Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) – Introduction


The basic idea of the additive manufacturing of an object is to build that three dimensional object one layer at a time out of one or more materials by using some form of energy to form each layer before adding another layer. There are many materials used for this, several methods of layering (ISO 52900-2015 defines seven such), and several forms of energy used for the hardening. A device that does this is often called a “3D Printer”. Special CAD software is used to model the object and to create an output file that is used to drive the printer during the build (printing) process. A special pass is made to look for and fix certain errors in the output file, and sometimes yet another pass for “finishing” is made after printing the object.

The concept of a 3D printer dates at least to 1979 and was further developed throughout the 80’s and 90’s. The use of support structures and metals evolved since 2000 allowing for much more complicated and finely detailed printed objects as well as very large objects that can be used in heavy machinery, such as airplanes and vehicles. The use of lasers as a source of energy for 3D printing has evolved since the 80’s as well, even though lasers are expensive and modestly dangerous. 3D printing has allowed a single complex part to take the place of multiple parts, increasing strength and reducing weight. Today this theme, via lifecycle analysis, allows for ecological improvements in manufacturing processes. It also allows for sophisticated rapid prototyping.

Several future posts are planned for additive manufacturing. Those posted are hyperlinked below:



Recycling Li-ion Batteries


A lot of “stuff” goes into a Li-ion battery.  Yes it can be recharged 1000-2000 times, and this “lifetime” is getting longer and longer.  BUT, when an EV battery pack is finally dead (or just won’t hold a charge), what do you do with the several thousand AA sized Li-ion batteries in an EV battery pack (or the equivalent with packs of larger batteries)? Note: in Europe and in most US states, it is illegal to throw Li-ion batteries into the trash. There are companies, e.g. Call2Recycle, that legally dispose of the dangerous chemicals in a Li-ion battery, but this isn’t the same as recycling.

Investing News Network sent me an announcement the other day about patents issued to Rocher Manganese, Inc. (Phoenix, AZ), now American Manganese , for recycling Li-ion batteries using their ReycLiCo ™ process.  This is patent number 10308523 B1.

The abstract for that patent reads:

“A process for water removal and/or recycling of sodium sulphate and/or sodium dithionate containing liquors derived from processing a cobalt resource derived from components of lithium ion batteries comprising steps of deriving from the cobalt resource a solution containing cobalt sulphate and cobalt dithionate, precipitation of cobalt as cobaltous carbonate or cobaltous hydroxide followed by removal thereof from the liquor, crystallization of sodium sulphate and sodium dithionate and removal of the resulting crystals, followed by heating of the crystals to anhydrous sodium sulphate, sulphur dioxide and water and then separating the anhydrous sodium sulphate.”

American Manganese now has 6 patents for this (and an additional 7 worldwide.  They can now:

  • Recover graphite and carbon from ground battery concentrates
  • Treat fluoride from the electrolyte solution
  • Separate aluminum from the cathode active material.

They can now provide high extraction of cathode metals: lithium, cobalt, nickel, manganese, and aluminum at battery grade purity. Their process applies in particular to NCA (lithium cobalt oxide) and NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide) chemistries. It does not require high heat smelting. It produces a precursor cathode material for use in the manufacturing of new Li-ion batteries. Their patent describes the process, and of course has many process diagrams. With my college chemistry, it is pretty readable albeit very long.

The bottom line is that there is now an effective way to recycle Li-ion batteries.  It is not yet clear what the economics of this recycling will become, e.g., how much the recycler will earn from selling the recycled material, what the recycling process costs, what the acquisition of the dead batteries costs (e.g. in transportation, handling, and storage), and what, if any, the owner of the dead batteries must pay to get rid of them. For example, when I buy new tires for my car here in California, I have to pay to get rid of the old ones.  This fee could be baked into the price of the new battery packs for EVs.  Such a fee could also be baked into the price of individual battery cells, although the forced trade-in of an individual cell seems problematical. Let’s just hope Li-ion battery users are conscious of the environment.


Electric Vehicle Emissions


Do pure battery driven electric vehicles (BEV’s) pollute?

Yes, if one measures pollution from “well to wheel”, i.e. if one takes into account the source of the electricity that charges the batteries, then BEV’s definitely pollute, but this pollution is significantly less than other vehicles. About 65% of the US grid’s electricity comes from polluting sources, mostly by burning fossil fuels. The mix of polluting sources varies from state to state [1] and thus the amount of pollution also varies.

Of course, internal combustion engines (ICE’s) burn fossil fuels, and they emit the most tailpipe pollutants. All vehicles that consume fossil fuels also produce pollution through evaporation from the fuel tanks, from the wells that extract oil and gas from the earth, during transportation, from refining, and during refilling. (The latter has been greatly reduced by putting gaskets between the pump handle and the vehicle refueling port.) These sources of pollution are also true of hybrids, pure (HEV’s) and plug-ins (PHEV’s), whenever they use a gasoline engine for recharging or for directly powering the vehicle. Of course, when hybrids plug into the grid for recharging, they pollute precisely as do BEV’s.

The mix in the US of electricity sources is interesting [1]:

Natural Gas 35.24%
Coal 27.52%
Nuclear 19.37%
Hydro 6.86%
Wind 6.6%
Solar 1.6%
Biomass 1.51%
Oil 0.59%
Geothermal 0.40%
Other Fossil 0.30%

As a matter of high priority for US government policy, it is clear that we need to get rid of the highest polluting sources, in particular coal, and fund the increase of the non-polluting sources, in particular wind, solar, and geothermal. Vehicle emissions would benefit directly.

I don’t think the US government has a plan or even a policy to significantly reduce the use of fossil fuels. It seems that this should be part of the global warming discussion, but this topic is for future posts.

As a matter of new vehicle buying preferences, electric vehicles (BEV’s) are getting price competitive with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, but BEV’s still suffer from long recharging (refueling) times, and a scarcity of fast charging stations. For some driving profiles, a BEV makes sense. If one’s driving profile can’t deal with the charging times or the scarcity of charging stations, then a PHEV probably makes the next-most sense both price-wise and environmentally. They pollute about half of what a comparable ICE vehicle does, and there are fewer refueling trips. As I pointed out in an earlier post, hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (hydrogen FCEV’s) don’t make sense due to the pollution caused by the use of natural gas in the production of hydrogen. Last, an ICE vehicle probably only makes sense for large hauling, and frequent long trip profiles. It will be awhile before BEV and PHEV vehicles catch up. (I might also point out that the airline industry will be fossil fuels for a long time.)

Used vehicle purchases are probably driven mostly by price and availability. As far as I can tell, the market for used BEV’s is a little thin. The market for a used Toyota Prius, at least here in Southern California, seems reasonable, but I haven’t compared how much of a discount over new that a used Prius gets. The price conscious buyer of used vehicles should compare this Prius discount over new to the discount for a used ICE vehicle over a new one. Is price going the dominate the purchase decision or is the environment?


  1. Alternative Fuels Data Center, Department of Energy, “Emissions from Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles”,
  2. Argonne Natural Laboratory, Energy Systems Division, “Well-to-Wheels Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Analysis of Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles”, 2009,
  3. NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory), Department of Energy, 2016, “Emissions Associated with Electric Vehicle Charging: Impact of Electricity Generation Mix, Charging Infrastructure Availability, and Vehicle Type”,
  4. Alternative Fuels Data Center, Department of Energy, “Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicle Emissions Data Sources and Assumptions”,

The Hydrogen Fuel Cell Scam


Of course I love hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen in, air (oxygen) in, water out, electricity out. Pollution free electricity! What could be better? Well, if we had pollution free hydrogen generation, the system would be indeed be pollution free. Unfortunately, most hydrogen today is produced by burning natural gas. Oops! Pollution here! Scam! It is a double scam to claim that hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles are pollution free. They are not, if in fact their hydrogen is obtained by burning natural gas for the energy to split a water molecule (electrolysis) to get the hydrogen.. In fact such a vehicle would be more efficient, and would use less natural gas per mile traveled, if it just used natural gas for fuel! Of course, some vehicles do use natural gas for fuel instead of gasoline.

Now a potential huge source of pollution-free hydrogen could come from ocean geothermal stations. The idea here is to drill a well into the ocean floor deep enough into a clever location where supercritical (over 374 degrees C and 218 bar pressure) water can be extracted and used as the energy to make electricity and hydrogen. Such wells take millions of dollars to drill and set up, and the infrastructure to get the hydrogen to market will take many years to roll out. If in fact there were hydrogen filling stations on every corner, then I’d prefer using the hydrogen as fuel, rather than using a fuel cell to run an electric motor.

That said, the solution I like the most is the Li-ion battery electric car. This solution begs the question of how much pollution is created when generating the electricity that gets stored in the batteries.

