing the attractiveness of AM applications outside of prototyping.
The economic cost is an unavoidable metric for designers and engineers and comparisons with existing processes will be made. The challenge with metal 3D printing today is that printing a part is not scalable, the expense of 3D printing is initially dominated by the capital cost of the printer and the cost per part printed will only marginally trend downwards when more parts are printed due to the long print times required for each part.
Unlike die-casting or mold-forming metal parts, where scaling up production quantities is far more practical. The primary cost commences with the machining of a hard mold needed to form the component, and once that is done, parts can then produce en masse in rapid succession with the intervals of part ejection and cooling before the process is restarted.
That is unfortunately not the case with 3D printing, Figure 6 shows that costs per part do not decrease significantly regardless of the quantity. This means that it only makes economic sense to utilize 3D printing for complex low-volume production, which is why it is used so frequently in rapid prototyping .
On a bright note, just as polymer-extruding Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printers have become mainstream amongst hobbyists today, we can soon expect to see metal printers becoming more affordable, largely attributed to expiring patents.
However, it is not just cost preventing 3D printed parts from entering the market, new metal powder materials and improved printing technologies that improve the mechanical performance of 3D printed parts are required to bring 3D printing further mainstream for industrial manufacturing.
4. Recent developments
There are numerous advances in metal 3D printing with new strategies experimented and discussed , scientists have found that a gaseous inert environment yielded titanium parts that had superior mechanical characteristics , which compliments known titanium forging processes.
The science of metal 3D printing is not a straightforward and simple process as many factors and thermo-kinetic forces influence the outcome of a successful print. To address the problem of porosity forming in a print, engineers must adjust numerous parameters such as laser power, shape, size, and speed of the laser needs to be tuned and modified for specific design geometries – referred to as laser scanning strategy. Engineers have also found that the quality and properties of the powder feedstock are just as important to achieving a quality print.
4.1 Laser scanning strategy
In the pursuit of faster print speeds, numerous studies have shown that faster and higher power lasers do not translate to quality printed parts, instead different scan strategies have been developed with the goal of reducing residual stress, porosity, and to also improve print speeds [27, 30].
The path or route that a laser takes to sinter the metal powder profoundly affects the strength of the final material, this means that how the laser moves have a massive influence on the final mechanical properties of the material [39, 47, 48].
One of the most common laser scan strategies in commercial 3D printers today is the island scan strategy (Figure 11C) where the checkerboard pattern-oriented perpendicular to each other features interspersed opposing scan lines to lower temperature gradients heat distribution [39, 51]. These islands are formed in a random sequence and are created to alleviate residual stresses that form because of uneven heating and cooling within the metal, which can decrease the part’s overall strength.
As a result, numerous other scan strategies such as the helical [30, 49], progressive scan , and island contour scan [30, 39, 51] have been investigated to produce a variety of performance outcomes. Another approach developed is the pulsing of the laser to melt the powder gradually, preventing the splattering of molten droplets .
4.2 Powder quality
Powder metallurgy has become a critical factor in the outcome of a quality printed part to achieve precise tolerances that are directly dependent on the quality, consistency, size, and shape of the metal powders used . 3D printed parts often have a visible rough surface texture and this can be attributed to the process or the quality of the powder .
An ideal powder will exhibit highly consistent size and shape, with tightly controlled particle size distribution and particle size diameters as small as possible is essential for improved flowability on the powder bed. Flowability is essential to ensure a uniform, densely packed layer of powder. The more homogenous a layer is, the denser and less porous the final print will turn out.
However, that is difficult to achieve reliably as the production process enters the realm of nanomaterials. Different atomization techniques result in different morphologies . Additionally, a bigger particle size distribution will allow finer particles to fill gaps between larger particles, resulting in a greater density. Counter-intuitively, this decreases the flowability of the powder [9, 38].
Thus, it is important for engineers to have an adequate understanding of the types of powders available, its characteristics, and performance parameters. This knowledge is vital to selecting the right powder for the right 3D printing process for the appropriate part geometry that is to be printed.
As discussed, there is numerous process knowledge required for avoiding issues and failed prints in metal AM. Different design geometries require different printing parameters and orientation, which often forces engineers and machine technicians to print the same part multiple times to eventually overcome encountered defects.
Even when a print is complete, the part must be post-processed and tested to guarantee it meets quality and performance requirements. A paradigm shift in design for manufacture thinking is required to fully utilize the potential capabilities of 3D printing metal parts.
This is a very new area of research that is ongoing. The metal 3D printing ecosystem is now seeing young engineers beginning their education with this form of design in mind, letting them create designs that were once deemed impossible.
I believe that there is going to be a fascinating fusion of material science and advanced algorithms designed to optimize and improve 3D printed parts where machine-learned AI does the engineering evaluation of the design and determines the appropriate parameters for a successful print. The future landscape of metal 3D printing will be vastly different in the coming years and new developments in this field could one day enable metal 3D printing to complement or replace traditional manufacturing techniques on a larger industrial scale.
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This post explores current advances, where new additive manufacturing methods and strategies could revolutionize drug and therapeutic delivery, and the impetus driving the idealized future of on-demand engineering of personalized medicine leading to parallel innovation in drug manufacturing and delivery in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.
Ever had the need to pop several pills at different times throughout a day? It is a pain.
The need to deliver appropriate therapeutic for an individual has been a long-standing challenge for the medical industry. Today medicinal drugs typically involve appropriate dosing of an active compound with respect to a patient, or specific route of administration of the drug (oral, intravenous, nasal, epidermal, etc.), specifically controlled release formulation  or specialized drug nanoparticles .
The problem with Drug Delivery Systems (DDS) is that it is a challenge to administer the appropriate quantity of therapeutic agents in humans at the right time. Administering drug dosage typically involves the bioengineering of optimal drug pharmacokinetics, efficacy, management and understanding of absorption and metabolism of the drug by controlling the effect and target sites, release rates and mechanism within a human body .
Today, almost all pharmaceutical companies use compression force to mold-form a pill, but this limitation in long-standing traditional manufacturing processes typically restricts the ingredient variability and manufacturing flexibility of the type and dosage of medication that can be produced , and employing new DDS formulation or chemistry into an antiquated manufacturing line is often economically unfeasible.
The advantages of 3D-printing have brought about tremendous new capabilities in other industries and are well documented in terms of advantages and limitations  and medical professionals have begun to evaluate the potential of 3D-printing drugs to capitalize on this new approach for better drug delivery [6, 7].
2. Current Landscape
A major problem in healthcare today is the challenge of dosing. It is unfeasible for pharmaceuticals to manufacture numerous pill sizes and dose concentrations for every single patient where drug doses are often dependent on patient weight and frequency of administration depending on the pathology.
For example, drug X comes in 1mg or 10mg tablets, but what happens when the dosage for a child’s weight requires 7mg? A doctor could prescribe a dose of seven 1mg tablets or instruct the guardian or parent to break a 10mg tablet into half and take a half-tablet (5mg) and two 1mg tablets.
