May Newsletter: “Chip War”, True Frontier

May 21, 2024

All content of this email is for entertainment purposes and not investment advice. All the news we share via social media can be found here. To subscribe to this email, click here. Alternatively, we also have a LinkedIn version of this newsletter. This edition includes Insights/Reflection, News, and Events. Previous newsletters can be found here.

jenny chen

Hi There, 

Sometimes, you might ask, “Why is Jenny sharing stuff that has nothing to do with 3D printing?”

Ha, but that’s the point. We don’t exist in isolation from the rest of the world. Everything (culture, technology, geography, human psychology) has something to do with this one interest we share in common. An ecosystem is not a “niche”. An ecosystem connects everyone; our job is to delineate these intricate relationships among the players. 3D printing will only change the world if connected to everything else. “Network effect,” “scalability,” “cost advantage,” and “brand” are moats businesses can only build with the connection. 

Lately, there seems to be no escape from talks about Nvidia, AI, and World Wars. I want to share one of the most thought-provoking books I recently read, “Chip War: The Fight for the World’s Most Critical Technology. ” by Chris Miller. It does not just talk about technology or how people “GET RICH,” but how geopolitics, economics, and society influenced the development of the semiconductor industry and how the chip industry affects everyone today. I found myself in a parallel universe, as the same scenario could play out for all emerging technologies, like 3D printing.

Here are my takeaways, but it is not a replacement to read the book.  

  1. Politics Matters. Because I am not well-versed in history and politics (though I am an avid student), I am not qualified as a political commenter. However, one of the biggest takeaways from this book is that modern-day technological advancements and government policies are often intertwined. Just ask any Silicon Valley VC and see who would like to invest in a “science project.” (Answer: cricket sound.) Winning a technological “war” enables a country to have not just more substantial military power but also economic power. What would be the next crown jewel that everyone will be vying for? I see all the same international players in the 3D printing space, just on a smaller scale. Can you imagine we are 10-20 years ahead of the “3D Printing War”? “AI War”? “Robotics War”? 
  2. DNA. Half of the book is devoted to the detailed history of “Silicon Valley,” Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, ASLM, Samsung, Apple, and all the acronyms and names that suddenly become today’s dinner table topics because of the AI “gold rush.” Knowing the origin of a core technology that powers the world (and today’s world war) is worthwhile. It turns out there was much intermingling among these players in history. This reminds me of all the spin-outs, investors, and startup founders with DNA from 3D Systems, Autodesk, JNJ, and more in the Pitch3D network. A small group of smart people continue to make a huge impact throughout the history of technology (a.k.a Power Law– great blog post by Alto Ventures, but a greater book focusing on this subject.)
  3. High-end hardware. Making high-end hardware can be rewarding if you and no one else can. Did you know that the Dutch company ASML makes 100% of the world’s extreme ultraviolet lithography machines critical to making cutting-edge chips? Do you not think other companies or countries would like to make it also? OPEC controls only 40% of the world’s oil production yet can already dictate the price. Can you imagine what would happen if TSMC or ASML ceased to exist today? Which hardware company in the 3D printing space will be missed if it ceases to exist today? 
  4. China. This book devoted significant pages to the role China plays, both in history and in the future of the semiconductor industry.  I am not too threatened by cheaper 3D printers or materials from China. Competing to the bottom on price will only gain a temporary advantage. It is also unlikely that the Chinese government (nor the American government) will subsidize low-end (consumer) 3D printer producers enough to matter in the long term. However, China’s desire to win the technological race at all costs is palpable. (By the way, it is always challenging to win a game when your opponent does not play by the same rules.) This can be seen in research publications and patents recently filed in 3D printing and bioprinting. While the country is dealing with its economic downturn and a nebulous political future, its consumer market size remains lucrative to the most skeptical competitors. One of us is still dying to sell stuff to China. (For example, Starbucks.) Frenemy is perhaps the correct term.
  5. Globalization.  Two of the “traitorous eight” engineers who founded Fairchild Semiconductor were immigrants to the United States. Morris Chang fled China to Taiwan with his family, who then immigrated to the US and worked at Texas Instruments. He then later founded TSMC in Taiwan. Much of the chip industry still relies heavily on Asia and Europe. You could say that the chip industry wouldn’t exist without global talents and globalization. Similar scientific discoveries often rely on international collaboration—for example, the story behind the COVID-19 vaccine or CRISPR.  However, “Globalization” describes economic, social, and technological integration among countries to make the world more connected and interdependent. Using “global talents” and “globalization” are not equivalent. Lately, people have second thoughts about “globalization,” especially regarding offshore manufacturing of advanced chips and machinery. The profits from globalization could come with a hefty price tag. The many disadvantages of managing a complex supply chain, world economies, and international disputes are becoming evident, especially during and after the pandemic.