Well, only 20% or so of our electricity is generated by renewable, non-polluting methods.  Many nations, however, goal themselves to increase the 20% substantially over the next few years.  This goal is to suppress the current tendency of global warming.  Whereas 20% is way better than 0% of the fuel generated by renewable sources, we need to do way better.  In any case, to me, an EV seems way less of a scam than a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

Lithium Ion Batteries


Li-ion Batteries

Batteries have evolved and improved by about 7-8% every year, with the cost coming down at the same rate. They now have three applications that drive progress: Electric cars, power storage for solar and wind when one or both aren’t making much electricity, and for caching power, e.g. storing when power is cheap, and discharging when it is expensive. Batteries have evolved past automobile lead-acid starting batteries and powering toys, to giant commercial applications. See my old post “Metal-Air Batteries” as well as the post “Storing Energy from Solar Arrays” to see where my brain was several years ago.

Rechargeable Batteries and Nickel-Cadmium

Aside from lead-acid starter batteries in my cars, my early portable devices with rechargeable batteries all had 1.2v Nickel-Cadmium, NiCd, cells. These had a “memory” problem and needed to be regularly fully discharged and then fully charged. Partial discharges and partial recharges got “remembered” by the battery, and it became self-limiting. Materials for the NiCd batteries were expensive, and the cadmium in particular was toxic and was bad for land fills. NiCd batteries also had a high self discharge and needed recharging after storage.

There were many nice features of NiCd batteries. They had a high discharge/recharge cycle count. They could be recharged quickly with little stress. They had good load performance and good cold weather performance. They became available in a wide variety of cell sizes. In the 1980s, an “ultra-high capacity” NiCd battery was introduced, but it had a reduced cycle count due to higher internal resistance.

Nickel-metal-hydride batteries

Starting in 1967, research in nickel-hydride (NiH) and later in nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) solved early problems with rapid self-discharge and internal corrosion, but specific energy remained a problem with NiMH batteries. Today NiMH is the most available rechargeable battery for consumer use, and most battery manufacturers such as Duracell, Energizer, Panasonic, Rayovac, and Sanyo provide all popular sizes such as AA, AAA, etc. NiMH batteries have essentially replaced NiCd batteries for consumer use.

Lithium-ion batteries

Lithium is the lightest of all metals, and, in a rechargeable battery cathode, can have the largest specific energy per weight. Unfortunately, cycling produces dendrites on the anode whose growth will penetrate the separator causing a short. The cell temperature then rises quickly and approaches the melting point of lithium; this causes thermal runaway and fire. The inherent instability of lithium thus shifted focus to various lithium ions for the cathode. Research continues on how to avoid or mitigate lithium dendrites. In 1991, Sony brought out the first commercial Li-ion battery. Li-ion cathode batteries have a lower specific energy than pure lithium anodes, but are much safer with proper voltage and current limitations. There are many Li-ion structures and hence many types of Li-ion batteries, each with different properties. The high cell voltage of 3.6 volts provides a Li-ion battery high specific energy. It has good load characteristics and a flat discharge curve over a voltage range of 3.7 to 2.8 volts.

In 1994 the cost of a Li-ion 18650 cell (the last zero indicates cylindrical, 18mm diameter, 65mm high) was over $10 and the capacity was 1100mAh., but by 2001 the cost had dropped below $3 and the capacity increased to 1900mAh. Today the 85 kWh battery pack for Tesla’s Model S contains 7,104 Li-ion 18650 cells. Estimating $130 per kWh, the cost per 18650 cell is about $1.56. Each cell has a capacity of 85000/7104 = 11.97 Watt-hours at 3.6 volts = 3324 mAh. Costs are projected to fall below $100 per kWh in the next few years.

Form Factors

People are familiar with A, AA, and AAA battery form factors as well as many others that can be found in any retail store that sells batteries. Tesla started using the 18650 form factor mentioned above, but for the Model 3 and beyond, Tesla is using the 21700 form factor for its Li-ion batteries. (Again the last zero indicates cylindrical, with 21mm diameter and 70mm height.) This is a 25% increase in volume. It also tends to reduce the number of contacts and cells within the battery pack making the battery pack a bit easier to manufacture. The energy density has improved 20% according to Tesla, and the cobalt content has been reduced while increasing the nickel content reducing cost. Unfortunately, the core temperature is 20% higher, reducing the life cycles 20%. This degradation is acceptable, but larger form factors may have safety problems.

Of course, a form factor can have almost any Li-ion chemistry, In fact, different applications can use different chemistries. For example, the Tesla Model 3 uses Li-NiCoAlO2 (NCA) while the commercial Tesla PowerPack in Hornsdale, Australia uses Li-NixMnyCozO2. (NMC). Both use the 21700 form factor.

Li-ion Battery Cathode Chemistries. Note industry trend is to use Mn to reduce the use (and cost) of Co.

Name Cathode Formula Abbr Use Comment Manufacturer
Lithium Cobalt (Cobaltate) Li-CoO2 LCO Cellphones, laptops, cameras First Li-ion battery. Heats up at high voltage. Doped for increased energy density levels, but lower life-span. Cobalt is rare & expensive. Sony 1991, Chinese
Lithium Manganese (Di-)Oxide Li-Mn2O4 LMO Power tools, small portable devices Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, BMW i3 UltraLife, Varta, SAFT, Regulus, Fanso, Zeus,
Lithium Iron Phosphate Li-FePO4 LFP Power tools, small portable devices Safe but low volumetric energy. 32650 size. BYD, OptimumNano Energy.
Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide Li-NixMnyCozO2 NMC EVs, (Tesla) grid storage, Hornsdale Good cycles at high capacity, but lower than NCA. Material patented and licensed. Used Samsung for Hornsdale
Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminum Oxide Li-NiCoAlO2 NCA (All Tesla) EVs, grid storage Higher cycle stability at high capacity. Al is used instead of Mn to stabilize crystal structure. Low material cost. Enters thermal run-away at lower temperatures than NMC. Thus, limited to lower capacity cells. Material patented and licensed. Tesla has “gigafactory” in LV.
Lithium Titanate Li4Ti5O12 LTO EVs, grid storage, anode Rechargeables can take 3-7000 cycles. Compared to 1000 or so for NCA. Works well for busses. Altairnano, Lelanche, Microvast, Toshiba, Seiko, Yabo

Li-ion Anode. Always some form of graphite, but trend is to go towards Silicon, which can store 10x more energy than graphite per volume and 3x the energy per mass. However, Silicon expands 400% during charging. Allowing for this expansion would take up too much volume; on the other hand, just doping the anode with a little silicon oxide, SiOx, appears to be a good compromise. The original Tesla Model S, did not do this, but later the Model S and the early Model 3 used 5-15% SiOx. Future Tesla 2170 battery cells may go as high as 35-75% with the actual formula a closely guarded Tesla trade secret. Sadly, any silicon on the anode reduces the speed at which the battery cell charges.

Recycling Lithium Ion Batteries

While lithium is relatively abundant, its cost is high and cost effective recycling Li-ion batteries method to recover the lithium, cadmium, nickel, and iron in them needs to be developed. Umicore Recycling Solutions in Belgium does this under EU laws. For the US, if we want to keep these metals out of our land fills and our water supplies, then we need to require every battery cell to have a “deposit”, say of $0.10 each. The 7,000+ battery cells in a Tesla then would be worth $700+ to a recycler.

Solid-state Batteries

When I first heard this term, my mind boggled and thought of a battery made out of circuit boards! Actually the word “solid” refers to substituting the liquid electrolyte in the Li-ion cell with a solid. Wikipedia calls this a “Glass Battery”. It was invented by John Goodenough and colleagues John is credited with inventing the original Li-ion battery, and the story goes that his colleagues then took his ideas to Japan before patents were filed. John and Maria Braga published their solid-state battery ideas in Energy and Environmental Science in December 2016. Both the anode and cathode are coated with lithium; however, the lithium plated on the cathode current collector is thin enough (on the order of a micron) so that the Fermi energy is lowered to below the level of the Fermi energy on the lithium anode. The electrolyte is a highly conductive glass formed from lithium hydroxide and lithium chloride and doped with barium. The claims are double the energy density of a lithium-ion battery, with more than double the number of charge/discharge cycles possible. It is further claimed this battery has a much shorter charging time (minutes rather than hours). It is also safer as dendrites do not form and no flammable liquid is present. Lithium may be swapped with sodium (Na) at a loss of 0.3v per cell.

Competing with Tesla


Tesla had an early lead on all pure battery powered vehicles when it secured a Department of Energy loan (repaid early with IPO money) in 2006 claiming that it would use new battery technology. At that point, Tesla already had both VC funding and partner funding with Daimler and with Toyota. Tesla started with a well-known strategy of high end vehicles first and then moving towards mid-range BEV’s in the $30-50k price range. Thus, comparisons with Tesla are inevitable for any electric vehicle (EV). These comparisons are also valid for a pluggable hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) for that matter. Most automobile manufacturers seem to be planning on new BEV models, and hence the focus here is only on battery only BEV’s. I read somewhere that Elon Musk doesn’t worry about the competition, because his operating tactics are to lead with Tesla’s models in every category of Tesla competition.