As you can imagine, amenability will not be good and the tendency to mistake the dosage could lead to an under- or over-dose of the medication. Both are undesirable. This is where 3D-printing has been explored extensively in personalized medicine (PM).
3D-printing drugs enables customization and modification of medication to fit individuals to reduce side effects (specific doses) or mitigate the need for multiple-pill regime (multi-ingredients).
PM generally consists of designing effective treatment formulation to meet the attributes and specific needs of each patient, with the objective of administering the right drug at the precise dose and appropriate time , regularly involving data-driven insights from metabolic and genotype testing of the patient .
3D-printing drugs enable caregivers to engineer the release profiles of a drug structurally and chemically without changing the active therapeutic ingredient, and numerous approaches have been studied [10, 11]. In 2015, the FDA approved the world’s first 3D-printed tablet Spritam (levetiracetam), to treat onset seizures and epilepsy [12, 13]. The structure allows the tablet to dissolve instantly within the patient’s mouth, a major characteristic desirable when doctors are prescribing the drug to children and patients with dysphagia.
Another immediate appeal of 3D-printing drugs is personalized dosing  to avoid medication-related toxicities associated with extremely potent drugs such as theophylline and prednisolone [4, 15], and side effects associated with unsuitable drug concentrations with regards to the patient’s mass [16, 17]. Today, patients must take multiple pills of the same type or break up pills to achieve the desired concentrations – a tedious task that is inconvenient and prone to errors, especially when a pill regime occurs several times a day.
Additional benefits that 3D-printing drugs bring are controllable drug release profiles that are achieved by engineering variable solubilities of printed polymeric materials . By depositing soluble, insoluble or hygroscopic polymers to encapsulate the active pharmaceutical agent [18–23], or by structural engineering a break-away design , researchers were able to print a cough-expectorant guaifenesin with similar release profiles as the commercial tablet , and by varying the thinness of the capsule, two time-delayed doses could be released in one capsule .
Besides specific-release capsules enabled by 3D-printing, a new generation of therapeutics referred to as a “polypill” leverages on 3D-printing to produce physical structures in an encapsulation design that contains multiple therapeutic agents of different release profiles.
The capacity to embed several active pharmaceutical ingredients in a single pill that can be designed to dissolve to fit specific eluting profiles cannot be understated. 3D-printed polypills mean that profile-specific compartments can be printed in different sections of the pill to release the necessary dose at different times for improved patient outcomes.
Today, researchers have printed multiple different drugs into a single polypill [27–30], demonstrating the feasibility of 3D-printing as a driving platform for multi-drug therapy and an era of specific and personalized medication prescription.
Polypills that feature timed-delayed doses  and with multiple therapeutics in one capsule  and/or both characteristics  is particularly beneficial to juvenile and elderly patients in improving compliance to a medical regime as a single polypill replaces multiple pills, often an unpleasant activity when one has to take numerous pills several times a day [31, 32].
Today, complex structures of 3D-printed tablets with specific-release dosage and profiles have been extensively designed [11, 29, 33, 34] with the objective of improving patient compliance when patients suffer from conditions that require a cocktail of medications orally ingested at different times of the day.
In fact, it is possible for drugs to be administered only during disease emergent events, and 3D-printing is the enabler of an even newer generation of “reactive” or “adaptive” drugs.
3. New Opportunities
3D-printed drugs distinguish themselves from traditional manufacturing processes via structural engineering, on-demand fabrication of the medicine and precision dosing. Figure 4 lists a few advantages where 3d printed drugs will benefit different patient needs and requirements. However, today’s 3D-printed drugs simply involve the deposition of a therapeutic agent into a type of polymeric binding material. Is there possibly an even better way to deliver drugs as and when they are needed?
Recent advances in DDS include nanomedicine “smart” drugs with smart-targeting capabilities , where drug releases are triggered by stimuli and released on-demand instead of mere delayed release via polymer dissolving mechanisms . Such extended-release smart nanoparticle-based drugs [2, 37–40] could be loaded into a 3D-printing system to enhance the capabilities of a polypill even further.
A smart polypill perhaps?
Patients under customized therapeutics displayed improved outcomes much quicker than patients who did not undergo pharmacogenetic testing . Smart polypills could also benefit patients who are suffering from chronic but infrequent illnesses where the drugs are released when the smart nanoparticles are activated by targeted markers. In fact, there is already an emerging field in PM referred to as “theranostics” [41, 42], where specific targeted nanomedicine therapy is based on individual diagnostic tests .
The boundaries of smart adaptive drugs that react to the changing biochemistry of a patient are further challenged with the idea of “chemprinters” – the 3D printing of actual molecules. Researchers at the University of Glasgow first printed microfluidic channels , then progressed to the digitization of a multi-step process that eventually allowed them to print out molecules , watch a YouTube video of their process here.
In 2012, Dr. Lee Cronin delivered a very inspiring TED talk on his team’s vision of a 3D printer that can print out therapeutic molecules with a visionary future of printing your own medicine using chemical inks, watch his TED talk here.
The team’s vision is that once molecular chemistry can be printed, with a few universal “reagent inks”, therapeutic agents and medicinal chemistry are very possible in the near future .
Imagine being able to download the organic blueprint for a desired molecule and a futuristic pharmaceutical printer that is able to print downloadable drugs on demand.
As with new and exciting technologies where 3D-printing is advancing the field of drug delivery, there are challenges that need to be addressed before 3D-printed drugs become mainstream .
When different therapeutic drugs are compounded in a pharmaceutical setting in a printed polypill, the varying practices and types of equipment used will present a challenge in quality assurance and compliance.
How will the FDA qualify and access the varied amalgamations of medicines in a single tablet that has not ever been studied in a clinical trial? Although the FDA encourages the development of 3D-printing technologies and is currently updating its regulations to represent the nascent field of 3D-printed drugs to protect public health, these questions remain. In 2015, the FDA’s Centre for Drug Evaluation and Research’s Emerging Technology Team issued a draft guidance providing recommendations to pharmaceutical companies on new medical technologies such as 3D printing and 3D-printed drugs , and the promise is that FDA is engaged to address and eliminate potential barriers to the adoption of 3D-printed drugs .
Quality and safety will no doubt be a priority, and a recurring challenge is the reliability and purity of reagents and print cartridges and/or materials available to democratize 3D-printed drugs. Standards in pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are high and meet international standards, so the key matter is how the same standards translate in a smaller pharmacy environment. A major concern is that contaminated or defective materials may yield a faulty drug product that may pose an even greater threat than the 3D printer.
Moreover, the limited availability of suitable bio-materials and understanding of the compatibility requirements of different drugs and printing conditions will pose a challenge to healthcare professionals .
The various stakeholders will need to consider the potential medical liability implications. For example, is a digital design or schematic for a polypill sufficient grounds for responsibility in the event of an adverse incident or a malpractice suit? Or is it the manufacturer of the 3D printer, the biomedical engineer who printed the pill or the drug companies who provided the excipient or active ingredients?
