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Big AM Investments Continue

August 27, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future,Money — Terry Wohlers @ 06:44

The additive manufacturing and 3D printing industry is not short on money. Since early June, we’ve stumbled across five new investments that total more than $260 million. For example, French investment bank Bpifrance announced that it is investing €45+ million over the next five years in an initiative to develop advanced processes in the country’s AM industry. Meanwhile, the government of the Netherlands said that it will invest €134 million into research projects focused on AM.

dutch-flag

In late June, it was announced that Norway’s Norsk Titanium secured $25 million in a round of funding to help expand operations. The investment follows the inclusion of $125 million in the 2016 New York State budget to support the development of Norsk Titanium’s Plattsburgh, New York factory. In early July, Desktop Metal stated that it had received commitments for investments from GE Ventures and Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures. Little is known publicly about the company’s technology, but the company has secured a total of $52 million from investors thus far. About a month later, Formlabs said that it had raised $35 million, with Autodesk being one of the investors.

Much of the $260+ million spans multiple years, yet it’s still a significant amount of money from just two months of announcements from only five organizations. It is possible, even likely, that many additional large investments have occurred recently, but have been kept private. This activity is stimulating, especially given that we did not see anything like it many years ago. What’s more, I have every reason to believe that it will continue, especially given the insight we are receiving from some of our client companies, many representing some of the largest brands in the world. It is an exciting time to be a part of this industry.

RØDE Microphones

August 15, 2016

Two of our consultants and I have had the privilege of visiting RØDE Microphones of Sydney, Australia. RØDE is a manufacturer of world-class microphone products for studio recording, performances, video broadcasts, and live interviews. It also manufactures microphones for presenters (lavalier and button mics) and smart phones. Over the past nearly two years, we have worked with RØDE and learned a great deal about the company and its products. Peter Freedman, managing director and chief executive, has given permission to disclose and discuss our relationship publicly.

RØDE hires some of the best people in Australia and other parts of the world. The company has offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. Most of the Australian employees we’ve met are young, bright, and energetic. Freedman is the driver of new products, is constantly pushing the limits, and is the heart and soul of the company. RØDE is running $30 million in precision equipment, including a considerable number of new machines that were installed since we’ve started working together. Freedman seeks to be among the best of the best in the design and manufacturing of microphones. And, it shows by the company’s strong growth in recent years.

rode

I feel lucky to be able to work with great companies such as RØDE and people like Freedman and his team. He always has a can-do attitude and is constantly looking for new and better ways for product development and manufacturing. Over our 29 years in business, I have worked with a few people and organizations that find reasons why you cannot do something and serve as obstacles to progress. Fortunately, most of the people that we’ve encountered have the right spirit and outlook. Engineering consultant, futurist, and friend Joel Orr once said, “Success breeds success.” I could not agree more, and RØDE is a company that is producing a lot of it.

GE’s New AM Center

August 1, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Manufacturing,Review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:45

In April 2016, GE opened its new Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA), located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 11,613-sq meter (125,000-sq ft) facility was designed to drive innovation and adoption of additive manufacturing across the company’s major businesses. They include Aviation, Energy Connections, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, Power, Renewable Energy, Transportation, and Current, powered by GE. CATA houses multiple AM machines from EOS, SLM Solutions, Stratasys, and ExOne. They are complimented by many CNC machining centers, EDM, heat treatment chambers, and other equipment. Space is available that would essentially double the number of machines and processes at the facility.

I toured CATA last Thursday and found it to be jaw-dropping impressive. It will almost guarantee an acceleration of knowledge and understanding of AM for production applications within the company. Having spent time with GE employees from several businesses over the years, I can say without reservation that many have solid AM experience. Even so, company management would be first to admit that the opportunity to grow and expand expertise across the 305,000-employee corporation is vast. CATA will help the company get there more quickly. Work at the facility is focused on mid technology readiness levels (i.e., TRL 4-7).

cata

GE advanced its position in AM when it acquired Morris Technologies, and its sister company, Rapid Quality Manufacturing, in November 2012. Greg Morris, then CEO and owner of the company, is the leader of Additive Technologies at GE Aviation. In 2013, GE Aviation announced that it had developed a 3D-printed fuel nozzle for its new LEAP engine. The attention received by the nozzle, which is now in production, has been an inspiration to countless organizations worldwide. Airbus was the first to receive LEAP engines, each with 19 nozzles, in April 2016 for the A320neo aircraft.