If the prospect is deciding between an EV or an internal combustion engine (ICE) car, then a classic auto company might not lose a sale if the prospect decides on an ICE or even a PHEV rather than an BEV. Of course, essentially all of the classic large auto companies are going to offer EV’s and hybrids in the near future. Ford for example, in January 2018 announced it would invest $22 billion by 2022 and have 40 EV’s in its product line (16 pure battery electric vehicles (BEV’s = no engine), and the rest hybrids.) If the prospect has decided on a BEV, then here are a dozen “customer visible” points of competition for a BEV purchase:

  1. Beauty, style, sunroof, smooth ride (note Consumer Reports thought the ride of a Tesla was “stiff”, but others like its handling), quality: exterior and interior, excellent detail, ability to add a roof-rack or a bike rack, place to hang clothes, minimalist design, console, interior space (storage, #passengers, seat size and comfort), passenger TV (movies, and games), …). Owners of BEVs from all the classic luxury brands as well as new ones such as Fisker, Rivian (backed by Amazon and now focusing on electric pickups and SUVs), and Karma, will argue for the external beauty of their models. The argument around beauty inside the vehicle seems quite open. For example, some like all controls via the center console screen (a la Tesla), while others like distributed controls (a la Volvo’s Polestar 2). Seat comfort is personal; try all the seats, front and back, and imagine sitting in them for a long trip.
  2. Price (after rebates, tariffs, etc) of a loaded car, including accessories, software updates, home charging station. Warranties, especially for battery packs, must be factored into total cost of ownership. Different packages of options and accessories can, of course, define different models with different price points. Getting a detailed breakdown of Cost before markups and rebates to get the final Price for each model requires a detailed bill of materials, supply chain analysis, manufacturing cost, etc. One big issue on Cost is the cost of the battery packs. They are currently (January 2019) running around $200 per kWh. Tesla has a (seemingly always slipping) goal of getting this under $100 per kWh by 2026 or earlier, which, for its 80 kWh battery packs, would be a significant savings.A vexing problem is the limited worldwide supply of cobalt, which should drive battery prices up as cobalt becomes more and more scarce. Worse than the Cobalt supply is the 2019 shortage of battery manufacturing capacity. Any BEV company that has secured its supply will have a huge advantage. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predicts that the total cost of ownership, including initial price, fuel, repairs, 5 year battery pack replacements, etc. of BEV cars will be less than the comparable ICE cars by 2022. How about cost in the first year? Cf. Cost is also related to where cars and parts are manufactured. Some prospects will want their cars to be mostly “made in America”. Additional Tesla Gigafactories to manufacture Tesla’s 2170 cells will be needed. Sites in China and Germany have been proposed. Tesla competitors will need to have adequate supplies for their battery packs, and this has caused problems for a few Tesla competitors. Another point of competition will be around retail stores and developing customer relationships both for service and hand-holding in general. Tesla is moving more to on-line sales and the elimination of its retail stores to drive costs down. It would seem that the larger auto manufactures with stores whose costs can be spread across multiple types of cars (ICE, Hybrids, and BEVs) may have an advantage. Exactly how Tesla will deal with the service side of its retail stores is unclear and will certainly be another point of competition.
  3. Range and battery capacity. Most of the time an EV prospect wants to know range (at various speeds); in fact all BEV owners want to avoid “range anxiety”. The applications ChargeHub and PlugShare provide nearby locations of charging stations. The “holy grail” of range goals is 500 miles which Fisker’s eMotion claims it will achieve whenever it ships! Most BEVs in 2019 have a range of 200-250 miles or less.  Cf. For Tesla and also , and for Fisker E.g. Los Angeles to Las Vegas is a little under 300 miles typically at 80mph through the desert, and Los Angeles to San Francisco is a little under 400 miles at 65-70mph. While needing a charge close to San Francisco where there are lots of charging stations isn’t a big deal, needing one in the desert outside of Las Vegas would be most annoying. Finally, most (all?) BEVs also have some form of regenerative braking, which allows the motors to brake by running with the supply to the rotor cut off and the supply only given to the stator. Thus, the rotor constructor cuts the stator magnetic field to produce a voltage which is fed back to the batteries. This extends the battery capacity (and the range) by 10 to 15% by converting kinetic energy (and slowing down the vehicle) to electricity that is put back into the batteries. Bottom line: batteries are a big deal, and the battery management system is an even bigger deal!!!
  4. The ICE driver is accustomed to having a plethora of gas stations, and being able to fill the gas (or diesel) tank in a few minutes. The BEV owner wants something comparable. It’s going to take a long time for the infrastructure of charging stations to be as dense as today’s gas stations, but the technology for fast charging times is coming quickly. Charging times depend primarily on the power characteristics of the charging station and secondarily on the battery type and internal connections. Tesla’s battery packs based on its 2170 cell are purported to be an improvement with faster charging characteristics. Typically home charging stations are very slow. Even today’s 50 kw charging stations are much slower than next generation 350 or 450 kw chargers. BEV owners want, therefore, a large number of fast charging stations (incl adapters and protocols) not only near home and work, but also along any travel route planned. There is an interesting company, ChargePoint, that builds and deploys charging stations, whose business goal is to dominate the charging station business. There is a similar company, GreenWay, in Eastern Europe. Note that non-Tesla BEVs need a special smart adapter to use Tesla charge stations. Conversely, a Tesla needs an adapter to use a “standard” charging station. Tesla provides a J1772 adapter with each Tesla vehicle. Note that Tesla has given up on battery pack swaps. Cf. Electrify America, if you got screwed by Volkswagen’s cheating. For China sales, Tesla has announced a charging port that is compatible with the Chinese charging stations which have China’s standard, but will use the Japanese CHAdeMO standard in the future. Any U.S. company wanting to sell EV’s in China will have to do the same and provide charging ports for both standards. There is a growing sector of companies making chargers: e.g., eMotorWerks, Volta Charging, TEQ Charging, Freewire Technologies, Driivz
  5. Service/Maintenance Service begins with the first customer contact: helpful and knowledgeable sales staff, help with all options, help with deposits and warranties, delivery dates that don’t slip, etc. Maintenance includes: general reliability, speed/cost of service, incl warranty items, e.g. for drive-train or battery pack replacement, need for regular service (e.g. lubrication). Tesla has stumbled here recently, and Consumer Reports withdrew its recommendation for Tesla and for the Model 3 in particular due to poor quality [Annual Automobile Buyers Guide, April 2019.] Key: #trained and equipped, reasonably priced, servicers, incl mobile (concierge) servicers; excellent MTTF & MTTR incl battery packs. A big competitive issue to investigate is the availability of parts. A dealer probably has the best inventory of parts outside of the factory, and a mobile “repair truck” the worst. A licensed third party shop such as the nationwide network of remote servicing for Fisker may or may not have parts and may or may not be able to get them via fast (ideally, overnight) shipping. If the servicer needs to order a part from the factory, it could be a month or more to get it. [Tesla customers “fume” about such service delays (SF Chronicle, July 2018, LA Times Feb 2019)]. Phone support is also a useful point of comparison, especially for new BEV owners. Note that Tesla is switching from “regular maintenance “, e.g. annual or every few thousand miles, to maintenance as needed. This reflects the lower maintenance needs of electric cars.
  6. Safety: front, rear, and side collision passenger protection (crumple zones), air bags, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) top rating, excellent braking. Low center of gravity = roll-over protection; BEV companies should excel here by keeping heavy battery modules low. BEV batteries must be free from fire, explosions, leaks, melting during charging, and must be protected from crashes or roll-overs. They should have excellent braking, both regenerative and friction. Compare the distance to go from 60 mph to zero. They should have excellent emergency handling.
  7. Acceleration: 0-60 mph times should be excellent, but the competition here is not with ICE cars, but it is among the BEVs and to some extent with PHEVs, with 0-60 times going from 9+ seconds (slowest) to 1+ seconds (fastest). The original Tesla Roadster goes 0 to 60 in 1.9 seconds.
  8. Handling (how to measure?) Low center of mass due to battery packs placed low, weight, wide wheel base, best tires, …all favor BEVs in general. There is nothing like getting a prospect into a BEV and trying a few turns! I should note that so far, Tesla dealers do not offer test drives to non-committed prospects. Try taking test drive cars over bumpy roads. Test any all-wheel drive (AWD) on slippery surfaces. Can it tow? Is it easy to park? BEVs should be quiet, how quiet?
  9. Environment: All BEVs are environment friendly; no oil or petrol needed (except for manufacturing, end-of-life disposal, and the generation of electricity for the grid). Companies that have been analyzed with a Lifecycle Analysis can market that. For someone concerned about zero exhaust pollution, a BEV should win over a hybrid. While lubrication does use carbon based products [transaxle, motor, CV joints, gears, doors, windows, wheel bearings need minor lubrication (sealed bearings not withstanding), this lubrication does not produce exhaust gasses. With care, much lubrication can be recycled. Ask your dealer how this is done when servicing. Battery packs probably will use coolants in the foreseeable future, e.g. anti-freeze around the individual battery cells to get rid of the heat. These coolants can also be recycled.] Use and recovery of dichloromethane (DCM) in battery production can also be pitched, since Tesla has a patent on their process. Again, ask your dealer if you are interested.
  10. A BEV should have a long list of high tech features: autopilot (Tesla has driven 1M miles on autopilot) for autonomous driving, lane departure warning, auto park, radar driven auto braking, multi-zone HVAC, 15-20 speaker hifi, seat heaters, remote controls from a mobile app, GPS navigation, event data recorder (EDR) and automatic collision notification (ACN), digital keys, telematics, anti-theft, dash-cams, … Bundle as many as possible into base price of car. This list will vary (and improve) each year. Good article here.
  11. Over-the-air (OTA) updates of software.  With software being a major aspect of EVs, designing every electrical component to permit OTA updates is essential.  For some reason, EVs world-wide either haven’t embraced OTA, or auto manufacturers haven’t designed their vehicles so that all software (and firmware) can be securely updated OTA. The “securely” part is important; understand the technology which is mentioned here as well.
  12. Capital. To compete with Tesla, it is important to appreciate Tesla’s history of partnerships with Panasonic, Daimler, and Toyota, its Department of Energy loan, its IPO, and its convertible bond debt. Oversimplified, Tesla got capital when it needed it. EV companies need capital for batteries, charging stations, safety, computers, infotainment, research, etc. Companies competitive with Tesla would benefit from more partnerships, OEMs, and joint ventures. EV manufacturers should embrace additive manufacturing to reduce the need for capital. The EV industry hasn’t yet borrowed as much from the open code and design aspect as the computer industry. (imagine an open standard for electric drivetrains, for example.) Some have, however, realized the benefits from common platforms, at least among their own models. Admirably, Karma has publically enticed OEMs with open interfaces. Others should follow. The EV industry must also consolidate with acquisitions, mergers, and joint ventures.