Seriously, read the book.
Comments/Thoughts? Just reply to this email!

More good stuff below.

Jenny Chen
CEO/Founder, 3DHEALS


  1. Up Next (5/23/24): 3D Microfabrication 2.0  This event inspired the main subject of this newsletter. Many main players in the micro- to nano-scale 3D printing space have deep roots in the semiconductor industry. “Printing,” “lithography,” “3D,” and “fab” are the exact keywords that would show up in our conversations on advanced “biochips” (microfluidic devices). One example of such connection is the 2021 NanoFabrica acquisition by Nanodimension, which has ample ambition in the semiconductor industry. It is possible the next frontier of our technological “war” is shifting, and I invite you to join this lively conversation. 
  2. Now On-Demand:  In Silico Simulation for Medtech and Biopharma While the application in healthcare is still limited, concurrent progress in the regulatory landscape and computer modeling capability are pushing for more innovation on the horizon. If semiconductor fab and design are separate, why not do the same for medical devices and new drugs? 
  3. Free on YouTube: Melt-Electrowriting And/Or 3D Printing. The Next generation of “3D Printing” includes field legend Professor Paul Dalton. 
  4. Mark your calendar for 5/30/24:  Dental 3D Printing 2024 Event – What’s New? 
  5. Check out the rest of the 2024 3DHEALS events calendar. 
  6. Podcast(“The Lattice“): If you are an auditory learner, you can now find recordings of some of the latest virtual events.
  7. Hybrid Events – Starting in 2024, we created a new networking format, combining the lessons we learned from organizing high-quality in-person and virtual events with a focus on a narrow technological vertical. The goal is to create 15-to 25-person physical events but high-quality content that can be simultaneously livestreamed to a global audience. To see if you are qualified to be our co-host of this high ROI event, the company can contact with the message titled “3DHEALS Hybrid Events”.