Whilst there has been no published litigation involving 3D-printed therapeutics yet and therefore no precedent, the question here is that the involvement and level of liability of the various parties are not immediately clear and each participant across the manufacturing spectrum could be liable for legal consequences. Pharmaceutical companies developing and producing 3D-printed drugs will need to develop a strategy protecting and licensing digital drug designs legally.
Challenges notwithstanding, there is little doubt that 3D-printing promises incredible advantages over existing drug-manufacturing technologies plus prescription practices and promises to improve the quality of life.
The advantages of 3D-printied drugs discussed in this paper outweigh the challenges mentioned. The ability to optimize dosage and reduce multi-drug regimens provides both long-term and immediate wellbeing results for chronic patients with a range of ailments.
3D-printing drugs are poised to drive the adoption of PM, and the benefit it brings to reducing medication-related side effects and compliance cannot be understated . Patients are far likelier to comply with a reduced pill regime, and increased adherence leads to better disease management and better health outcomes [28, 29].
I think that the potential of adaptive/smart printable drugs on demand is a future yet to be explored and this newest advancement in medicine and continued innovation involving 3D-printed therapeutics is an exciting field that will prove that the individual patient will be the greatest ultimate beneficiary.
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I’m a movie hound and cinephile. There’s
nothing quite like the big screen and the creative talent and effort of
thousands of film crew to deliver an impressionable story. Every year, hundreds
of films from all around the world demand our attention and money and most of
the times our decision to watch a movie is influenced by social recommendations
and I have given many endorsements myself.
That got me thinking, what makes a movie worth
watching? Undoubtedly, critiquing a movie reveals a personal impression of the
viewer (myself). Although over the years, I’ve found that my personal scores
fluctuate between the popular movie review platforms such as Rotten
Tomatoes, Metacritic and IMDB and couldn’t be consistently
associated with any single platform.
Back in college, I enrolled in a film-study module
where we academically explored various modern media and the effects on social
trends and popular culture. That was fun.
Today, I am delighted to share my judging
criterion that is independent of genre, gender or cast. The categories are
based on a simple 1-point score with 0.1-point variable for each category for a
theoretical maximum total of 5 points (a perfect movie). A single 0.5-point
demerit for lack of originality; scoring is based on the following criteria:
😎 Character development
💬 Relationships and interactions and emotional engagement
📄 Story premise and plot structure
🎞️ Scenes, re-watchability and entertainment value
👁️ Cinematography, visual presentation and innovative filming techniques
💎 Originality – Demerit or bonus (up to 0.5 points)
How characters are introduced and developed
throughout the film gives its distinct association. No movie is possible
without it’s characters and this score is obviously holds the top priority.
Is the animated character
distinctive? Is the actor able to convey the character’s personality, beliefs,
motivations convincingly towards the viewer? The better the characters are
developed (backstory, prejudice, preferences), the better the momentum of the
Without actor nor actress bias, I
thought that these characters were brilliantly portrayed in their respective
films to earn a full 1-point score in this category. Examples movie characters
scoring full points:
Besides the development of a
character, how the character interacts with his environment and other
personalities give the film its flavor. What is the depth of chemistry between
lovers? The bond between family members? The camaraderie between friends?
Points are awarded to elements of
friendship, family, trials and tribulations, overcoming overwhelming odds and
struggles. Are the interactions between the characters turbulent or
associative? Do the various relationships with the character build towards an
emotional connection with the viewer?
The relationships portrayed in a
movie should jibe with the audience own experience of life, that is, in real
life, just as in stories, the thing that reveals our character most effectively
is how we interact with other people. What moves the audience is watching the
unfolding portrayal of the relationship between the characters on screen. A
good relationship portrayal will have two elements: the resolution of the
tension (the character accomplishes the goal, solves the mystery or resolves a
problem) and the celebration with other characters as a result of that success.
An great multi-relationship movie
that I think did rather well was The Incredibles (2004) portraying a
family with super-powers and their societal and interpersonal struggles. Or in
the case of a sad or bittersweet ending where the character resolves the loss
or absence of a relationship such as Forrest Gump (1994) losing his mother,
friend and lover; and Michael in The Godfather Part II (1974) depicting
a lonely man having made a wrong choice during the events of the movie.
Movies with excellent emotional
portrayal will score well in this category – a sense of loss, coming to terms
with grief, sacrifice of a parent, the tragedy of star-crossed lovers.
Intertwining scenes of friendship, family and forbidden or pained romance is a
good formula to tug at the heartstrings. Some memorable examples of central
relationships in movies:
Rick and Ilsa in Casablanca (1942)
Joel and Clementine in Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
The scout Russell and grumpy old man
Mr. Fredricksen in Up (2009)
Danny and Mr. Miyagi in The Karate
Woody and Buzz lightyear in Toy Story
For each of the above movies, the central relationship is the movie. That is, the central relationship is the reason each of these movies is so moving and memorable, additional points are awarded for multiple relationships developed and resolved with other characters in the movie.
Story Plot and Structure
This section is simple. Storyline.
The premise of the movie that
outlines the flow of events and actions that subsequently develops the overall
plot over the course of the film is not only crucial, but the connection of
each scene builds the overall narrative structure. Points are lost if the plot
and premise is predictable or riddled with contrivances and points gained if
there were unexpected or shocking twist of events that shattered assumptions.
A well-designed movie encompasses
three primary acts: introduction of characters, tension and struggles
throughout the story and the final climax and conclusion of the film
culminating a well-delivered story.
Movies with depth of intellectual
engagement, unpredictable plots, psychological thrillers, exploring
philosophical or moral topics score well in this category. There are some
movies that I like due to the application of Freudian concepts, subject’s
existentialism and the struggle between opposite dichotomies.
Scenes are clips of iconic film
moments and distinctive visuals that cumulates the re-watchability of a movie,
and these separate moments are important to building the drama of the film
plot. A scene could comprise of a seat-gripping adrenaline-busting action such
as the protagonist clinging on precariously towards certain death or a tear-jerker
moment or simply the nail-biting tension a of hero navigating a maze of venomous
An unforgettable scene is a perfect synchrony
of the actor’s acting and the flair of the director’s perspective that is the
trait of classy visual storytelling, where an environment depicts conflict and
the actor reacting skillfully towards it.
I recall Michael Pena’s hilarious rapid-monologue in Antman (2015) and an exquisite blend of humorous film-making! Hallmark
scenes have become memes on social media and end up becoming pop-culture
Of course, there are numerous curated top-ten memorable movie
scene lists from CineFix, Looper and WatchMojo, but I have my own favorites replays
of some memorable scenes in a few movies worthy of mention:
Filming a classic to enrapture the
insatiable appetite of movie-goers is no easy task and directors and studios go
to extraordinary lengths to create the cinematic effects that pushes the boundaries
of creative imagination and realism.
In fact, the relentless pursuit for new
visual presentation techniques see studios advancing the level of film-making technology
available to them. Today studios rely heavily on 3D and CGI effects, but the real
crux of cinematography is the inventive blend of effects and the vast effort
and resources that go into creating the visually compelling scene.