In summary, a BEV manufacturer must either have models that do not compare to Tesla models, or it needs to excel with any model that competes with comparable Tesla models. At a particular price range for a particular model, many points of competition are subjective, e.g., beauty, service, high tech features, safety, retail stores, near-by charging stations, environment, warranties and total cost of ownership, etc. Points of objective competition need at least to be very close, e.g., range, acceleration, handling, braking distance, etc. I wonder if the strategy of high-end, expensive models for Tesla competitors is going to last much longer. Volume and manufacturing efficiency will be necessary to drive costs down for price comparisons, and the large classic automobile manufacturers may have an advantage here. For battery costs, partnering with a large battery manufacturer, as Tesla has done with Panasonic, seems like a good idea no matter the chosen battery cell form factor. The Chinese battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology (CATL) and the Korean LG Chem are contracting with some major EV companies. There are of course many other battery manufacturers. Ford’s $22 Billion investment in EVs, mentioned above, is probably what it will take to compete with Tesla. Also, the strategy of converting a model with an ICE engine into an EV seems to be a losing one. It is outright laughable for such a conversion to retain the hump down the center that was once used for a drive shaft!

BEV Manufacturing World-wide

Who makes battery-only electric vehicles? Here is my cut on a list which I update frequently.  Beware: With so many companies changing plans frequently, it is impossible to keep such a list current.  Please let me know of errors or omissions.  Wikipedia has a somewhat outdated list (also here) from which I learned about several foreign BEVs. Many foreign BEVs are tiny urban-only cars (micro cars) with less than 100 mi range. While interesting, they are not competing with Tesla – at least not yet. Some classic car companies are still only selling plug-in hybrid (PHEV) cars. I’ve listed them below without any detail just to indicate that the company has no BEV products (that I know of); many have announced BEV intentions. Tesla has more models than anyone now in the US, and I can’t find a BEV that competes with and is better than a particular Tesla model. Range, i.e. battery capacity, is still the major point of competition. Henrik Fisker, the famous automobile designer now heading Fisker Automotive, states that to compete with Tesla, a BEV company must move to a different level of competitive technology. MIT has been experimenting with super-capacitors instead of batteries, for example. Using solid state batteries is Fisker’s strategy for his high-end eMotion (see below), but he is preferring to ship an SUV first with standard batteries, deferring the eMotion until solid state batteries are available at least in low volumes. If you need a dose of “EV startup cynicism”, check this AutoTrader article.


Here’s my list:

  • Alphabet: cf Waymo, below.
  • Alta Motors: Electric motorcycles
  • Aston Martin: plan to electrify the DBX crossover.
  • Audi: A3 Sportback e-tron PHEV, new 4wd SUV e-tron BEV with 204 mi range. Part of parent VWs push to EVs.
  • BMW: i3 BEV updated for 2019.
  • Citroen: C5 Aircross crossover. One version has a 200hp gas engine on front wheels and a pair of electric motors on the rear. Weird.
  • Daimler: Has plans for ten BEVs by 2022 including Mercedes listed below.
  • BAIC:
  • Bentley: Speed 6, 3D printed grill, side air vents, door handles, and exhausts. Not an EV.
  • BMW: i3, small but interesting BEV concept car; iNext  the next BEV (others are PHEV). For 2019, the i3 has still limited range of 153mi.
  • BMW Brilliance: Zinoro 1E, BEV, 93 mi range, China only
  • Bolloré: Bluecar BEV, 93-160 mi range (highway-urban), France (EU) only
  • BYD (Build Your Dreams): Tang (targets middle-class at $35k), Song, Qin PHEVs; Song, Qin, e1, e5, and e6 BEVs; Tang EV500 SUV BEV 310mi range, Tang Song MAX DM PHEV; T3 BEV mini-van; no US imports yet and no US prices. Now the world’s largest electric vehicle company selling around 30,000 pure EVs per month. The e1 sells for $9k after subsidies. Electric taxis in volume. Also electric busses, forklifts, utility vans, street sweepers, and garbage trucks.
  • Byton (Hong Kong Chinese startup), M-Byte BEV SUV 325 mi range, uses Amazon Alexa technology. Division of Chinese Future Mobility Corporation (FMC). Plan is for 3 BEVs in 2022.
  • Canoo, formerly Evelozcity: Raised $1Billion as a boutique California EV brand. Will start sales in 2021 in US, expanding next to China. Plans four models: personal commuter, lifestyle vehicle (SUV), and commercial vehicles for rides and deliveries. Will contract out its manufacturing, possibly with Magna Steyr.
  • Changan: Chinese state owned. Passenger cars, microvans, commercial vans and light trucks. Eado EV is Changan’s first EV.
  • Chery: QQ3 EV, 62 mi range, state owned China only; multiple QQ models
  • Chevrolet: Bolt BEV (Volt is PHEV whose gas engine is a generator), 238 mi range, $37.5k. FNR-X = concept car announced in Shanghai April 2019.
  • Chrysler: Pacifica PHEV
  • Citroën: C-Zero = Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  • Courb (Cogitare Urbem): C-Zen, 81-72 mi range. Bankrupt?
  • Daimler: Smart ED, (“ED” = electric drive), BEV
  • Divergent 3D: used 3D printing for a concept car The Blade (billed as the first “super car” to be 3D printed). Body made from carbon fiber, aluminum, and titanium. Not an EV, but Divergent wants EV companies for its 3D printing business.
  • Dyson (the UK vacuum cleaner company): BEV under development for 2021 (slipped from initial 2020 goal).
  • Ecocruise: focus on small service vehicles and motorcycles.
  • EDAG Group (one of the world’s largest independent development partners to the automotive industry.): Light Cocoon concept car. Used SLM.
  • ElectraMeccanica: Solo BEV, 100 mi range, Canada only, Chinese investment
  • eMotorWerks: Residential EV chargers.
  • Evelozcity. Now called Canoo.
  • Faraday Future: BEVs.  Investigating Variable Platform Architecture and autonomous driving. V9 scheduled to ship in China in late 2020.
  • Fiat: no public plans other than to spend $9 billion on “cars with electric motors”. Has the very small 500e for California and Oregon only, 84 mi range, $33.9k.
  • Fisker: 2021 eMotion BEV, 400 mi range, $129.9k; 2021 SUV 300 mi range, $40k+ optional 4-wheel drive (2 motors), 80 kWh solid state Li-ion battery pack. The SUV is the 1st of 3 “affordable” BEV’s. The SUVs will have standard Li-ion batteries. Patented “flexible” solid-state batteries for fast charging, safety, and capacity will be used for the eMotion.
  • Ford: Focus Electric BEV, 115mi range, $30k, others PHEV. Plans 16 EV models by 2025.
  • Geely: Chinese auto giant. EVs: Emgrand (186 mi range) and Geometry A (255 and 311 mi range).
  • General Motors: plans 20 new EVs by 2021 with a new electric platform for at least nine models from compacts to vans. An electrified Cadillac is in the works.
  • Girfalco: Azkarra BEV, 3 wheeled performance vehicle in development in Canada.
  • Great Wall Motors (China): Ora R1, small BEV, not in US now.
  • Groupe PSA (Peugeot, Citroen, DS, Opel, and Vauxhall): plans 15 “electrified” new cars starting in 2019.
  • Hawtai: Chinese auto manufacturer. EVs: 4 models of Shendafei , and 4 models of Lusheng.
  • Honda: Urban EV 2019; plan for compact EV (BEV?) by 2020 in Japan and longer vision for 2030; 15,000+ interest registrations for the e-Prototype (for a family of BEVs), 125 mi range.
  • Hyundai: IONIQ Electric BEV, 105 mi range, $30.3k. 2019 Kona Electric BEV, 258 mi max range on 64 kWh battery, with fast charging, $38.5k – 45.7k.
  • Indica: Vista EV, 120 mi range. Indica (Tata) is a large company and sells this EV globally in test quantities.
  • JAC: J3 EV, BEV, 81 mi range, no models for US yet. Chinese state owned.
  • Jaguar: I-Pace 4WD (semi-)SUV BEV. Awarded Green Car Journal’s Green Luxury vehicle of the year for 2019. Has a race track version the eTrophy.  CR: $69,500 – 85,900. High quality interior materials (unlike Tesla.) 4.3 sec 0-60.  234 mi range per EPA. 13 hr charging for 90 kWh battery. No charging network like Tesla.
  • JMC (JIANGLING MOTOR CORP): Chinese. Multiple EV models: E100, E160, 180, 200, E200S, E300, and S330 SUV EV hatch and city PHEC truck, E400 SUV, T500 EV truck, and E500 EV SUV . Partnership with battery maker CATL.
  • Kandi Technologies: KD5011 BEV (+ 9 other models), China only
  • Karma: Coming off the Green Car Journal’s 2018 Luxury Car of the Year award, the Revero PHEV will be updated (with a new gas engine generator from BMW) to the 2020 Revero GT. Second, a future Pininfarina partnered vehicle built on the 2020 Revero GT platform and retaining its engineering parameters but with a new body style and interior. Third, a new farther-out BEV Karma Vision with cutting edge technology. All announced in the April 16-25 2019 Shanghai show.
  • Kewet: Buddy BEV, 50 mi range, popular Norwegian car since 2010.
  • Kia: Soul EV, BEV, 92 mi range, $33.1k; Telluride PHEV SUV; the Niro was awarded Green Car Journal’s 2018 Green SUV of the year; and the 2019 eNiro is a pure BEV, 238 mi range, $39k+.
  • Kinetic (with Pininfarina) K550 and K750 crossover SUV hybrids  in the next four years.
  • Lada: Ellada, Russian BEV, possibly bankrupt. 93 mi range.
  • Lamborghini: EV strategy starts with the concept car Terzo Millennial. Working with MIT, they have developed a supercapacitor to extend the capacity of Li-ion battery packs (which the Terzo Millennial does not use). They have also reduced weight using carbon fiber reinforced plastic, which they continuously model and repair on-the-fly cracks that might weaken the structure. They partner with Boeing and with the Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL) in Seattle. Uses four (4WD) in-wheel electric motors.
  • LeECO: Funded by Chinese NetFlix.
  • Lexus: refreshed 2018 NX for 2019.
  • Lightening: Lightening GT, a BEV sports car, 149 mi range, London based
  • Local Motors: 3D printed self-driving electric shuttle. The Strati, “the world’s first 3D printed car”. After 40 hrs of printing, only the power train, electrical equipment and tires are not 3D printed. Uses carbon fiber reinforced plastic. The Swim, made from 75% 3D printed parts. Has fully electric drive train.  OLLI, driverless passenger bus which is monitored by a human. Features IBM Watson to answer passenger questions.
  • Lucid Motors (formerly Atieva who produced a drivetrain originally): Luxury Lucid Air in 2020. BEV. Autonomous ready. 400+ mi range, 2.5 sec 0-60, 200+ mph top speed. ~$60,000 base. Specs better than Tesla Model S. Uses Samsung SDI 2170 LI-ion cells. OTA updates. Has $1 Billion from Saudi Arabia to develop Casa Grande, CA factory.
  • Mahindra: e2o plus, BEV, 75 mi range, sold but not popular in UK. Mahindra is a huge Indian conglomerate.
  • Mercedes: GLE 550e, PHEV; SLS AMG (BEV variant), 160 mi range, limited edition? EQC BEV has 90 kWh battery, 220 mi range. Shares 90% of body with ICE GLC.
  • Mini John Cooper Works: has a PHEV and plans for a BEV in 2019 and “hints” at a future all-electric autonomous car.
  • Mitsubishi: i-MiEV BEV (discontinued)
  • MW Motors: 4 motor Luka EV, 186 mi range, Czech, no US.
  • Nanyang Technological University: The Nanyang Venture 8. It has over 150 3D printed parts including instrument cluster, grills, door latches, and the outer shell. The chassis is 3D printed with carbon fiber reinforced plastic.
  • NIO: (formerly Next EV) Shanghai electric autonomous vehicles. In Formula E. NIO ES8
  • Nissan: LEAF BEV, 106 mi range, $28.5k; Leaf e+ has 239 mi range, $48.7k
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory: AMIE (Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy) produced the PUV. Research goal to innovate how to generate, use, and store energy. The body panels and surrounding infrastructure was 3D printed with carbon fiber reinforced plastic with a resin coat to provide a smooth, glossy surface. Built Shelby, a replica of 1965 Shelby Cobra. 3D printed version weighs 1400 lbs compared to original’s 2355 lbs.
  • Opel: Ampera-e, 5 door subcompact hatchback BEV, 320 mi range, EU only?
  • Phantom Auto: Focus on autonomous vehicles. First, fork lifts, then robotaxis. Allows remote control by human operator.
  • Piëch: Mark Zero, 311 mi range, fast charging 3 motor very fast sports-car. Other models: 4 seater, and sporty SUV, start production 2020.
  • Pininfarina: Battista, Rimac 4 wheel drive $2.6M 1,877 horsepower performance sports car. Has 120 kWh battery, 280 mi range. 150 will be sold in North America, Europe, and the Middle East/Asia. First deliveries in 2020. Next model will be a three-row electric SUV.
  • Polestar: See Volvo
  • Polymaker: Partnering with Italian XEV, makes the tiny LSEV, the “World’s first mass produced 3D printed car”. (Except for chassis, windows, electronics, tires.) Top speed 43 mph, range 90 mi, weight <1000 lbs, price < $10,000. Not sure why the chassis isn’t 3D printed.
  • Porsche: Cayenne S E-Hybrid PHEV; 2019 Taycan BEV with both 80 kWh and 95 kWh battery packs. Uses 800 volt chargers for 250 mi extra range in 15 min charging.
  • Premium AEROTEC (subsidiary of Airbus): 3D printing, joint with Daimler and 3D print technology supplier EOS. Daimler (see above) in EV space, AEROTEC in aerospace.
  • Renault: Zoe (Europe’s top EV).
  • Rivian: (late) 2020 Pickup Truck and SUV, 230+ to 400+ mi range (depending on battery pack), $69k+. Truck R1T and SUV R1S share same skateboard platform and have 3 battery pack configurations and “several” motor configurations.
  • SAIC Motor: Roewe Ei5 luxury EV model based on Rover technology (only sold in China). 187 mi range. 35 kWh ternary lithium battery pack.
  • SF Motors: SF5 and SF7 are entries into luxury EV market, built on common skateboard platform, modular battery packs, and 2 or 4 motor configurations, ramping to 1,000 horsepower. Will build, sell, and license its technology for EVs.
  • Shell: Project M is a small, energy-efficient city car. Has 93 3D printed parts. Not an EV.
  • Skoda (owned by VW) is a 100+ yr old Czech auto company with sales in 102 countries. Along with VW, it has an electrification plan for 5 electric models by 2025 with the first, the Vision iV, planned for 2020.
  • Tesla: Models S, X, Y, 3, 200+ mi to 300+ mi range, $50-100k. (Discontinued Roadster will reappear 2020); 2020 Semi 500+ mi range; 2020+ Pickup ??? Tesla will expand internationally in 219-2020, with an expansion into China around a redesigned Model 3 (date unannounced.)
  • Toyota: Scion iQ BEV (too small); Prius PHEV (model C discontinued for Corolla hybrid); future BEVs will go first to China. With Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, the Toyota uBox is a utility concept car with 3D printed interiors that can be customized by owner.
  • Volkswagen: e-Golf BEV, 124 mi range, $29.8k; planning 50 BEV models by 2025 (zero hybrids).
  • Volvo: XC90 T8 Twin Engine PHEV, Polestar 2 BEV, new BEVs based on Compact Modular Architecture (small car) in China. Others on bigger platforms. For every BEV model, Volvo plans a PHEV.
  • Waymo (Alphabet Inc.): Former Google self-driving car project; now offering limited ride-hailing service in Phoenix with Lyft.
  • XEV: together with Polymaker, produces the LSEV. Has orders for 7000 cars.
  • Zero Labs: 100% electric version of Ford Bronco. 190 mile Range, 70 kWh Li-ion Battery, Level 2 Charging, 275 kW Peak Power, 369 Horsepower, 240 Nm Motor Torque, 10,000 Max RPM. Production in 2020, 150 samples available now.
  • Zoox: focusing on “robo taxi” level 5 autonomous cars. Now testing in San Francisco.

My feeling is that a small company needs focus to succeed, and thus should not offer fuel cell vehicles, nor hybrids. There are plenty of possibilities for different features to satisfy different BEV markets.  Tesla, of course, only offers BEVs.  Fisker will also only focus on BEVs. The Karma Revero isn’t really a hybrid, rather it has an on-board gas generator to recharge its batteries while under-way. I expect the Revero will significantly increase its battery capacity and range for the next (and probably the last) generation of the Revero.

