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AM in the U.S. Military

October 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 05:37

I had the great privilege of spending most of last Thursday at the Pentagon, and what I learned was encouraging. The U.S. Department of Defense has advanced its use of additive manufacturing beyond what I had anticipated. I gained a better understanding of what the military is doing and where it hopes to take AM in the future. More than anything, it made me proud to be an American because these people are incredibly bright and passionate about AM.

I met with 25 people from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and, Navy, as well as various groups within them. They fully understand the consequences of not being prepared and responsive to our adversaries. Suppose one of them took out our supply of spare parts for equipment, vehicles, and weapons. The nation would be crippled and entirely vulnerable to the worst possible scenario. Envision instead a manufacturing capacity so diverse and distributed that it would be impossible to find the thousands of organizations, some very small, that are a part of it. As odd as it may seem, an obscure bait shop that produces custom fishing gear could operate 3D printers and produce parts for DoD.

Those at the Pentagon understand the challenges, most of which revolve around tradition, culture, and people. Humans are creatures of habit and change does not come easily. The procurement process, alone, can be daunting, especially for the smallest defense contractors. Joe’s Bait Shop can process credit cards, but it may not have the personnel or tolerance to process the paperwork required by most DoD-related contracts. The people at the Pentagon are working to address this problem.

Even with the issues that the military face in more fully adopting AM technology, I am optimistic. Individuals, such as Captain Matthew Friedell of the Marine Corps (pictured with me in the following image at the Pentagon), are sharp and among our nation’s best. After hours at the Pentagon, I can say without reservation that we are in very good hands. They do not have all of the answers, but they’ve identified most of the problems. Thank God we have men and women like them, and I sincerely thank them for what they do to keep our nation safe and secure.

Live Music

September 23, 2018

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:05

It’s been a good year for live music. In June, my wife and friends and I saw Alan Parsons at Levitt Pavilion in Denver. A client, RØDE Microphones of Sydney, Australia, knows Alan, so we met him and the band after the concert. The entire evening was a great experience. In July, a friend and I saw the Robert Cray Band at the relatively small but impressive Washington’s music venue in Fort Collins. The blues guitarist and singer gave a solid performance. Last month, we saw Blondie at NewWestFest in Fort Collins. Like Alan Parsons, Blondie was especially popular in the mid 1970s with a number of hits.

Last night, my wife and I, and ~45,000 others, were treated to several hours of music at Petco Park in downtown San Diego. The concert started in the late afternoon with the Doobie Brothers—a band I’ve always wanted to see. Zac Brown followed, and both were excellent. Zac definitely attracted a younger generation to the stadium.

The highlight of the evening was seeing and hearing the Eagles for the first time, another band I’ve always wanted to see. As expected, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt were a central part of the performance. The only unfortunate part of it was not seeing Glenn Frey (he died in January 2016 at the young age of 67), but we were treated to Glenn’s 25-year-old son, Deacon. He and country singer and songwriter Vince Gill sang Glenn’s songs, and both did a great job. Like his father, Deacon is an outstanding musician and vocalist. He became a permanent member of the band more than a year ago.

I’m finding that one should not wait too long to see an artist or band. I wanted to see Tom Petty, but that will never happen. It also occurred to me that rock ‘n roll groups are not emerging like they did in the past. In fact, it’s difficult to name even three that have become popular in the past 10 years. For our generation, now is the time to see live classic rock before it’s too late.

Footwear from Wiivv

September 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:38

The idea of 3D-printed footwear is appealing. The technology makes it possible to affordably print custom parts that make up the product. Recent history shows that customers are willing to pay a premium for products that have been designed specifically for them. I have many personalized, 3D-printed products, and they are of more value to me than other products. What’s more, I will never get rid of any of them, which is something I cannot say about most other products.

Recently, I received personalized insoles and sandals from Wiivv, a young company that has already shipped more than 50,000 pairs of custom products. The insoles, shown in the following (left), includes a custom, gray part made in nylon by powder bed fusion. I have dedicated them to my dress shoes that I wear at formal events. In fact, I wore them Friday night at a wedding and walked and stood on them for hours without sitting and my feet felt good the entire evening.

For about three weeks, I have been wearing sandals from Wiivv in the office. I have a sit-stand workstation and stand about 70-80% of each day. The sandals took 2–3 days to break in, especially in the area of the arch. In the middle and right images, notice the gray, custom 3D-printed part, along with the arch pocket into which the part is inserted. Both arches felt overly firm in the beginning, but are now comfortable. The straps lock into the sole and can be adjusted for fit and comfort.

When ordering insoles or sandals from Wiivv, a special phone app is used that steps you through the process. It was easy and took no longer than about 15 minutes total. The app prompts you to stand against a wall on a white, 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper, and asks you to shoot images from various angles. The company could not have made the measuring and ordering process much easier.