GE is making a big investment in additive manufacturing. However, it has shown few new designs since the public announcement of the fuel nozzle program. In my view, it is time for the company to show another advanced and exciting design for AM to serve as further inspiration inside and outside the company. It would make a bold statement and show the company’s leadership in the adoption and advancement of AM technology.

CATA is located about an hour from America Makes, which is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. Other key organizations close to CATA are Alcoa, ATI, Carpenter Technology, ExOne, Lincoln Electric, and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. Universities include Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Pennsylvania State, University of Pittsburgh, and Youngstown State. These organizations were a factor in choosing the location for CATA, a $40-million facility that signals how important AM has become at GE. The world-class facility will likely serve as a model for other large corporations globally.

Dear Leader

July 17, 2016

Filed under: Life,Review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:06

Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung takes you on an incredible journey. In this international bestselling book, Jang detailed what he and a friend encountered to reach China from North Korea. Eventually, he made it to South Korea where he lives today. Along the way, he discussed the horrible conditions in North Korea and the nauseating behavior of three generations of the Kim dynasty, spanning from 1948 to current leader Kim Jong-un.

dear-leader

Author Jang Jin-sung served as a North Korean State Poet Laureate, an elite position that permitted face-to-face interaction with Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong-un’s father and previous leader). Kim’s extravagant and repulsive lifestyle, told by Jang Jin-sung, is intriguing and sad. The escape involved remarkable encounters with North Korean and Chinese authorities, hunger, and bitter cold conditions, sometimes with little shelter.

The book is excellent and I recommend it highly. Not only does it grasp your attention, it provides astonishing insight into the North Korean government and everyday life in the country. Jang Jin-sung provides a sliver of hope for the country’s future as a small but growing number of North Koreans learn about life in other parts of the world.

North Korea

July 2, 2016

Filed under: Life,Travel — Terry Wohlers @ 16:07

I visited the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) last week. It is a strip of land that was created at the end of the Korean War in 1953 to buffer North Korea from South Korea. The 4 km (2.5 mile) wide area is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Visiting the DMZ is the closest that most people will ever get to North Korea. Scheduling a visit requires a special guide and a minimum of a few days to set up. My passport was checked by DMZ officials a minimum of four times.

As part of the conflict with South Korea, the North Koreans created four deep tunnels in an effort to secretly move its military from the north to the south. We were able to enter and go as far as possible through the third tunnel (pictured below, left), which the South Koreans discovered in 1978. The tunnel is 1.6 km (1 mile) long and 73 meters (240 feet) deep. Its intended purpose was to enable a surprise attack on Seoul. It could handle the transfer of an astonishing 30,000 soldiers per hour. North Korea is not happy with the fact that they built the tunnels and South Korea is cashing in on them from fees that people are paying to enter them.

dmz

As much as I wanted to see some of North Korea, I saw little. The skies were overcast and hazy the day we visited, so we could not see far. Even so, we were able to use stationary binoculars to see a bit of the countryside (pictured above, right) and some buildings. At this special vantage point, we were allowed to take pictures, but only if we stood behind a line that was about 10 m (33 feet) from the wall shown in the above picture.

A fake village, complete with nicely painted houses, a school, and even a hospital, was built by the North Koreans to give visitors of the DMZ the illusion that the country is healthy and thriving—contrary to everything I had heard and read about North Korea. The buildings are nothing but facades with no glass in the windows, lights that operate with timers, and maintenance workers that sweep the streets to show activity, although I did not see any.

I’m currently about two-thirds of the way through Dear Leader: My Escape from North Korea by Jang Jin-sung, a North Korean that fled the country and lived to write about it. Most do not. The book is a fascinating account of what it’s like to live in a country where people are unable to communicate freely and are banned from basic privileges, such as travel, that we enjoy and often take for granted. During this Independence Day weekend, I sincerely thank all of those associated with our U.S. military and defense program for protecting our freedom.

I recently purchased North Korea Undercover: Inside the World’s Most Secret State by John Sweeney. Like Dear Leader, it received good reviews, so I’m sure it will reveal more of the repression, cruelty, and unfortunate state of North Korea.

Small Town USA

June 19, 2016

Filed under: Life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

I grew up in a rural Nebraska town of about 2,000 residents. I like to tell others that it’s a good place to be from. Would I want to live there now? Probably not, but only because we have become accustomed to what larger places have to offer. Also, small towns in central Nebraska can be hours away from a major airport, which is problematic when traveling often.

Small towns definitely have charm that you cannot find in larger communities. Almost everyone knows everyone else, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. When driving the streets and surrounding country roads, people waive, even if they do not know you. People not familiar with this small-town hospitality may find it perplexing.