The terrible pollution in China is forcing the government to impose more stringent fuel efficiency requirement, which should stimulate BEVs in China (and the rest of the world). The main issue here, relative to global pollution, is whether these new BEVs will increase global pollution by forcing the production of electricity by burning coal.



Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) – LCA


Lifecycle Cost Analysis (LCA) for additive manufacturing isn’t just the analysis of cost in the manufacturing department. While making a part with less materials, less labor, less maintenance, is a big portion of the savings, it doesn’t give the entire picture. Here is a list of places in the enterprise to analyze:

  • design engineering: designs for complex functionality, weight and material savings, , design for end-of-life recycling. This is “design for additive manufacturing.”
  • manufacturing: lower energy use (melting < cutting), less material/scrap. Less weight
  • production: manufacture close to the customer
  • supply chain: reduced transportation, fewer vendors, fewer manufacturing locations.
  • logistics: if the supply chain is simpler, so are the logistics
  • operations: additive manufacturing and lean have a common goal to eliminate non-value-added steps in manufacturing
  • accounting: uses less capital; can justify small volume products (or customized products); reduced floor space, reduced inventory, reduced WIP, reduced rework
  • marketing: manufacture consistent with corporate values, e.g. protect the environment, don’t waste. Recycle.

On the customer side,

  • Simplicity, due to part count reduction means lower maintenance and lower inventory requirements for spares.
  • Simplicity also means lower cost for the parts themselves.
  • Lower weight means less transportation cost, and for vehicles, better fuel usage.
  • Also, better recycling potential, particularly for expendable parts is something a customer values.

To be thorough, the lifecycle analyst needs to explore each of these areas in detail. Initially, some care needs to be taken to explore a variety of materials and printer systems. The first reference below is excellent. Once a 3D printing path is taken, more detail can be added to the analysis. The second reference illustrates some of the detail to consider. The third and fourth references discuss environmental considerations.


Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) – Companies


Hopefully the following list is helpful. I’ve only included service and product companies and excluded larger product companies that are taking this technology in house, e.g. Ford, Daimler, VW, GE, Boeing, etc. Also excluded are major hospitals such as the Mayo Clinic and the VHA which are working on “Point of Care” manufacturing and modeling, as they work with one or more suppliers or consultants.

Also not included are the many stores that resell 3D printers, unless their consulting appears to be significant or their line of 3D printers significant.

This list will surely grow and thus may become too large to be useful, but for now the entries represent some companies that provide 3D printing services and/or products:

  • 3D Systems, (NYSE: DDD) , printing and services, on-demand pats, digital design.
  • 3Diligent, CA, digital manufacturing service provider and consulting service.
  • Aleph Objects, Inc. , Loveland CO, Lulzbot industrial grade desktop 3D printer. Libre hw/sw.
  • Altair, Irvine , optimal designs, processes, models. Aeroswift 3D printer. Automotive MBD.
  • Amastan, MA and PA, material manufacturer, plasma properties
  • AON3D, Montreal Canada, Industrial 3D printers and Materials.
  • BASF, , chemicals, plastics,
  • Bibo, Shaoxing China, Dual extruder 3D printer laser engraving. $819
  • Capture 3D Inc. Costa Mesa, Santa Ana CA, scanning, 3D software, measuring. NASA X-38.
  • Comgrow 3D, , Low end 3D printers, supplies, accessories. $259
  • Creality, China , Ender3 3D printer, open source sw. Also, large industrial printers, metal
  • CRP Technology, Modina Italy, 3D Printing Service, Windform SLS materials.
  • CRP USA, Mooresville NC, CRP services for the USA.
  • Dinsmore & Associates, Irvine CA: design, engineering, prototyping, multiple platforms, medical
  • Direct Dimensions Inc.,,  Owings Mills MD, broad 3D consulting.
  • Divergent 3D, Torrance CA, passion for automobile AM
  • Dremel DigiLab, Racine WI , 3D printers for hobbyists. Laser cutter. $598
  • EOS of North America, Novi MI, “Electro Optical Systems Inc., industrial 3D printing
  • Essentium, Pflugerville TX & Irvine CA, industrial 3D printing + materials, Flashfuse filaments
  • Evolve Additive Solutions, Minnetonka, Selective Thermoplastic Electrophotographic Process (STEP)
  • FlashForge, Zhejiang, China, 3D printers for education,
  • Geeetech, China, A10 3D printer, factory direct diy kit+assembled. Clone++ of Ender3
  • GOM GmbH, Braunschweig Germany, precision optical measuring and scanning.
  • GPI Prototype & Manufacturing Services Inc., Lake Bluff IL, industrial 3D printing, metals
  • Haddington Dynamics,  , 3D prints most of its Dexter 7 axis Robotic Arm reducing parts from 800 to less than 70 using Markforged’s Onyx material with continuous carbon fiber reinforcement. Cost savings 58%.
  • HP (NYSE: HPQ), California, HP Multijet Fusion. Advanced plastics.
  • INTAMSYS, Shanghai, leading industrial 3D printer manufacturer. PEEK material.
  • Intermountain 3D, Boise Ihaho, prototyping, short run production, consulting
  • Kodak, Rochester NY , consumer 3D printers, materials
  • LulzBot, , open source 3D printers, parts, filament from Aleph Objects, Inc.
  • Markforged, Watertown MA , metal and carbon fiber 3D printers; fast contract prototypes. Onyx material.
  • MatterHackers, Foothill Ranch CA, consumer printers and materials, and service.
  • Oerlikon, Switzerland, Huntersville NC R&D and production facility. Surface solutions.
  • Materialise, Leuven Belgium, Fred Vancraen, CEO, healthcare, auto, aerospace, art, consumers
  • Monoprice, Brea, low end 3D printers, Select Mini 3D printer, best selling.
  • Nanofabrica, Israel, precision additive manufacturing technologies. 1 micron resolution.
  • Proto Labs Inc., Maple Plain MN. 3D printing services and materials. Vicki Holt, Pres./CEO
  • PSA Group (Groupe PSA), France, Peugeot, Citroën, etc. Partnering with Divergent 3D for titanium parts.
  • Prusa, Prague, Josef Prusa, Open source. Prusa i3 FDM 3D printer design. Prusament. Awards.
  • Renishaw, UK, metrology and additive manufacturing. NC4+ Blue system uses patent pending blue laser technology for excellent measurement accuracy.
  • Sabic, Riyadh & Bejing & Shanghai & Los Angeles, petrochemicals, polymers, metals
  • Schmidt Prototypes, Menomonie WI. Prototypes since 1980.
  • SDC Technologies, Irvine CA, coating specialist
  • Shapeways, NY NY, Netherlands, additive manufacturing services
  • Sintavia, FL, metal 3D printing service. Proprietary AM processes.
  • Solvay, , Advanced materials and specialty chemicals, composites. Stratasys partner.
  • Somos Stereolithograhy Materials, Elgin IL, Part of DSM Functional Materials , Netherlands.
  • Stratasys, Eden Prairie MI, Leader for AM.
  • Stryker, Engineering Santa Ana CA, personalized surgery, craniomaxillofacial procedures. Kevin Lobo CEO
  • Univesal Laser Systgems, Scottsdale AZ, marking, engraving, cutting in rapid prototyping
  • ZiggZagg, Aalter, Belgium, contract 3D printing (HP)
  • Zortrax, , FDM 3D printers, professional 3D printing products, rapid manufacturing

Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) – Materials


Additive Manufacturing isn’t yet replacing classic subtractive CNC machining (lathes, drills, saws, etc). Many of the materials listed in this post are of interest for this machining as well.

It is not surprising that plastics dominate any list of 3D printing materials, given the history of 3D printing. Recent interest and capability of printing metals will change this over time. The list of metals below is too brief and will be soon expanded.

Not listed below are new application materials in medicine. 3D printing of drugs and vaccines using multiple material printers to mix different drugs, and to blow your mind, 3D printing of human organs using human materials from the patient who needs the organ.

Most materials or compounds can be used as “ink” for 3D Printing. Different printer designs use different forms of energy to melt, form, and then harden the ink into a solid printed object. ISO 52900 recognizes 7 types of 3D printing, which are worth repreating here. In addition, an eighth is recognized, which is at the end.

  1. Binder jetting: a binder is jetted onto the powder bed.
  2. Directed energy deposition: thermal energy melts materials as they are deposited.
  3. Material extrusion: material drawn thru a nozzle is heated then deposited layer-by-layer.
  4. Material jetting: material jetted onto a build surface layer by layer and cured by UV light
  5. Powder bed fusion: energy beam fuses material in each slice
  6. Sheet lamination: sheets of material bonded to form a part
  7. Vat photopolymerization: liquid polymer fused by DLP projector and UV light
  8. Mask Image Projection-Based Stereolithography: A mask is made from a model slice of the object. This mask image is projected onto a photocurable liquid resin surface, and light is projected onto the resin to cure it in the shape of the image. This method can be used to create objects of multiple materials that cure at different rates.


A composite = composite material = composition material is a material made from two or more constituate materials with significantly different physical and chemical properties. The composite will have characteristics different from the constituants. The individual components remain separate and distinct within the finished structure. Compare: mixtures and solid solutions.