The look and feel of the materials and workmanship of the Wiivv products are of high quality. It’s too soon to know how long they will last, but I have no reason to believe they will not hold up for years. The price of custom, full-length insoles is $99, while custom sandals are $129, both of which are reasonable, in my view. I recommend them highly.

3D-Printed Food

August 26, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:58

The idea of 3D-printed food came in or around 2011 when Hod Lipson and his team at Cornell University produced some crude but intriguing examples. The team showed that it was possible to use a syringe-based material extrusion-based 3D printer to deposit cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, and other types of foods. The objects clearly demonstrated the concept.

In 2014, 3D Systems introduced its ChefJet 3D printer for making candy and other food items. Some time later, the machine was quietly removed from the market after the company found that few people wanted it.

On Friday, I attended the First International Symposium on Precision Nutrition and Food 3D Printing Science and Technology in Beijing, China. The event was the first of its type. Prof. Jack Zhou of Drexel University co-organized it with Hong Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which is China’s version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I wanted to attend the event to better understand where the technology and its application might go in the future. Few in attendance had combined expertise in nutrition, food, and 3D printing technology. The disciplines are currently pretty far apart, but they are slowly coming together, as illustrated in the following.

Potential market opportunities are specialty food products such as custom chocolates and candies for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and special corporate events. At the conference, the following edible items were each printed in a few minutes each. The Wohlers Associates logo (left) was printed using a mixture of white beans, starch, sugar, and water. The decorative pancake at the right tasted surprisingly good.

The 3D printing of food may be a solution looking for a problem. Applying nutrition to the concept may have merit. Making soft foods for babies and the elderly is a potential area of development, although I am not convinced that 3D printing offers an advantage. Maybe. At the conference, it was decided to form an international association on the subject. After dinner on Friday, many of the organizers and attendees met to initiate the new organization. We will see if it can help take the 3D printing of food to a new level.

3D-Printed Guns

August 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 05:29

With the “green light” looming for the 3D printing of guns on July 31, I was contacted by CNN, ABC7 News (San Francisco), and others. In two days, I conducted the following interviews, as well as two others:

I’m hopeful the interviews will help to educate our nation’s policy makers and the less-informed public on the realities of 3D-printed guns. Making it legal is not a good idea on a number of levels. First and foremost, it’s just plain dangerous. In 2013, soon after the idea of plastic 3D-printed guns was introduced, the Australian police 3D-printed two of them. When fired, both exploded. Watch the video.

Second, the 3D printing of guns sidesteps background checks and a registration process, making it impossible to track the firearms and their owners. And third, it is possible to 3D print the parts of a gun and then assemble them on the other side of security, whether it’s at a government office, sports arena, airport, or somewhere else. The individual plastic pieces would not resemble the parts of gun and may not be detected when being scanned.

In the afternoon of July 31, a Seattle judge granted a temporary restraining order to block the release of the files of guns on the Internet. A day earlier, eight states and the District of Columbia sued to block the publication of the files. The bottom line: the 3D printing of guns is a bad idea.

Growth of AM Service Providers

July 29, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:54

Note: The following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2018.

Independent service providers worldwide generated an estimated $2.955 billion from the sale of parts produced by additive manufacturing systems in 2017. This is up 36% from the $2.173 billion reported for 2016.

The previous graph shows service provider revenue estimates (in millions of dollars) for the past 24 years. The bars represent only primary revenues, which are from parts produced on AM equipment. They do not include revenues from secondary processes, such as tooling, parts made from this tooling, castings, or CNC-machined parts. Also, they exclude design, engineering, CAD/CAM/CAE, and all other services.

Details on Wohlers Report 2018 are available here.

Recent AM Material Sales Growth

July 15, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:59

Note: The following was excerpted from Wohlers Report 2018.

In 2017, an estimated $1.13 billion was spent on materials for all additive manufacturing (AM) systems worldwide, including both industrial systems and desktop 3D printers. This represents an increase of 25.5% over the $903.0 million spent in 2016. The market segment grew 17.5% in 2016 and 20.0% in 2015. These estimates include sales of liquid photopolymers, powders, pellets, filaments, wires, sheet materials, and all other material types used for AM.

The previous graph provides a 17-year history of material sales for AM systems worldwide. The numbers are in millions of dollars.

Details on Wohlers Report 2018 are available here.

Inside 3D Printing – Seoul

July 2, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 17:00

I attended last week’s fourth annual Inside 3D Printing event near Seoul, South Korea. It has been interesting to watch the even grow over the past four years. A total of 10,532 people from 28 countries attended. The event, organized by Rising Media and KINTEX, included three days of exhibition with 80+ companies and a two-day conference with 42 speakers and panelists. Many of the presentations were excellent.