For example, Disney studios pioneered
color animation and the development of soundtrack, the Starwars franchise required
whole generation of special effects to bring that universe to the big screen,
to further add to the realism of the sinking in the movie Titanic (1997), an actual ship was built and sank. It doesn’t get
anymore realistic than that!
I think it is important to recognize
and reward this tenacious quality of filmmakers and thus a category awarding
points to groundbreaking cinematographic visual presentation and the effort
required to achieve the desired effects.
A film can be inspired by scenes or
ideas from other motion pictures; however, originality refers to a fresh plot
or idea or approach executed in the film that has not seen before in any other
movie. Viewers want to enjoy films that have a truly original and fresh take
and the inability of the studio to construct a novel and compelling narrative
is a demerit in my scoring system for a subtle lack of originality.
I’ve come to realize that no amount
of fantastic special effects nor CGI can truly replace an original and
immersive storyline. With all the cross-pollination and reboots and
re-adaptions of films these days, it’s glaringly apparent when a movie is just
a re-packaged motion picture of another movie. In fact original films accounted
for only 39% of Hollywood films from the last 20 years.
I my opinion, movies that I truly enjoyed but
had to penalize due to this factor for example include Avatar (2009)directed
by James Cameron. I was torn by this, Avatar was an excellent movie scoring top
points for special effects with their proprietary digital 3-D Fusion Camera
System, beautiful scenes of floating
mountains inspired in part by
the Chinese Huangshan mountains
and I really liked the tempestuous
relationships between the different characters of the movie (hotheaded military
personnel, empathic scientists and the conflicted businessman).
The story is basically a soldier ordered
to integrate with an indigenous local population with the goal of subjugation
or conquest but ending up falling in love with a local woman and turning
against his own people to defend her exotic culture.
Sound familiar? There are at least
five movies I could recall of portraying the same exact story. Pocahontas
(1995), Dances with Wolves (1990), A Man Called Horse (1970)
and The Last Samurai (2003). Another well-made movie recently was Black Panther (2018), a movie that received significant acclaim due to
portrayal of the a racial minority, but the movie Hotel Rwanda (2004) explores the same topics of racial violence,
exploitation of natural resources, political corruption, and the movie was based on actual events.
Plot parallels cannot be ignored and remakes, sadly new
movies that sound suspiciously like existing films, reboots and remakes will
suffer this demerit. On the other hand, examples of movies with an original and
fresh perspective that received the bonus score:
Citizen Kane (1941) – Possibly one of the best films
ever made in history of film making about the conflicting history of a rich
But with some recent controversies
hitting the Singapore governing body hard –
such as the Singapore Taekwondo Federation (STF) being suspended by world
governing body World Taekwondo in May 2019, and two senior STF officials being
found to have breached international body’s Code of Ethics – there has been much
coffee-shop talk regarding the future of the sport here.
can we do to bring the sport back to its glory days?
High-performance sports models around the world include the United States’ NFL (National Football League) and NBA (National Basketball Association), international soccer clubs, world-class Olympic schools and high-profile gyms such as Evolve MMA. All have a pedagogy that works and provide lifetime careers. We are talking well-established businesses.
Can we do the same with taekwondo? As with sports or art, the acquisition and retention of customers is a business question. There must be a value associated with the regular consumption of the sport.
The governing body needs
revitalisation and a new focus to keep up with the modern and tech-savvy
generation. Here is a 10-step approach that may help:
Establish a local taekwondo institute
Launch an annual membership with benefits
Enhance and digitise curriculum
Develop programmes for progression, courses and certification cards
Provide insurance for combat sports
Extend scholarships for international tournaments
Offer career paths
Produce engaging content
Hold an annual “Taekwondo Day”
1. Establish a local taekwondo institute
governing body would be a recognised authority that goes beyond basic local
regulation of the sport. As the headquarters for all activities, the Taekwondo
Institute will focus on promoting the sport and supporting auxiliary functions
for all local taekwondo clubs, gyms and community groups.
major body comes business bargaining power. When managing a taekwondo club, a
lot of effort is spent on acquiring logistic services (buses to transport
members to and from club locations to various event locations), procuring
ambulances and first-aid services for competitive events, etc. An institute,
however, can issue a countrywide tender for the most cost-effective services
that associate and affiliate clubs get to enjoy. Clubs can rely on the
institute for reputable service providers, while service providers get to sign
a contract for a lease of services to a definite size of consumers. It will be
a fair, open and financially compliant process.
The institute will offer a physical space that coaches, clubs and trainers can lease – a comfortable training spot with clean changing rooms and shower facilities.
New black-belt students must
attend a first aid and automated external defibrillator (AED) course before
they receive their black belt. The course should be administered by a
recognised first-aid training provider. Courses such as close-quarters combat
could also be organised for all 2nd dan and above black belts to enhance their
knowledge of self-defense – and it could be made open to all sparring-level
color belts. These are just some ideas on how to continue the education of the
2. Launch an annual membership with benefits
Although the organisation is not for profit, these activities, utilities, logistic bills and salaries will need to be supported financially. We will need an affordable annual membership cost of about $20.
will come with benefits from the institute. Remember the bargaining power of
the institute. With a numerical advantage, the business development team can
negotiate deals with reflexology and sports massage clinics, health spas,
sports and nutrition shops, medical clinics for screenings, and more.
will also receive a card with proficiency recognition attached to their
membership number. We could even explore the feasibility of a point system for
members to get more perks through fitness tests, etc.
3. Enhance and digitise curriculum
How can we track our progress in this sport? What are the skills a student needs to learn to progress to the next belt? How can new black belts guide new color belts? A black belt knowing how to perform a move doesn’t translate to the method of instruction and pedagogical skills. How often has someone recorded a bout or a certain move to illustrate a taekwondo technique? How about stretching and cool-down techniques?
skills are highly essential for an effective class but are heavily dependent on
the experience of the trainer. We could make these instructional videos
available on a mobile application to learn or refresh skills.
perform a 360-degree kick; step-by-step videos of a Koryo Poomsae; conducting a
dynamic warm-up session safely? and effectively; viewing attendance and
achievements of a course; classroom and facilities management; managing
different belt levels in a single class – download the app!
4. Develop training programmes and certification cards
often than not, we forget that taekwondo is not just an expression of a
technique or a type of martial art. Black belts must remember that for all our
strengths, the system can be improved when complemented with real-world self-defense
to continually improve ourselves by exploring and assimilating the strengths of
other training styles and one approach will be to offer programmes to enhance
the effectiveness of taekwondo.
example, an acrobatic class where backflips and aerial moves are taught could
become a recognised proficiency. Physical skills could be organized and
delivered in a progressive curriculum, for example – a beginners course on how to do a kip-up.
about ground fighting techniques, as well as human anatomy and physiology? The
content we could create to completement taekwondo knowledge is immense and it
would provide lifelong learning options for practitioners in a
5. Provide insurance for combat sports
the benefits of taekwondo, it is a contact sport and injuries inevitably occur
– and coverage is avoided by most insurance companies. A collective authority
could negotiate a combat-sport insurance that could be open to not just taekwondo,
but also all combat-sport practitioners.
opportunity and growth potential lie beyond a country and options for
international coverage could be negotiated with an insurance company for
would provide peace of mind for competitive individuals as well as regular
6. Extend scholarships for international tournaments
promote the sport, we need to elevate the presence of the sport significantly,
and that means nurturing and supporting athletes financially to compete in
It is basically an investment question of risk versus return. In this case, successful medalists will highlight the achievements of the sport within the country.
athletes distracted by a full-time job
will have less energy and commitment to the sport. Many countries producing
world-class medalists have a career programme that provides some sort of
stipend or salary to support an athlete, and in Singapore ,there are some
scholarships available, such as the SOF-Peter Lim sports scholarship and Singapore Sports School sports scholarship.
offer scholarships, so promising taekwondo athletes can focus on training and
competitions. Each time athletes achieve a new milestone; they would be
eligible for more benefits and funding.