Certain composites work well for additive manufacturing using a 3D printer. Others, such as concrete, are great for construction, especially using moulds or forms of various types. Concrete and similar materials can be sprayed and then subsequently formed. There is some research around printing with concrete. Wood (saw dust) on the other hand has more success being printed.

Composites can also be reinforced using fibers or rods of various shapes and forms. For example, ancients used straw and mud to form strong bricks. Plywood consists of wood glued together with the grain at various angles. Bakelite is fiber reinforced plastic, and fiberglass consists of small glass fibres embedded in epoxy or polyester. Concrete is often reinforced with steel rods, which is essentially the same approach.

A polymer is a substance consisting mostly of a large number of similar materials (“monomers”) bonded together. E.g., nylon, polyethylene, Teflon, and epoxy. Natural polymers are silk, wool, DNA, celulose, starch, and proteins. A plastic is a polymer comprised of smaller, uniform molecules. Semi-synthetic polymers are made by modifying natural polymers in a lab using chemical reactions. .e.g. cellulose acetate (rayon) is made from regenerated cellulose, and vulcanized rubber is made by cross bonding sulphur with natural rubber.

To make printing with various materials specific, consider Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) which uses thermal energy from a high power laser to fuse powdered materials in each slice of an object to be printed. It is a special case of Powder Bed Fusion. A wide variety of materials can be powdered and used: plastics, metals, glass, ceramics, and various composites. Here’s the process:

  1. Powder is dispersed in a thin layer on a platform inside the build chamber
  2. The powder is preheated to just below the melting point of the raw material
  3. One or more high powered lasers scan a cross section of the 3D model heating the material to its melting point, fusing it to the layer above it.
  4. The platform is lowered by one layer’s thickness, and is sprinkled with more powder. Steps 2, 3, and this 4 are repeated until the printing is completed.
  5. Note that several objects can be printed at the same time if they all fit inside the printing chamber. In fact, many parts can be printed at once, filling the available volume of the print chamber with only minimal space between them. CAD slicing software does this and drives the lasers over the slice.
  6. The printed objects are allowed to cool gradually inside the printing chamber. They then are transferred to a cleaning station, separated, cleaned and finished. Different techniques can be used to polish the grainy parts that have been printed. Different materials need more or less polishing. Some 3D printer designs allow the entire printing chamber to be removed for this step, allowing a different chamber to be put into the printer for consecutive, overlapping, printing runs.
  7. Excess material can be repowdered, and this plus excess powder from the print run can be reused for additional printing. Note that during the printing process, this “extra” material provides support for the objects’ next layers being printed. Thus no additional support structures must be made and later removed.

Before delving into the question of what materials can be used with SLS, note that it is possible to use two powdered components, e.g. nylon with aluminide, carbon, or glass to optimize the printed parts for strength, stiffness, or flexibility. Only the component with the lower temperature for its glass transition point is sintered, binding all components.


Many 3D printing shops, including ones embedded in a large manufacturing system, use proprietary and secret material recipes to give themselves a competitive advantage. In addition, there are many types of 3D printers, and these materials are specialized for particular 3D printers.

In general, different methods of printing are best with certain materials. Conversely, different materials work best with certain methods of printing. Each pairing has pros and cons, and the end application must dictate. For examples, powders that are fused must be able to absorb energy in order to melt and bind. Printer manufacturers usually distribute the printing materials via the distribution outlets for their printers.

Here is a cut at organizing materials. Most non-common solids and pureed food can be 3D printed. There are also some surprises among the common solids.

  1. Alloys (aluminum, copper, titanium, magnesium, zinc, brass (copper+zinc), bronze (copper+tin)
  2. Biomedical materials (prosthetics, medicines, corneas, bone, cartilage, other human tissue, …)
  3. Common gases (air, carbon dioxide, helium, hydrogen, …)
  4. Common liquids (ethanol, oil, water, …)
  5. Common miscellaneous (corrosion, Piezo materials, solders, saturated steam tables,
  6. Common solids (concrete, glass, quartz, stone, wood, ..)
  7. Elements in the Periodic Table
  8. Food (pasta, chocolate, cheese, avocado, …)
  9. Polymers (ABS, epoxies, fluoropolymers, polyamides (PAs), polycarbonates, …)
  10. Steels (low-, medium-, high-) carbon, high strength, steel alloys, stainless (>10.5% chromium.)

Special Materials:

  • Aermet – not corrosion resistant and must be sealed if in a moist environment
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) – low cost, tough, durable, high temp parts (oil based). Legos, instruments, sports equipment, drop-resistant parts, knife handles, car phone mounts, phone cases, toys, wedding rings. Bed with Kapton tape or hairspray. ABS is best suited for applications where strength, ductility, machinability and thermal stability are required. ABS is more prone to warping than PLA.
  • Aluminum (alloys) – light, durable, functional, white
  • Aramid – a class of synthetic polymers, related to nylon, that produce fibers of exceptional strength and thermal stability. Kevlar is a para-aramid, Nomex is a meta-aramid.
  • ASA – alternative to ABS; high UV, temp, and impact resistance.
  • Biomedical materials are most promising. They can repair or replace organs, blood vessels, (my favorite) corneas, bones, … Plus, they can manufacture not only medicines, but also patient specific combinations of medicines.
  • carbon fiber filled – short fibers infused into PLA or ABS base for strength and stiffness
  • cobalt chromium – one of many types of chrome.
  • Conductive materials for micro-/nano-scale 3D printing. Used with material jetting, material extrusion, electrohydrodynamic (EHD) printing. Excellent for electrodes, connectors, and conductors. Three groups: liquid metals, metal monoparticles, and in-situ reactive metal inks. In addition, barbon black, carbon nanotubes (CNTs), carbon nanofiber, and graphene are polymeric due to their excellent conductive and sensing abilities.
  • Delrin (Acetal Homopolymer) – high tensile strength, creep resistance and toughness. It also exhibits low moisture absorption.
  • Dyneema – Similar to Kevlar but doesn’t absorb water. Dyneema is 15 times stronger than steel, making it the world’s strongest fiber.
  • Ferrium – C64 high strength carburizable steel, high hardness.
  • HIPS – lightweight, used for dissolvable support structures
  • Inconel (a family of austenitic nickel-chromium-based superalloys)
  • metal filled – mix fine metal powder into a base material: unique metallic finish, added weight.
  • Molding and Extrusion Compound PA is a subcategory of Polyamide (PA) which is specially formulated for molding and extrusion. Cf. ISO 16396-1:2015. It can be formulated to have wide ranges of elastic modulus, flexural modulus, tensile strength, flexural strength, Izod impact strength, hardness, specific gravity, thermal expansion, melting temperature, molding pressures, and elongation at break ranges.
  • Nylon – tough semi-flexible, high impact, abrasion resistance, durable. See polyamides below.
  • PET (polyethylene terephthalate) and PETG (Polyethylene Terephthalate Glycol) – ease of print, smooth surface finish, water resistance. Doesn’t warp, not brittle, low shrinkage.
  • PLA (Polylactic acid) – easy to use, dimensional accuracy, low cost (corn based). Odorless, low warp, less energy to process. Bed with blue painter tape, hairspray. FDA approved for food container. Use: food containers, biodegradable medical implants, models, prototype parts. PLA is ideal for 3D prints where aesthetics are important. Due to its lower printing temperature, it is easier to print with and therefore better suited for parts with fine details than is ABS. Barely warps.
  • polyamides (PA) – combines an amino group of one molecule and a carboxylic acid group of another. Includes nylon, wool, and silk.
  • polyaryletherketones (PAEK) – now compete with metals, other polymers. Good performance and reliability for safety critical applications, enable miniaturization. Used in aerospace, automotive, semi-conductors, electronics, oil and gas, and medical. Saves weight, energy, cost. Semi-crystalline thermoplastic is characterized by excellent resistance to temperature, chemicals, wear. Stable over broad range of temperature. High strength and stiffness. Made into filament for 3D printing.
  • polycarbonates – strength, durability, very high head and impact resistance. Some grades are optically transparent. Easily worked, molded, and thermoformed. Has a higher impact resistance than acrylic. It does not shatter like plexiglass. Made into a filament for 3D printing.
  • Polyether ether ketone (PEEK) – a colorless organic thermoplastic polymer in the PAEK family.
  • Polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) – semi=crystalline thermoplastic in the paek family. High heat resistance and chemical resistance. Can withstand high mechanical loads.
  • Polyetherimide (PEI) – an amorphous, amber to transparent thermoplastic similar to PEEK. Because of its adhesive properties and chemical stability, it is a popular bed material for FDM 3D printers.
  • polypropylene – a thermoplastic polymer; high cycle, low strength, fatigue resistance, semi-flexible, light-weight.
  • polystyrene (PS) – synthetic hydrocarbon polymer; solid or foam; clear, hard, brittle, cheap. Styrofoam is expanded, not extruded, polystyrene foam. Burning polystyrene releases toxic styrene gas which affects the nervous system. Solid polystyrene is used for auto parts, CD cases, electronics, toys, kitchen appliances, etc. Extruded polystyrene (XPS) is different; manufactured by expanding spherical beads in a mold using heat and pressure to fuse them. Expanded polystyrene is not very biodegradable, but XPS can be recycled.
  • PPSU (Polyphenylsulfone) – most often extruded in sheet or rod forms. Good impact strength and chemical resistance – better than PSU and PES.
  • PVA (Polyvinyl Alcohol) – can be dissolved in tepid water; used for support material for complex prints. Non-toxic, environment friendly, easily stripped. Paper adhesive, thickener, packaging film, adult incontinence products, children’s play putty and slime. Freshwater sports fishing. Bed with blue painter tape.
  • Smart materials for 4D printing
  • stainless steel – there are of course many types of stainless steel
  • thermoplastic elastomers (TPE or TPU) Have both thermoplastic and elastomeric properties: can flex, stretch, bend. Can be reprocessed and remolded. Made into powder and filament for 3D printing. Result is fatigue and tear resistant. Recyclable.
  • titanium – for large expensive objects
  • Ultem – A type of PEI plastic with excellent tensile strength and chemical and thermal resistance.
  • Wood filled – combine PLA base material with cork, wood dust, or other derivatives. Gives wooden look and feel. Paintable.