In some ways, returning to my home town of St. Paul feels like stepping back in time. The pace of life is slower and more relaxing, which is good, especially when I’m there and away from work. Life is simpler and choices are more limited. Going to a fine restaurant, for example, is 70 km (45 miles) round-trip, so it does not happen often. Theaters and other forms of entertainment are equally as far away, with the exception of local sports and other small-town events, such as festivals and county fairs.

Four generations of Wohlers lived in the St. Paul area and I was the first to move away. It was in 1981 when my bride and I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, for a graduate program at Colorado State University. The plan was to stay until completion, but then return to Nebraska. We never did.

Many decades earlier, my great grandfather, Fred Wohlers, Jr., chose to stay to serve as local a carpenter. He built one of the nicer homes in St. Paul, which is pictured in the following (left).

st-paul

My mother’s first cousin, Dorothy Lynch, was also a local resident. She created the popular Dorothy Lynch French-style salad dressing more than 50 years ago. As a small child, I recall seeing her fill bottles of the salad dressing in a small, one-room building (above, right) located across the street from our home. The location maintains her name to this day, but serves as a hair salon. The Dorothy Lynch product was purchased many years ago and is produced and distributed from another small Nebraska town.

My wife and I like to return to our Nebraska hometowns to see family and friends. She is from Lexington where we attended her high school class reunion last night. When returning to our hometowns, we often discuss the past and catch up on what everyone is doing. Sadly, a growing number are “missing in action” and a percentage of them are deceased. I would not trade my past for anything, but we always look forward to returning to Colorado—our home for the past 35+ years—even with the more hectic lifestyle.

Lundeen Sculpture

June 5, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:20

I had the pleasure of visiting Lundeen Sculpture in Loveland, Colorado, last week. The company produces world-class sculptures of about everything imaginable. The “sweet spot” at the company is the recreation of people and animals with spectacular precision and realism. The sculpting is done mostly by the Lundeen family, including Bets, George, Mark, their cousin Ann LaRose, and Joey Bainer, an unrelated sculptor. I first met Nelse Lundeen a few years ago. He handles accounting and other business issues at the company.

George Lundeen founded the company in the mid 1970s and was our host, along with Nelse. (My wife and two friends joined me on the tour.) George showed us many beautifully-crafted bronze versions of famous people, such as astronaut Jack Swigert, which is on display at Denver International Airport, and Dan Marino, a former Miami Dolphins quarterback that was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. The Marino sculpture is on display at the Dolphins stadium in Miami.

George told an amusing story of his daughter, a big Marino fan. George asked her to visit the company after school, but did not tell her that Marino was present. When she arrived, Marino walked around the corner to her astonishment and addressed her by name. I can’t imagine how big of a surprise it was to her.

lundeen

The company is working on a two-year project involving the creation of the Stations of the Cross, which depicts Jesus Christ and others on the day of his crucifixion. Each station involves incredibly detailed clay sculptures that end up being larger-than-life bronze works of art. The effort is being sponsored by billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder and former chairman and CEO of TD Ameritrade, a large discount brokerage located in Omaha, Nebraska. He is building a Christian retreat center named The Cloisters on the Platte on 930 acres near Omaha. (The Platte is a major river running through the state.) The retreat will include the bronze Stations of the Cross.

George showed us the many clay sculptures that are underway for the Stations of the Cross project. Each are being 3D scanned, scaled up, and 3D-printed using a machine from Voxeljet. He explained that the process of scanning and printing is saving a dramatic amount of time. The 3D-printed patterns are shipped to the Lundeen team for inspection and light work and then delivered to a Loveland foundry for investment casting. The bronze castings are then  assembled, welded, and finished into their final form. George allowed me to take many pictures, but asked that I not put them on the Internet. A good video, co-produced by Analise Lundeen, shows much of the work and is found here.

SME’s RAPID 2016

May 21, 2016

I attended this week’s RAPID 2016 in Orlando, Florida. As usual, the conference and exposition were excellent. An estimated 5,190 attended the event, compared to 4,512 last year. Exhibit space increased to 4,153 sq meters (44,700 sq ft), up from 2,903 sq meters (31,250 sq ft) last year. The following are a few highlights of the event:

● HP introduced and showed its Jet Fusion 3200 and 4200 3D printers for the first time publicly. The machines are capable of addressing 340 million voxels per second in thermoplastic materials, such as PA12. They are 10 times faster and operate at half the cost of competitive systems, according to HP. The systems are mostly open, which means they support third-party materials at competitive prices.

heart

● Renishaw showed its new RenAM 500M machine that produces metal parts. The engineering is impressive. Meanwhile, 3D Systems displayed its new ProX DMP 320 machine for producing metal parts. It is based on technology developed by Belgium-based LayerWise, which was acquired by 3D Systems in 2014.