The penultimate goal is an Olympic medal. But for each Olympian, there are dozens of lower-tier medalists. Instead of ignoring them, we should nurture all with career paths.
institute could have a scholarship-athlete management division focused on
developing the next generation of medalists, assisting with the planning of
careers for athletes from the beginning. They would follow a training regime
and, depending on the milestones achieved, different paths are possible. This
way, there would be performance management and progress.
Full-time competitors have a
specific skill set that does not translate well to a corporate environment, and
many individuals likely sacrificed education due to training commitments. Should
a serious injury stop an athlete from progressing further, do we leave that
person in the lurch? Obviously not. Physical skills are not the only component
institute would offer a variety of occupations with progression pathways for
everyone – in business development, coaching, ancillary services, event
organising, talent management and more.
by an institute-sanctioned program, our
athletes could go on to work in the media industry as stuntmen and even as
actors. English actor Jason Statham (The Transporter trilogy, 2002-2008; Fast
& Furious franchise, 2013-2019) was a competitive diver, Chinese actor
Jet Li (Once Upon A Time In China series, 1991–1993) was a national Wushu champion from 1974-1978, just to name two people.
On social media, the famous South
Korean K-Tigers performance
and demonstration group produce catchy songs and dances using taekwondo moves
that inspire many to learn more about taekwondo. See some great clips of the
K-Tigers here, here and here.
We could start a YouTube channel producing short exciting clips every week. Something in the style of comedic martial arts theatre JUMP would be a great start – audiences are wowed by the gravity-defying movements of the performers and love the hilarious storyline.
9. Community outreach
have a platform to endorse athletes, a membership system and career route,
among other things. What we need is outreach and engagement. Training is a
lifelong engagement and the earlier one starts taekwondo, the better the
sport teaches self-defense and discipline and is a way for children to expend
institute could organise free public performances and community events, where
people of all ages can experience what it is like to kick a sandbag, kids can
take part in a high-jump challenge, and the pioneer generation can learn some Poomsae movement patterns. There can be
something for everyone at the taekwondo community festival.
10. Hold an annual “Taekwondo Day”
are constantly looking out for the latest deals, and we have computer fairs,
furniture and home improvement fairs, food fairs and the such.
about an annual taekwondo event?
Taekwondo Expo could be a weekend-long event where practitioners can bring
friends and family to try the latest gear and combat-sports merchandise, attend
workshops and explore customisation services. Get your tobok (uniform) or belt embroidered
on the spot. Come taste that special nutrition and hydration drink or test the
latest muscle rub. Catch performances, meet interest groups and measure your
body-fat percentage at the health section. Existing vendors in the community
get a free booth, and practitioners can wear their tobok for free entry.
are just some ideas to keep the community engaged as well as promote the
benefits of taekwondo to a larger audience. With tournaments, community
outreach and an annual expo, we can expect each calendar year to be exciting
and fulfilling. Keep fighting!
If you have
any ideas, feel free to leave a comment!
This is part 2 of my future phone 2025 vision article, for part 1, check out the post here. This part details out the features that could be in Phone 2025!
Neuromorphic processor with an “AI-core”
Existing smartphones have been demonstrated to digitize
documents, translate signs, drive a car, solve a Rubik’s cube, and the 2025 phone will become a
butler, providing information that you didn’t know you needed, giving answers
and solutions as you command it, learning your habits, nuances and behaviors to
essentially offset human weaknesses.
For that to happen, the processor needs to be powerful
– as powerful as a human brain, but without its caveats, such as forgetfulness.
The processor will be a multi-SoC (system on chip) and will have the standard
CPU-GPU cores, but with a Vision Processing Unit (VPU) and a neuromorphic core or Neural Processing Unit
(NPU). This CPU-GPU-VPU-NPU processor will pave the way for Artificial
intelligence (AI) of the future.
For the sake of simplicity, I call this neuromorphic
processor an Artificially Intelligent Neural Processing Unit (AI-NPU). With
machine-learning algorithms and neural-network (NN) circuitry, this AI-NPU core
will feature deep-learning capability and the smartphone will learn to
anticipate what I want to do next, my schedules, habits, desires and needs in a
more human-like manner than the semantic feedback we have today.
A neuromorphic core is a processor
modeled after the human brain, designed to process sensory data such as images and sound and
respond to changes in that data in ways not specifically programmed. A learning
and constantly evolving core computing architecture is tremendously efficient
as it finds new and better ways to process a task. It’s like learning how to
ride a bicycle. Despite the complexity of the activity, after a few tries, the
task becomes ingrained and effortless, and the brain now automatically
maintains balance and speed to keep a bicycle in motion.
With human-like anticipation and realism, you will not
be able to tell the difference between your phone and a person. By learning
texting habits, the phone will be able to respond to messages by itself, like
having a bot to reply to those tedious chats. The new processor will make Bixby,
Alexa, Siri and Cortana jealous.
The semiconductor industry has been pretty consistent
in its projected advancements, with major players investing billions of dollars in R&D, and I expect to see a powerful
CPU shrink down in size to fit my smartphone in 2025.
Computing Desktop environment
With all that processing power in a phone, do we really
need a laptop or tablet for everyday computing tasks? The future phone will
become your future laptop or desktop with a simple dock.
The idea is not new. Since 2012 Asus has had a product line, the PadFone, where its smartphone could be
docked into a tablet – increasing the screen real estate and battery life of
This desktop functionality concept was recently updated
by Razer’s Linda, Microsoft’s Continuum and Samsung’s DeX. Linda turns a smartphone into a
trackpad that docks into a laptop body, whilst Dex is a dock for a phone which creates a familiar desktop
computing environment. This desktop PC feature will be mainstream in future
phones just by plugging a reversible USB Type-C port into the phone for both
graphics and power. Examples today include Continuum and DeX, which can run from the company’s flagship phones. You’d be surprised
how something so simple still isn’t intuitive enough today.
I envision that in 2025, we will all be carrying our PC
in our pocket, looking for USB-C ports to plug our phones into so we can
display our own instant-on PC at work, a friend’s home, or just about anywhere.