Overview: Traditionally, auctions are used to sell assets such as a painting, a car, or even a single share of the stock of a company. In its simplest form, an auctioneer describes the item to be sold, and interested parties bid for it. The highest bidder wins, minus the auctioneer’s commission, with the net proceeds going to the seller, and the item goes to the winner. Auctions can also be used to sell liabilities. In an auction, assets have positive values, and liabilities have negative values. Either way, highest bidder wins, but note that for negative numbers, -200 is higher than -300.



Auctions have been used in commerce for well over 2000 years dating back at least to the Babylonian auctions of women for wives. Modern auction theory today is inextricably tied to modern game theory which dates at least back to 1928 and published in Von Neumann and Morgenstern’s 1944 book Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour. Since then, academic work has focused on auctions of assets with positive values rather than the negative values used for liabilities. It is amusing to note that the Babylonians auctioned beautiful women for positive values and required less beautiful women to come with dowries (negative values) funded in part with profits from selling the beautiful women!

Auction Theory

Let’s next discuss the difference between oral, shout-out auctions and sealed bid auctions. Well, oral auctions obviously need people to do the shouting. While this is a time honored tradition, everyone admits that computers are faster and can process sealed digital bids with ease. In addition, sealed bids can be kept secret. In fact even the winners can be kept secret which can be useful when auctioning works of art, for example.

The classic oral bid starts low, perhaps at the lowest acceptable amount for the seller, the so-called reserve price, and the auctioneer or people (perhaps agents representing others on the phone) in the audience gradually raise the proposed amount and indicate a willingness to buy at that price. The auction ends when no one is willing to buy at a higher price than the last bidder, who is declared the winner of the auction. This is called the English ascending oral auction. If no one is willing to buy at the reserve price at the beginning of the auction, then nothing is sold.

The Dutch descending oral auction starts with the auctioneer proposing a very high price. The auctioneer gradually lowers the proposed selling price until the reserve price is reached or someone shouts out their willingness to buy at that price. This person is the winner of the auction. If no one is willing to buy when the reserve price is reached, then nothing is sold.

There is an important difference between these two types of auction. The English auction discloses information about the losers of the auction, while the Dutch auction does not.

It is easy to see how to implement the Dutch auction with sealed bids. The auctioneer simply picks the highest bid, called the first price, among the sealed bids, and the losers depend on the discretion of the auctioneer for their privacy. All offer prices must be greater or equal than the published reserve price. Ties can be handled by order of submission (as in the oral case) or by picking the winner randomly. Again the honesty of the auctioneer is paramount to handle ties.

It is perhaps a little less obvious how to implement an English auction with sealed bids. If you like puzzles, put down this paper and spend a little time trying to figure it out. The answer is NOT that people get to submit multiple bids!

Canadian William Vickrey, a Columbia University professor, wrote a series of papers starting in 1961 with “Counterspeculation, Auctions, and Competitive Sealed Tenders”. This work earned Vickrey a share in the 1996 Nobel prize in economics. In particular, he solved the puzzle about emulating an English auction with sealed bids. His solution is astoundingly simple. Among the sealed bids the highest bidder wins the auction; however, the winner pays the second highest bid, called the second price. Ties are handled as above, and since the second highest bid in a tie equals the highest bid, that is what the winner pays in a tie. This type of auction is called a Vickrey Auction.

Auction Strategies

If a player wants to program a computer to partake in an auction, then this player’s computer program needs an algorithm to compute its next bid. Such an algorithm is called a (bidding) strategy. The inputs to the algorithm can be not only the known state of the auction, but also external information. For example, if the auction is for shares of risk on hurricane insurance, then weather information will certainly be an input. Intrinsic knowledge about the subject (e.g. construction knowledge, weather knowledge, etc.) can also be programmed into the algorithm. Thus the algorithm is highly proprietary.

Optimal Strategies

The mathematician John F. Nash, Jr., subject of the excellent book and movie, A Beautiful Mind, wrote in 1950 a one-page paper “Equilibrium points in n-person games”. This seminal paper was cited by the Nobel Committee 44 years later when Nash was awarded a share in the Nobel prize in economics. Nash proved in his one-page paper that there always exists an n-tuple of strategies
(n = #players) such that for each player, his/her strategy yields the highest obtainable expectation against the n-1 strategies of the other players. Such an n-tuple of strategies is today called a Nash equilibrium point. Nash’s paper shows these exist, but the paper doesn’t give constructive methods to discover them.

Nash’s result applies generally to n-person games, and in particular to n-person auctions, independent of the type of auction. Since 1950, economists have been analyzing auctions knowing that Nash equilibrium points of optimal strategies always exist. This means that players will spend considerable resources looking for and developing optimal strategies, relative to other players, to be successful on auctions.


Aaron Brown, in his book Red Blooded Risk, The Secret History of Wall Street, writes "...much more quant effort is devoted to studying how other investor/bettors act than to estimating fundamental value."  This is quite likely true of other games, e.g., poker and war games. Thus, it is most likely that players on any auction exchange will do the same.  In fact, success on an exchange comes from being better than the competing players and not necessarily from absolute competence. 

Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT)

Now MPT, like Auction Theory, has historically been studied for portfolios of assets, although holdings of shorts are definitely part of MPT analysis. That said, any player will surely apply its own spin of MPT within its strategy function. For liabilities, this is fraught with peril, however, primarily because investment risk for liabilities is very different from investment risk for assets, and the auction exchange must put into place bidding policies to mitigate such risk. This makes for an interesting trade-off between how a player uses MPT to diversify its portfolio and how it uses its knowledge relative to its business model to optimize its portfolio.

Auctioning liabilities
Associated with any liability is the risk or probability of the liability occuring in a given time frame. If a home or business owner is worried about the destruction of the home or business occuring due to a hurricane or flood, then this owner will want to pay a reasonable price to an insurance company to assume all or part of this liability for the coming year. The kind of liabilities that are conducive to being auctioned off are those which have little, if any, acturarial data. The owner of such liabilities, usually an insurance company, bundles a number of them into a contract. All or part of such a contract can be auctioned off with the auction determining the contract's value. The auction exchange has many ways to divide up a contract into “shares” to be auctioned off.  At the same time, much as with assets, a small number of shorts can be created. Shorts of a share of a liablity valued at -P will have price P. If an event occurs triggering the liability, then the holder of a share pays P dollars, and the holder of a short receives P dollars. Both shares and shorts can be auctioned off independently. The actual face values of the shares and shorts are pre-determined by the owners before the auction, and there are many techniques to do so.

Example:  A $20,000,000 collection of hurricane insurance policies along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. could be divided via geography (state, inland, and coastal) into 20 “series” each valued at -$1,000,000. To divide such a series into -$20 shares would take 50,000 shares.  To add, say 10,000 shorts each valued at $20/short, we would need to increase the number of shares to 60,000. The total value still being auctioned is -$20,000,000.

Sealed Bids

The concept here is that the auctions of liabilities are performed in the cloud. If all bids for shares or shorts are submitted electronically, they are at least initially sealed. It makes no sense to unseal the bids while other bids are being submitted.

Dutch Auction versus English Auction versus Vickery Auction.

With all bids being submitted in the same time interval for a round of auctions, it makes no sense to “start at the bottom” of the bids. This eliminates the possibility of an English Auction, leaving the Dutch Auction, although an exchange could have the winner of the auction pay the second price, and thus run a type of Vickrey Auction.

Methods to implement an auction exchange for liabilities will be discussed in a future post.

  • Equilibrium points in n-person games, JF Nash
  • Counterspeculation, Auctions, and Comparative Sealed Tenders, W. Vickrey
  • Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, von Neumann and Morgenstern
  • Theory of Games and Economic Behavior – (Excellent) Book Review by Alan Copeland
  • Modern Portfolio Theory and Investment Analysis, 9th edition, Ed Elton, Martin Jay Gruber, pub Wiley
  • Auctions: Theory and Practice, Paul Klemperer. An on-line draft can be found here:
  • Putting Auction Theory to Work, Paul Milgram, Churchill Lectures in Economics. ISBN 0-521-55184-6,