Alex Lalumiere, a director at HP in Singapore, gave one of six keynote presentations. He focused mainly on how HP, as a manufacturing company, is using Multi Jet Fusion (MJF) to produce parts that save time and money. The presentation, focused on the following drill extraction shoe, was one of most interesting and compelling that I’ve heard from HP. It is used to aid in the manufacture of an HP inkjet printhead.

The image at the far left shows aluminum parts that are conventionally manufactured and assembled to produce what you see in the middle. The optimized design, shown at the right, consolidates eight parts into one and was 3D printed by MJF in PA12. This improved design reduced weight from 575 grams (1.27 lbs) to 52 grams (0.11 lb), a savings of 91%. The cost to produce the drill extraction shoe was reduced from $450 to $18, a savings of 96%, according to HP.

The previous example is what’s possible with methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day, hands-on DfAM course in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Learn more about the August 8-10, 2018 course and register here so that you can Design at Elevation with us and others. Contact Ray Huff at rh@wohlerassociates.com with questions.

The Impact of DfAM

June 16, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

Note: Associate consultant and DfAM expert Olaf Diegel authored the following.

Over the past three decades, the bulk of research in additive manufacturing has largely focused on AM processes and materials. In the last three years, organizations have begun to appreciate the importance of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Funding agencies are increasingly supporting DfAM, and companies are asking for courses on the subject. Over the past 12 months, I have given more than 20 DfAM courses for companies wanting to deepen their knowledge and understanding.

When a part is designed for conventional manufacturing, it is usually more expensive to produce by AM in typical production quantities. This is largely because AM processes are relatively slow compared to conventional methods of manufacturing. However, when a part is redesigned for AM, costs can be competitive or even lower, depending on quantities. Research for Wohlers Report 2018 revealed that 46% of the cost of a metal part is tied to pre- and post-processing. A large part of this cost often involves the production and removal of the support structures, also referred to as anchors. A well-designed part can greatly reduce the need for this support material, which dramatically reduces cost.

Good methods of DfAM can add value to products by making them substantially lighter in weight and enhancing performance using topology optimization, generative design, and lattice structures. Conventionally manufactured products made up of many simple parts can be redesigned to consolidate the assembly into a single part. This reduces part numbers, inventory, and assembly costs. Using methods of mass-customization, products can conform to the individual needs of customers without substantially increasing cost. Knowing how and when to use these techniques require designers and engineers to learn how to design for AM.

One of the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of AM is the lack of knowledge and skills among the design and engineering workforce. Only through DfAM education, training, and best practices will we see significant progress toward the use of AM for production applications. Some organizations are beginning to understand its importance, but a vast amount of work is ahead.

Editor’s note: Wohlers Associates is conducting a three-day course on DfAM in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, with Olaf Diegel as lead instructor. Click here to learn more.

Alan Parsons

June 3, 2018

Filed under: entertainment,event — Terry Wohlers @ 17:06

Note: Thanks to RØDE founder Peter Freedman and CEO Damien Wilson for connecting us with Alan Parsons. (Parsons uses world-class, award-winning microphones from RØDE. He will be gaining access to the latest 3D printing technology that RØDE and Wohlers Associates have been exploring. Some interesting new designs will be produced using an HP Jet Fusion machine, a system RØDE recently installed.)

If you grew up in the 1970s and like good rock ‘n roll music, you’re probably familiar with The Alan Parsons Project. Parsons is a musician, composer, record producer, and director. Among his band’s hits are Eye in the Sky, Games People Play, Sirius, and Time. My 31-song Spotify playlist includes music from the albums Tales of Mystery and Imagination, I Robot, Eye in the Sky, and others. I was introduced to Alan Parsons music in 1977 by good friend Gary James during our first year at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Parsons got his start at age 18 as an audio engineer at Abbey Road Studios in London. The 69-year-old Englishman engineered hit music with Paul McCartney, the Hollies, and Pink Floyd, including The Dark Side of the Moon. He was responsible for adding the brilliant saxophone part in Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat, which is a favorite. Last night’s concert at Levitt Pavilion in Denver, Colorado was the first in series of live performances this summer in the U.S, Mexico, Germany, and Poland. Alan Parsons is so incredibly talented and his band sounded fantastic.

My wife and good friends Bill and Stephanie Beyers were among a few people that spent time back stage with several of the band members. We talked with drummer Danny Thompson and guitarist Dan Tracey and Jeff Kollman, but spent the most time with keyboardist and Grammy Award winner Tom Brooks. We discussed the 3D printing of musical products and described the way the technology works. Our conversation with Parsons himself was brief, but good.

Alan Parsons and other rock legends will not be around forever. We lost Tom Petty and Glenn Frey before I got to see them perform live. My fear is that as these people and bands disappear, new rock ‘n roll musicians will not fill the void. Try to name one current-day rock band with several hits. Maybe a millennial can do it, but I cannot. In the meantime, we need to remind ourselves to take in live performances of renowned bands of the ‘70s such as the one last night.

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