I’ll wake up, undock my phone from its wireless-charging cradle and, when I
reach work, I’ll just dock my phone into the cradle at my desk. There is would
be no need for a dedicated computer at work or at home. All files are stored on
various cloud services (Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive), while persistent
files are stored in the phone’s 16TB of storage.
A home, or in the office, projectors and screens receive
wireless display commands from the phone that are compatible with existing wireless display
standards such as
Apple’s AirPlay, Miracast, Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) and DLNA. As a
computing desktop, our 2025 phone will push or stream a desktop screen to any
TV, projector or screen that is compatible.
You’ll finally be free of lugging around a laptop. Just
think about that.
The phone will have the latest connectivity options
built into its communications chips.
By 2021, we should see 5G become mainstream in mobile
devices and commonplace in the 2025 phone, with upgrades over existing
standards. The increased speed and
bandwidth that enables 5G is the use of a broader spectrum of frequencies and multiple antenna arrays. The standard also allows
device-to-device communication, allowing your phone to be the central hub or
base station controlling all your other IoT gadgets in the vicinity. Major
chipmakers Qualcomm, Intel and Huawei all announced their 5G
modems this year.
As for Wi-Fi connectivity, the standard that is known
as the IEEE 802.11ax, now referred to as Wi-Fi 6 that was just introduced
this year, will be mainstream in our Phone 2025.
The new standard feature – Multiple-input
multiple-output orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (MIMO-OFDM) – allows
bandwidth speeds five times faster than today’s fastest 802.11ac networks. Also,
with CO-MIMO antenna arrays, users will experience even
faster connectivity when there are several base-stations or routers nearby, as
each data stream is broken up or provided by several routers. A very important
speed upgrade when streaming 4K-Mixed-Reality (4K-MR) data streams is aptly
shown in the Vimeo video in the next section.
With new bandwidth pipelines streaming directly to the
future phone, users will demand ever greater instant high-quality content and
information. Search, e-commerce and information avenues will grow ridiculously,
with instant online demand from consumers. It is one of the reasons Google is
paying a premium to have its search engine natively
installed on Apple devices. The revenue line between the future phone and
content/shopping services will blur and we could see major search engines and
retailers putting resources into developing their own phones such as the Google
Pixel 4 and Amazon’s foray into the
The motivation is simple, the future phone is the de
facto portal to content, products, and services.
technology has come a very long way since the last decade of smartphones, with
pixel densities gradually increasing and pixel sizes slowly decreasing, with the
first high-density pixel displays
marketed by Apple, as a “retina-screen”, and Samsung’s Super AMOLED both
exceeding 200-pixels per inch (ppi) then, and today to 458ppi on the iPhone 11
and 401ppi on the Samsung S10.
smartphones have captured all of our visual attention. Americans spend three to four hours a day
looking at their phones,
and about 11 hours a day looking at screens of any kind. Needless to say,
the screen is still the main interactive surface with the Phone 2025, only that the technologies used to
build the screen are going to be amazingly different. Today’s screens are
typically built on AMOLED, IPS-LCD or OLEDs, but upcoming technologies such as
a microLED (mLED) are in the works.
I think that QLEDs (quantum-dot) LEDs will become a
mature mobile screen technology capable of giving us the chromatic vibrance consumers
demand. Quantum-dot displays are not a new technology and are
staples of flagship television products today, with manufacturers touting the
advantages of QLEDs compared to OLED TVs. A nice comparison is described here. However, QLEDs are still nascent
and there is massive commercial push to advance this technology.
I’m just going to call it what it
is, the future phone will sport a QLED 4K ultra-resolution screen likely based
on electroluminescent quantum dots (ELQD) and… it will be transparent. Why do we need a transparent QLED
We can now hide the front cameras
and sensors behind the screen. Since the nano-pixels of the QLED screen are so
small, tiny holes or gaps can be created between the light-emitting pixels to
allow light through the screen. Looks like Oppo has already unveiled this cool feature!
No more notches or front-facing
sensors taking up precious screen area. Just one big gorgeous edge-to-edge QLED
Another cool feature of Phone 2025 is the use of smart
nano-optics to create a depth perception, allowing the screen to produce a 3D
in-depth effect, some sort of holographic screen viewing experience, this capability
is important when we use the phone in eXtended Reality (XR) applications.
This new screen is transparent to cameras and biometric sensors behind the screen and allows depth/dioptre correction so that the display adjusts according to the distance that your eyes are away from the screen. If the screen is close to the user’s eyes, it blurs or sharpens reciprocally avoiding the need for corrective optics in XR headsets.
So the trend of having multiple
cameras started out once again from Apple, with the introduction of the iPhone
X’s dual camera, allowing for different lens elements (wide or telephoto). Manufacturers
quickly caught onto the advantages of having more than one camera module and
soon we had triple (Huawei’s P20 Pro & the Apple iPhone 11 Pro),
quad (Samsung Galaxy A9)
and even five cameras (Nokia PureView 9).
The main difference between the cameras are the
different focal lengths. The shorter the focal length, the wider the angle of
view and vice versa. It’s almost like carrying a full set of lenses in your
Ok so we’ve got some wide-angle shots and some nice
zoomed-in shots. So what? What can we do with our two eyeballs that our phone’s
camera array will allow us to do better?
simple physics. More cameras mean the phone can capture more light. Meaning impressive
low-light vision and photography, a feature available in Huawei’s P30,
Google’s Pixel 3
and Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro.
I’m talking about Night-Vision.
the Phone 2025 will have an optically stabilized quad camera element array with
the following camera capabilities:
Telephoto Zoom In 2007, I thought a liquid-zoom lens would be a cool feature to allow for optical-zoom. After all, you still need actual physical distance to focus light from a distance to the sensor. Then Oppo and Huawei both offered phones with embedded lens elements in a periscopic manner within the camera body. That works too, let’s have two in the future phone.
Macro Mode (microscope) With up to 1cm focal distance from the ultra-wide, ultra-high-resolution main camera, loss of resolution to achieve macro-distances
Night Vision mode in real-time First, each sensor combines four pixels into one, and then we have light being captured on all four sensors simultaneously to create a true low-light camera, something popular low-light camcorders are known for. An infrared matrix illuminator beside the camera will help illuminate pitch-black conditions.
True-3D videos A quad camera setup will provide stereoscopic vision and depth-differentiated videos. Because there are now always at least two stereoscopic cameras capturing footage with distance information capture, Phone 2025 essentially becomes a 3D video camera capturing 3D volumetric videos and data. Capture 4K 120 frames per second (fps) 3D-video on this slick future phone.
Super Resolution photos Super Resolution is a technique that combines all the pixels from the different elements to form one ultra-large resolution photo. The technique differs slightly from night-vision mode where all the pixels are layered on top of one another to create a brighter image. Super Resolution photos combine each pixel side by side to make a larger image. There are commercial cameras using this technique – the Light L16 Camera from Light.co contains 16 camera modules – five 28mm ƒ/2.0, five x 70mm ƒ/2.0, and six 150mm ƒ/2.4 lenses giving a combined resolution of up to 52 million+ pixels! In fact LG has filed a patent for a 16-camera module phone. SIXTEEN.
