Blog Menu

Next Generation AM

May 20, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:31

I visited Premium AEROTEC this week in Varel, Germany. The company employs more than 8,000 people and is 100% owned by Airbus. The Varel site produces large aluminum, titanium, and carbon-fiber composite parts and assemblies for the Airbus A330neo, A350, A380, A400M, Eurofighter, and other aircraft. The company is also doing very impressive work in the production of metal additive manufactured parts for Airbus.

Last month, Premium AEROTEC, Daimler, and EOS announced the Next Generation AM project. It is focused on large-scale series production applications in aerospace and automotive, with an emphasis on reducing costs through automation. One of the biggest opportunities is to reduce cost in the post-processing and finishing of metal AM parts. It is believed that about 70% of the costs of metal AM parts are tied to the steps that occur before and after building them on AM machines. The Next Generation AM project is also centered on needs associated with aluminum AM parts.

On Tuesday, Premium AEROTEC hosted about 150 people in an elaborate launch of the Next Generation AM project. I was lucky enough to be a part of it, as well as the launch of the company’s first metal AM production facility in Varel one year ago. It was a privilege to witness, first hand, the excitement surrounding these two very important events. We will one day look back at them to better appreciate the role they played in the evolution of AM in the aerospace and automotive industries.

25 Years of RAPID

May 6, 2017

Next week is RAPID+TCT 2017, North America’s largest conference and exposition on additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing. It also includes CAD, 3D scanning, and other design and manufacturing products and services. The event marks the 25th year for me to attend the event. Although I don’t have hard proof, I’m reasonably certain I stand alone in that category, for what it’s worth. SME, the organization that launched the event in May 1993, has generously invited me to speak at RAPID for 25 consecutive years.

RAPID has been the go-to event in this region of the world for all things 3D printing. The multi-day, multi-track conference has always been the strength of the event and a big reason why people attend. With more than 330 exhibitors from around the world, the exposition is now a very serious part of it. UK-based Rapid News Communications Group, with its strong TCT brand, has partnered with SME for the first time. RAPID+TCT has the potential to grow significantly as organizations around the world expand their use of AM.

As usual, I’m looking forward to next week. I like to attend the conference sessions and see new products and services in the exposition. Meeting people, however, is a major reason why many choose to attend. Business is conducted, ideas are explored, and new friendships are forged. The people in attendance have been a big part of why I like to participate year after year. If you’re going to be in Pittsburgh next week to attend RAPID+TCT, I look forward to seeing you there!

How to Design for Additive Manufacturing

April 22, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:40

It is critical for organizations to take a number of factors into account when considering the use of 3D printing for part manufacturing. Among the most important is design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). It can make the difference between success and failure. DfAM focuses on methods and special software that are unique to AM processes, such as the digital consolidation of many parts into one. This can result in significant savings in manufacturing processes, part numbers, material, weight, assembly, labor, inventory, and certification paperwork.

Wohlers Associates is partnering with Materialise to offer a three-day course on DfAM. Materialise is an industry-leading provider of 3D printing software and services. The course is May 31 – June 2, 2017 at the Materialise headquarters location in Leuven, Belgium. Wohlers Associates has twice offered a similar course on DfAM for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center, which received high marks for its effectiveness.

The upcoming course will provide expert instruction on methods of DfAM. It will include topology optimization, a technique of letting mathematics decide where to place material to optimize the strength-to-weight ratio. It can result in organic and “bionic” structures that reduce material and weight by up to 60%, while preserving strength. The following example is a hydraulic manifold for an Airbus A380 spoiler, a wing device that slows or causes an airplane to descend. The version on the left is a conventionally-machined manifold. The one on the right was redesigned using methods of DfAM and produced by AM. It flew on the A380 in March 2017. The AM version reduced weight by 55%—a significant benefit in aircraft manufacturing.

Participants will gain valuable hands-on experience by designing parts using CAD and special software tools for additive manufacturing. Some of the designs will be built on industrial AM equipment at Materialise so that attendees can evaluate the results. 3D scanning for custom product development will be included as an exercise that was popular among NASA engineers.

Associate consultant Olaf Diegel, PhD, will serve as the lead instructor. His rare combination of experience with both conventional design and manufacturing and DfAM makes him one of very few people capable of leading quality DfAM instruction and hands-on learning. Olaf has created more than 80 commercial products and is an engaging instructor, making him ideal for the course. The people at NASA had nothing but great things to say about him.