● Xjet of Israel introduced its NanoParticle Jetting technology. It uses inkjet printing to produce parts in stainless steel and silver. The parts are small, but the feature detail is good.

● Event organizer SME hosted a fashion show that featured entirely new 3D-printed designs. Many were impressive. I have now attended five fashion shows that highlight 3D-printed products and it’s remarkable how far the designs have advanced in a few years.

fashion-show

Congrats to SME for another great event, which continues to improve year after year. With increasing applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing for final part production, the event has the opportunity to grow much larger in the future.

RAPID 2017 will be held May 8-11 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Add it to your calendar and plan to attend.

Premium AEROTEC

May 6, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:30

Last week, I visited Premium AEROTEC, a 10,000-employee company that is 100% owned by Airbus. The company has several locations in Germany, including Varel, the site that I visited. This is where Premium AEROTEC has installed its first four metal additive manufacturing machines, including the large X line 1000R system from Concept Laser. It served as the backdrop for the stage, as shown in the following picture. The machine was running, along with two M2 machines from Concept Laser during the one-day event. The large machine is being swapped for the newer X line 2000R later this month.

premium-aerotec

Premium AEROTEC is serving a key role in the series production of AM parts for cabin, fuselage, and other systems for Airbus. The approval by the authorities for air worthiness, a major milestone, was achieved in March 2016. Thus far, Premium AEROTEC has secured suppliers with total capacity of about 40 metal AM machines. Companies, such as Materialise, have set up manufacturing facilities nearby and are buying metal AM equipment with the hope of serving as a supplier. I had the chance to visit the new Materialise AM production facility in Bremen and was impressed by what’s already in place, coupled with its near-future growth plans. Many more machines will need to be added to the Airbus supply chain for it to meet its goal of producing 30 tons of metal AM parts monthly by December 2018.

More than 100 people attended the special Premium AEROTEC event. I was asked to speak on the state of the additive manufacturing industry and provide highlights and details from the recently published Wohlers Report 2016. I spoke 70 minutes to an enthusiastic crowd, followed by questions from many people in the room. Click here if you are interested in reading a recent article on Premium AEROTEC and the April 26 event.

Peter Sander, Head of Emerging Technologies & Concepts at Airbus, was my host during my stay in Bremen and Hamburg. The day after visiting Premium AEROTEC, Peter arranged to have me speak to a group of about 150 Airbus employees in Hamburg. The one-hour presentation was also broadcast live to an additional 150 people at Airbus sites in Bremen (Germany), Toulouse (France), Getafe (Spain), and Filton (UK). I was surprised but happy to see so many young people in the audience, several of which introduced themselves to me after the presentation. I could tell that they are clearly very excited about the potential of AM. The presentation was held in the new and impressive ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research at Airbus, which is pictured below.

zal

My time in Germany could not have gone better, thanks to Peter Sander and his team. Thanks also to Dr. Thomas Ehm, Chairman of Premium AEROTEC, and Gerd Weber, Site Manager for the Varel location, for their warm welcome and kind words. They rolled out the red carpet for my visit and I appreciate it very much.

New Associate

April 23, 2016

Filed under: Life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:32

Hailey Wohlers is the newest member of Wohlers Associates. She was was born in October 2015, and recently turned six months of age. Hailey is also our first grandchild and we could not be happier. To be totally honest, I had mixed feelings about becoming a granddad, only because I viewed my grandfathers as being old. This feeling immediately vanished the moment I set eyes on her. A good friend from college (Wally) said that grandchildren will change you and he is right: she has, and will continue to do so, I’m certain.

hailey

I will stop the mushy stuff and get to the heart of the matter. What can a six-month-old bring to Wohlers Associates? More than you can imagine. If you’re having a mediocre day or worse, Hailey improves it quickly. She puts a smile on your face, guaranteed. The day’s problems and challenges quickly fade when spending time with her, even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time.

Hailey brings youth to our 29-year-old company. She dramatically brings down the average age of our employees and team of consultants. She has replaced our previously youngest (former student intern Tyler Hudson), who graduated from Colorado State University and is now employed elsewhere full time. It will take some time before Hailey can fill his shoes, but we will enormously enjoy the time with her until then.

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