You don’t need that many.
Ultra-Slow-Motion Capture Fast, sensitive cameras plus a crazy powerful processor equal ultra-slow-mo videos. Sony’s Xperia XZ3 can do 960fps at 1080p. I’d reckon Phone 2025 can do 4000fps at 1080p, no sweat. But the higher the fps, the smaller the resolution. Hey, you can’t have everything.
360° 3D videos Something I would like to see integrated into Phone 2025 is a 360° camera. How cool is that? Today’s 360° cameras, such as the Insta360 and GoPro Fusion, already produce jaw-dropping video features such as “over capture”. Because the camera is capturing 360 traditional frames can be captured from the spherical 360° video footage taken from a single camera point – giving the illusion of a panning camera with a moving subject, ‘bullet-time’ effect so on and so forth.
It’s like many cameras capturing the action all at once. This dream phone would be able to capture simultaneous video from the front and rear camera sensors. With four video streams, two from the front and two from the rear cameras, the AI-NPU stitches it all together.
XR eXtended Reality
Phone 2025 has a powerful processor and powerful “eyes”
What else would be cool? Something like Tony Stark’s phone in the movie Iron Man 2. Rather, a mixed-reality with
AI-machine vision that will enable one to mark out or pull data spatially from the
Today, this is known as a technology-mediated
experience that combines virtual and real-world environments and realities,
often referred to as Augmented Reality (AR) or Mixed Reality (MR), where some
aspect of the real world can be seen, like Microsoft’s HoloLens; or Virtual Reality (VR) like the VIVE
system, where the
user sees a video feed instead of the actual environment.
The ‘X’ in eXtended is a placeholder for virtual
reality V(R), augmented reality A(R) or mixed reality M(R), and XR is can be
used to casually group technologies such as VR, AR and MR together. In a
nutshell, XR allows us to augment digital
objects or information on top of reality, or, conversely, see physical objects
as present in a digital scene. There have been many attempts such as the Ghost, and even this cool hyper-reality video concept done
by Keiichi Matsuda
and another concept by Unity.
app stores for the smartphone were introduced, they paved the way for an
industry of applications and businesses with promises of XR-enabled
technologies that would revolutionize the way we interact with our future
How are you
going to control your fancy MR headset? With XR and a computing desktop
environment enabled smartphone chances are, we could end up interacting with
what’s called a Natural User
Despite the options available, the challenge has been miniaturization, the
sensor would have been placed underneath the QLED screen and could either be an
optical sensor or just plain old dual-cameras and machine-vision in action and
that’s not difficult to implement in a mobile device.
The truth is, having an NUI reduces the learning curve of new
applications and is critical in XR applications, where the ability to emulate
holding or interacting with a virtual object will greatly increase usability of
our future phone on many productivity fronts.
Fancy a future with people waving and gesticulating at their phones, that’s
body language indeed.
Hybrid Biometrics and Security
The Phone 2025 represents your
entire digital life, and with that, we will need upgraded security. Since the
first fingerprint sensor on the iPhone5S, there have been some exciting
developments in this aspect, such as facial
and iris-recognition on 2017 flagship smartphones such as the iPhone X and
Samsung Galaxy S9.
But how do designers pursue better
screen-to-bezel ratios without sacrificing fingerprint sensor footprints? This year,
several manufacturers introduced a dozen phone models with under-display
fingerprint sensors, such as the Vivo X21, Oppo R17, Huawei
Mate P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S10, Honor 20 Pro and OnePlus 6T provided by
manufacturers from Qualcomm, General Interface Solution (GIS),
However, we’ve seen that
fingerprint and facial recognition security methods can be spoofed or defeated.
How can we create a more secure device without sacrificing screen real estate? I dub the
next generation of biometrics in the future phone as Multi-factor
authentication (MFA), using no less than five biometric
factors at pseudo-random intervals. Full-display fingerprint scanner,
fingerprinting, blood-flow thermography are technologies that come to mind.
The entire QLED screen would
authenticate each finger-press as we tap anywhere on the screen, something Apple
patented in April 2019, and I envision the future phone to have thermogram
sensors to capture heat information as you use the device. 3D face printouts or
fingerprint hacks won’t work anymore, as the person using the phone must be a
live human being.
Currently, the world’s
smallest thermal camera is the Lepton from FLIR, which is available here
but at $350, it’s an expensive component to put into a phone. This is where a
lower-cost component such as Panasonic’s thermo-graphic matrix sensor,
known as the GRID-eye AMG8833, could be used.
The future phone will have at least three biometrics, in-screen fingerprint authenticator
checking every time you type on the screen, and a thermal-augmented facial
recognition scan. This MFA approach gives confidence that only the owner
can access his very expensive, high-tech piece of gear.
Imagine using your
phone to unlock your work monitor. There won’t be nosy co-workers trying to
guess your password or spoof your fingerprint reader. There’s nothing to break into
if the device isn’t even there.
Phone 2025 Vision
Looks like I’m going
to wait out the next few phone releases till Phone 2025 is released!
Figure 1. What would we see in the next generation of smartphones? Check out Part 2 to see what I think!
It has been an interesting year
with half a dozen flagship smartphones released within months of each other by
major manufacturers. I thought the fall 2019 series of iPhones was an interesting sign of things
to come and historically speaking Apple’s smartphones have been a benchmark
many strive to achieve. The topic of smartphones can dominate a dinner
discussion, with naysayers and pundits in supportive and dismissive stances on
the features of each new model.
Modern mobile phones have become
complex handheld computers that are expected to perform myriad workhorse and
entertainment functions. To meet the insatiable global consumer demand for the
latest smartphone, new flagship models are released in mere months and each new
smartphone is expected to dazzle consumers with new
differentiating and defining features.
The history of smartphones
changing our lives has since spanned decades and smartphones have since come a
long way. In 2013, I praised the iPhone 5S, and in the last few months major
manufacturers like Apple, Samsung and Huawei have been releasing new flagships
vying for a chunk of the $355-billion pie.
What’s all the fuss about?
The mobile phone race has come a
long way since the first iPhone disrupted the market in 2007 with its iconic
keyboard-less capacitive touchscreen that has largely remained unchanged and
revolutionized future smartphone designs.
Today the industry has become
extremely complex. Manufacturers are scrambling to differentiate themselves
with the smallest of features that could sway consumers to purchase their model
over a rival’s.
There is a plentiful list of
acquisitions of smaller technology companies by major manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung to create a significant
differentiator in their handsets. Individual components that defined a feature
in a handset could have been a purchase of an entire company’s product
portfolio by one of the larger smartphone manufacturers – for instance the purchase of AuthenTec for $356M in 2012 enabled Apple to lead the
market the following year with fingerprint biometrics in the iPhone 5S – a
major leap forward in phone security then.
Now, there is hardly a smartphone
without biometric security, immensely improving user experiences. With the
iPhone X, Apple once again rekindled the spotlight on the decades-old technology of facial
which was available since 2012 on phones such as the HTC One X. The difference
is that Apple has vastly improved the feature with a “dot-projector” that
allows the facial recognition camera to work in low-light conditions and
greatly boosts resistance to spoofing attempts that plagued the older generation
of phones with that feature.