Click here for details on the course.

22nd Annual Wohlers Report

April 8, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:08

I’m happy to announce this week’s publication of Wohlers Report 2017. I sure wish that after so many years, it would become easier. It does not, mostly because of all the change and new developments in additive manufacturing and 3D printing. The annual effort is still very much related to the technology, but over time, it becomes as much or more about people. Our international network of friends, associates, and business contacts is what makes the report possible. We believe it is the largest and most developed network of its kind.

Our team is responsible for producing what I believe is the best edition of the report in more than two decades of publishing it. Associate consultants and principal authors Ian Campbell, Olaf Diegel, and Joseph Kowen carried much of the weight. With already very demanding schedules, each of them knew what needed to be done and delivered. In my view, they exceeded the standard of quality that customers and readers of the report have come to expect. They are real pros and it is a privilege to work with each of them.

Associate authors Dave Bourell and Ismail Fidan also played key roles. Year after year, they have contributed in ways that may not be fully appreciated by some. Both stepped up their involvement this year and I could not be happier with their efforts. Jenny van Rensburg, most recently at Central University of Technology, with continued involvement in the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa, served as editor and proof reader. Thank you, Jenny, for all of the hard work.

I’m also very appreciative of executive assistant Julie Whitney for handling the details associated with the orders we receive, not to mention almost everything else in the office. Also, I want to thank my wife, Diane, for handling the accounting, and for tolerating me during a challenging time. Without them, the business would not be what it is today. A special thanks to Craig Van Wechel for his outstanding graphics design work year after year, including the cover pictured above, and to Jason Norris for his contribution to our web pages. Thanks to Dan Silva, our IT guy, for his expert support.

And finally, my sincere thanks to the 76 co-authors and contributors in 31 countries that wrote important sections of the report. I appreciate everyone that played a part in producing and delivering Wohlers Report 2017. In just four days of sales, it has been sent to customers in 24 countries on four continents around the world.

The PA Profession

March 26, 2017

Filed under: event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 15:32

According to Yale School of Medicine, a physician assistant or associate (PA) is a state-licensed or federally-credentialed healthcare professional that practices medicine with physician supervision. Yale goes on to say that in clinical practice, PAs perform an extensive range of services in nearly every medical and surgical specialty and healthcare setting.

The profession has grown dramatically in the U.S. In fact, CNNMoney ranked it as the number one fastest-growing field, with a 49.7% job growth over a period of 10 years. Yet PAs are not well known outside the U.S. When speaking to friends and business associates in other countries, I find that most are not familiar with the profession. Even with such impressive growth, it is almost non-existent beyond U.S. and Canadian borders.

On Friday, our daughter, Heather, graduated from South University (Tampa, Florida) as a PA after a very intense program. We are very proud that she made it into the program and graduated. Only 24 out of 1,000+ applicants were accepted into the program. As part of the graduation ceremony, each of the graduates received a long white coat, a tradition that signifies completion of a PA program. While working as a student, they wore waist-length white coats, so receiving the longer version is very special.

All 24 students successfully completed the program and graduated on Friday, but all of them have one more very important step: to take the national exam. Those who pass it become a certified PA and can practice medicine. Those who do not can try again in three months.

While working at a medical clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital, a PA typically becomes increasingly autonomous. They see patients, prescribe medicine, and perform medical procedures such as suturing open wounds and surgically removing tissue. PAs do a large percentage of what a doctor does, but without the legal liability and sometimes odd and challenging hours. For many PAs, it can be more of an “8-5” job, although many work in urgent care, ER, or surgery where hours can be long and irregular.

We are incredibly proud of Heather, not only for completing the PA program, but also for going into a profession that truly helps others. Graduation ceremony keynote speaker Elliott Cazes, MD, said the most important instrument a medical professional can use is not a stethoscope or ophthalmoscope, but rather his or her ears. It is vitally important to carefully listen to a patient to fully understand their situation. Given what I’ve learned about the PA profession and Heather’s outlook on practicing medicine, she and her 23 fellow PAs will follow his advice and contribute a great deal to the field of medicine and the U.S. healthcare system.