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News & Thoughts

  1. Revolutionizing Tissue Engineering Don’t want to say, “I told you so.” This timely announcement validates our suspicion that the skin model will be one of the first scalable applications for 3D bioprinting. Based on the first principle, as the human body’s largest organ, the abundance of skin and skin components (like hair follicles) will provide one of the first viable markets for bioprinting. Newer techniques like MELT Electrowriting, which has an open-source culture, are another topic we pursued at our latest virtual events. If you want to win the race, don’t miss these learning opportunities.
  2. Redwire Pioneering Biopharma Production in Space by Successfully Bioprinting Live Human Heart Tissue and Delivering Second Batch of PIL-BOX Pharmaceutical Crystal Experiments Perhaps one of the handful times “bioprinting” made it to Morningstar news feed. “Microgravity,” as with many other emerging technologies, is still a technology that is looking for a “killer” application. The key question is always, “Can this be translated to earth science?” We had several great blogs/interviews a few years back. Also, in case you don’t know, we are not managing “space” and space trash well.
  3. Tethon 3D Releases Cost-effective Bioprinter Another bioprinter has been born. Toolmakers only profit when the end market is growing fast. 
  4. Making Hydrogels More Injectable This will be discussed at our upcoming Biomaterials 2024 event in September. Stay tuned for speaker updates. The importance of computational modeling in biopharma, 3D printing, and bioprinting has also been partially addressed in our In Silico Simulationevent in April.
  5. HiMedia unveils Centre of Excellence for 3D Cell Culture Lab in MumbaiIndia could be the next biofabrication powerhouse. Check out an already vibrant healthcare 3D printing ecosystem in India in 2022.
  6. Boston Micro Fabrication Launches Industry’s First Hybrid Micro-Precision 3D Printer Series An analysis by Joris Peel at regarding this new product is worth a read and fairly accurate. A parallel “Chip War” could exist in any of the applications mentioned. Stay tuned to engage live with CTO Chunguang Xia of BMF in the upcoming weeks at our Microfabrication 2.0 event. The semiconductor DNA of BMF is evident.
  7. 3D Systems Announces FDA Clearance for World’s First 3D-Printed PEEK Cranial Implants. If 3D Systems can capture a significant segment of the US and EU cranioplasty market (est. 2 billion), then its acquisition of Kumovis a few years ago would prove prudent.
  8. 3D Printing Flexible Devices Sans Mechanical Joints Science is teamwork. 
  9. Create it REAL Launches 3D Printing Service Platform for Custom Orthopedics New platform allows access to several assistive and orthopedic devices including insoles, wheelchair seats, scoliosis brace. 
  10. German Companies Team up to Create Traceable 3D Printing Filament A new direction in innovation from specialty material suppliers. 
  11. Nanochon closes $4M Series Seed Prime Nanochon, a Pitch3D startup, could solve the pain point of young patients with cartilage defects. Congrats on the milestone. Nonvascularized cartilage scaffolds could be another of the earliest commercially viable 3D-printed polymer implants.  
  12. MIT Spinoff RLP Secures $7M to Scale and Accelerate Gel Suspension 3D Printing At a much larger scale, the concept looks awfully like FRESH print. Several have failed in efforts to develop elastomer 3D printing in the past decade, but it remains a problem worth solving.
  13. Rivelin Robotics Automating Metal Post-Processing Through New Innovate UK Project Post-processing is half the game. The company boasts a “90% reduction in defects, a 10-fold reduction in operating costs, and eliminates the potential for human risk and variability.” This could be when labor shortage becomes a silver lining for robotic companies. Check out our on-demand event recording focusing on post-processing for 3D-printed medical devices.
  14. Could 3D Printing Be the Answer to Sleep Apnea and Snoring? Good ideas and technologies don’t always end up successful. ResMed still reigns in sleep apnea. 3D-printed devices for sleep apnea remain elusive, and the latest news from Oventus is rather disappointing. Also, remember Metamason? How is this not an AlignTech#2 yet? 
  15. Apium Additive Technologies Begins Insolvency Proceedings as it Looks for New Investment Revenue is not equal to financial strength nor profitability. While having “a” revenue is better than zero (and we have quite a few of those), profit margin and growth rate (and burn rate) are just a few other critical elements on the spreadsheet. That said, Apium seems to be able to continue to operate.  
  16. Stratasys Unveils its SAF Technology and H350 Printer Upgrade Down to 100-micrometer thick layer. Micrometer thickness and sub-micro are a whole different universe. Check out our upcoming virtual event focusing on microfabrication
  17. Design Guidelines for Micromoulding
  18. Catholic Medical Center Succeeds in Transplanting Allogeneic Adult Stem Cell-Based 3D-Printed Trachea Thisis through the collaboration with Gachon University and T&R Biofab. Previously, the FDA cleared trachea stent out of Cleveland Clinic in 2020, but that was an acellular scaffold (VisionAir Solution)
  19. Icariin-Releasing 3D-Printed Scaffolds for in Situ Regeneration of Cleft BoneJust an abstract, not published yet, but I am seeing more “drug-eluted” or “drug-delivering” 3D printed implants lately.
  20. ARPA-H Launches Program to Bioprint Organs on Demand Great to see government support for biofabrication and regenerative medicine. This is a different kind of “Chip War” we need to win.
  21. Holo’s Intricate Metal 3D Printing Assets Acquired by MIM Producer Greene Group Industries Who is next?
  22. PolyUnity Tech Strikes Five-Year Partnership with Paediatric Healthcare Company Supply chain management plus procurement efficiency should be attractive to hospitals. This could be one pandemic-born 3D printing startup that will thrive. #Pitch3D
  23. Formlabs’ New Pro 3D printers Claim 2–5x Speed by Ditching Lasers for an LCD Screen Formlab’s newest printers ditch resin-blasting lasers because they’re too slow. Succinct review on the latest Form4. What do you think? 
  24. Adipose Tissue Holds Key to 3D Printing Skin Layers and Hair Follicles This was recently presented by Professor Ozbolat in our virtual event 3D biofabrication of skin components. The publication link is here.
  25. AI Index: State of AI in 13 Charts The race is heated elsewhere. I’d be curious about a similar article focusing on advanced manufacturing.   
  26. The Art of the Possible: Innovating with 3D Printing in Health Care Empowering every healthcare worker with a new tool to make their ideas into reality and at the same time, saving money on hospital procurement cost. 
  27. New Funding Drives Craft Health’s 3D Printed Medicine and Supplements I was not expecting to be mentioned =)
  28. Bioabsorbable Polymers for Implantable Medical Devices: What To Know Excellent summary of past history (failed), current status of bioabsorbable implants, challenges, and regulatory resources. You will find many familiar names in this company, as many are active members of the 3DHEALS community. Stay tuned for our events focusing on biomaterials, non-orthopedic implants (to be scheduled), and bioprinting for bone


This month, I recommend the Acquired episode with the CEO and Founder of Synopsys. I first learned about Synopsys when Simpleware was acquired by it a few years ago, sparking my deep dive into the company.