Hits and Misses
Over the years, there have been
some hits and misses. One example is an attempt by manufacturers to integrate micro DLP projectors to expand screen real estate by
projecting media and content onto an external surface such as Samsung’s Galaxy Beam and Lenovo’s Smartcast, which received a
misses were the much hyped “modular-phone” approach such as Google’s Project Ara and Motorola’s MotoZ (which is still available). The idea was simple –
users could customize their phone as they liked it – need a bigger battery? Use
a bigger battery module. Need more memory? Swap out a module with one of a
larger memory, and as better components were introduced to the market, users
could sequentially upgrade older components with newer modules and not have to
replace their entire phone. The concept was desirable on paper, but Google’s
Ara project never entered mass production and I don’t know anyone using a MotoZ
Then we have the first foldable smartphone with a flexible screen, the Samsung Galaxy Fold. The ambitious eye-watering $2,000 device got people excited with the idea that you could expand your phone to provide larger screen real estate, however it was possibly rushed to production resulting in a massive media disaster where many reviewers and users’ devices failed just days into use.
Mobile displays have resolutions exceeding what the
human eye can discern and their touchscreens have sensitivities greater than
our skin. These components are often very difficult to produce and competing
companies are forced into partnerships for parts sophisticated or too expensive
to produce for one smartphone model – for instance, Apple acquires its memory chips
and OLED screens from its rival Samsung for use in its iPhone X. It’s a peculiar relationship,
where the bulk of Samsung’s revenue comes from selling its best parts to its
competitor. These are used in Apple’s flagship phone, which outsells Samsung’s
own flagship phone, but when the iPhone X succeeds, so does Samsung!
Major players now use one another’s Intellectual
Property (IP) – a report breakdown of the iPhone X reveals that most
of its components are manufactured by other semiconductor companies. This
complex labyrinth of manufacturing logistics has spawned a global behemoth of
Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), where companies produce parts that are
then resold or repackaged by another manufacturer.
The line blurs here, where now manufacturers have the
option of selecting parts of similar specifications and capabilities produced
for one brand for their own and hardware differentiation becomes
moving forward, when every new flagship smartphone has very similar
specifications as its rival. Fast processor? Check. High-definition screen?
Check. Low-light zoom camera? Check. Waterproofing? Check.
This level of component inter-reliability is unprecedented,
with YouTuber Scotty Allen building a working Android phone and iPhone using back-alley components in Shenzhen, China.
Besides hardware features, software and user-experience
environment of the operating system becomes a glaring differentiator. Various
manufacturers add their own flavors based on their corporate strengths, such as
Google’s “unlimited” storage, where it provides its own cloud storage feature
(Google Drive) on its Pixel series – a seamless experience emulating a phone that doesn’t
have a storage capacity limitation. Other manufacturers have introduced their
own OS features such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s Bixby personal assistants, into their phones.
When it comes to battery life, as
there is a mismatch in technological advancement between chips and batteries,
it is more difficult to pack more energy into the same volume than transistors.
As processors get more capable and powerful, phone makers are compensating for
this incongruity by decreasing the size of the electronics to allow more space
and volume for batteries. As a result, phone designs have largely plateaued
into the same design across the market. A flat piece of metal and glass.
Unfortunately, when it comes to
hardware – there are only so many transistors one can cram into a processor or
sensor element. Semiconductor companies are packing more features and functions into their
increasingly sophisticated and expensive manufacturing methods that only the
big boys can afford.
It’s like watching a marathon
where best runners are neck and neck and no one can discern a clear winner,
whilst the rest of the competition has fallen far behind or dropped out.
Vision then and now
January 9th, 2007 was the day the world changed. Apple co-founder Steve Job presented the iPhone, which revolutionized the smartphone from a clunky keypad device to a desirable, sleek capacitive touch-screen communicator. That titular event rocked the mobile phone and computing industry and reinvented the meaning of a “mobile phone”.
I remember the showcase vividly, enamored with how
technology leapt overnight. I realized we were in for a very different future
and sketched what I thought would be the phone of 2010.
Inspired by the first iPhone and the possibilities it
would bring and with existing advancements in 2007, I envisioned the following
lens that allowed actual telephoto-zoom capability into
the existing camera without physically moving a lens assembly.
memory (note that 2007-era phones had memory in the hundreds of megabytes).
charging port for high-speed data transfer and power charging and a large
4000mAh lithium-polymer battery to power this beefy device.
Wow. The future was something
to look forward indeed.
What has happened since?
Then 2010 came and the world
iPhone 4 and Google’s
Nexus One. Both didn’t quite achieve my vision. The iPhone 4
had only 512Mb of DRAM memory and other flagships of the era had up to 1Gb of
on-board memory, a tad short of my envisioned 16Gb.
However, Samsung supplanted
that limitation with an external microSD card slot which allowed users to add
aftermarket memory of up to 32Gb in 2010. Moreover, those devices also
introduced features such as a high-resolution “retina
display”, video-chat and a gyroscope sensor to complement the
accelerometer. The addition of a high-resolution screen, a more powerful
processor and more sensors enabled a new generation of mobile games that were
controlled by the physical pan and tilt actions of the user.
A mark of exciting times.
there is no shortage of projections of “the future smartphone” with jazzy ideas
such as a foldable or bendable phone and fully transparent screens constantly
being featured by concept artists.
Unfortunately, whilst imaginative, there is a major
difference between an artistic concept and a manufacturable design, a fine
balance that Apple has been very successful in marrying. It is easy to envision
a bendable phone by introducing existing foldable batteries or flexible
electronics. However, unusual prototype or concept designs are notoriously
challenging to scale up to a mass production that meets consumer demand, or
very expensive to manufacture due to the low yield rate of a novel ingredient.
One missing component could require a complete redesign or an elimination of
that feature altogether.
An example would be a bendable phone, demonstrated in November 2018 by
Samsung and Royole. It’s arguable that whilst all components required to make a flexible
smartphone exist, there are a few problems – yield, availability and cost.
Flexible electronics do not yet have the component density of more established
rigid printed circuit boards (PCBs). There are fewer suppliers in the industry,
which means a higher cost and a lower yield to achieve the same performance of
rigid PCB counterparts. What about failure rates?
Samsung’s folding phone was a massive disaster, as no one wants a flexible
screen that fails after several hundred “folds” – a rigid screen is still more
reliable. Likewise, the same goes for a flexible battery, which does not have
the same energy density as the traditional lithium-ion battery pack, which has
an abundance of suppliers. These reasons are why I don’t think flexible phones
will become mainstream soon.
With these considerations and the current market inclinations, a future phone must be feasible, manufacturable and practical. With the highly random and unpredictable rapid advancement of technology amalgamated with the complexities of global manufacturing logistics and market economics, I’ve decided to envision a phone six years into the future. I present my Phone2025 concept, see my article on Part 2 of this segment!