Character and Integrity

March 12, 2017

Filed under: uncategorized — Terry Wohlers @ 09:35

Character and integrity define a person. People for which I have the most respect have a lot of both. They are true to their word and you can trust they will do what they say. A number of long-time friends and business associates fall into this category. As time passes, I value them more than ever. I do not always agree with their opinions, but my admiration for them remains strong.

We need to do our very best to set an example for others. We cannot waiver or give in to temptation when times become difficult. We need to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Honesty and following through on promises and commitments are vital. People with good character and integrity gain the respect of others and are happier.

An Itch for Travel

February 26, 2017

Filed under: life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 07:58

I like to travel and so does my wife and kids. Some of our best memories and times together are from family vacations. For years, we made a habit of spending several days in a tropical area with a nice beach for some serious relaxation and scuba diving. Life does not get much better than spending quality, uninterrupted time with the family.

Many opportunities for travel have developed in recent weeks, but I’ve declined most of them due to work-related projects and commitments that have kept me in the office. After being “chained down” for weeks, I have experienced an urge for travel. Some people don’t like it, especially frequent business travel, but I look forward to the trips. I especially like going to new places, both domestically and internationally. The adventure, coupled with meeting people and creating new friendships and business contacts, makes it interesting and gratifying.

I’m looking forward to another year filled with travel and new experiences. A number of trips have been planned and many others are being scheduled. Planning them gives me another reason to get excited about getting up in the morning.

3D Printing’s Place in History

February 12, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:39

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in or around 1440. Since then, humans have experienced many life-changing technical advances such as electricity, medicine, radio, and the telephone. Henry Ford was credited with popularizing the automobile in the early 1900s. Later came air travel and the semiconductor, which led to computers, robotics, and the Internet.

A subject that I have pondered for some time is whether 3D printing will be viewed as a major technical advancement, similar to these other developments. We may not know for decades into the future, but many agree that it’s certainly headed in that direction.

Forecasting the Future

January 28, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 16:14

Looking ahead is tricky business. Many try, but most can’t do it well. Predicting what might occur in a year from now is one thing, but looking further out, such as years or longer, is difficult. Megatrends author John Naisbitt said, “The most reliable way to forecast the future is to understand the present.” That’s where we put the majority of our energy. We feel that if a company truly understands where things are today, they have a chance at creating a view of the future.

graph

With history and data points, one can extend trend lines to gain a sense for where something is headed. We have collected and analyzed hard data for more than 20 years for the Wohlers Report, and place a lot of weight on extending trend lines. This, alone, is not enough. We also need to do our best at understanding the present state of 3D printing and additive manufacturing. We adjust our views of the future based on a number of factors, including new developments such as GE’s recent investment of about $1.4 billion in additive manufacturing.

The bottom line: do not make business decisions based entirely on forecasts. Factor in views and opinions from people with a lot of experience and history in the subject of interest. It is easy for someone to make a forecast, even the inexperienced, but it’s incredibly difficult to do it accurately. Most people that read these forecasts do not look back to see if they were accurate, which is a mistake.

Snow

January 14, 2017

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:31

The Rocky Mountains of Colorado have received a staggering amount of snow over the past few weeks. In fact, it’s on pace for its best January snowfall in 100 years. What’s more, it could turn out to be the best month ever. With the snowpack currently at 150% for this time of year, the rivers, lakes, and reservoirs will be at their brim when it melts.

Copper Mountain, our favorite ski resort, yesterday reported 107 cm (42 inches) in the previous seven days. The upper mountain depth is 200 cm (79 inches). Wolf Creek, a ski resort near Pagosa Springs, Colorado, has a mid-mountain depth of a whopping 262 cm (103 inches). Ski resorts and mountain towns are running out of places to put all of the snow.

snowfall

All of the snow comes with consequences. A friend that made a day trip to Vail Mountain this week spent more time driving than skiing. In all, they were in the car nearly nine hours, when the roundtrip should not take more than about five hours.

Some of the same storms brought 51 cm (20 inches) of much needed rain to northern California, ending a horrible five-year drought. The Heavenly Ski Area near Lake Tahoe has received an unthinkable 366 cm (12 feet) of snow.

Overall, recent weeks have been kind to western regions of the U.S. The snow and rain have caused flooding, avalanches, road closures, and other problems, but that goes with the territory. We can only hope for a steady amount of moisture in the coming months.

Next Page »