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In-Person Meetings

January 23, 2021

Filed under: event,future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 05:53

I miss in-person meetings and events and you probably do too. Thankfully, Zoom and other video conferencing tools have helped fill the void, but they are not the same. I look forward to informal conversations when bumping into friends and business acquaintances in exhibition hallways and hotel lobbies. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings contribute greatly to forming and strengthening relationships, often leading to new business.

                               

When can we safely meet in person? Honestly, I do not know. The people who know more than me about the vaccine distribution do not know. I am hopeful it will occur in the second half of this year. As of today, I have tentative plans to travel to Africa, Asia, Europe, and within the U.S. A family vacation would be great too. I am sure the airlines, hotels, and ride-sharing services are also hoping that travel turns around in the coming months.

If you have a story to share about your hopes and plans for 2021, please send it to me. I may use it in a future blog commentary, with your permission, of course. Best wishes to you and your colleagues for a healthy and travel-filled second half to 2021.

TIPE 3D Printing 2021

January 11, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 19:03

The TIPE 3D Printing event is less than 2.5 weeks away. (TIPE stands for technology, industry, people, and economics.) The organizer of the January 27-28 virtual conference is Women in 3D Printing. It features an all-female line-up of more than 120 speakers and panelists globally, which I find interesting and is a first. Women in 3D Printing has developed into an organization of more than 75 chapters in 28 countries, representing one of the largest additive manufacturing communities anywhere.

                              

Sara Safari is keynote speaker of the event. She is an author, professor, engineer, and advocate for women empowerment. Sara is clearly a high achiever in more than one way. She has climbed the seven highest peaks on every continent, including Mount   Everest, which I find remarkable. Sara grew up in Iran with few personal freedoms or rights under the law, so I am sure her perspective on an array of subjects will grip one’s attention.

Women in 3D Printing and TIPE serve as inspiration for females of all ages, but especially for those who are young. Seeing what this organization is accomplishing, coupled with the TIPE event, will surely motivate people to learn more about 3D printing and the career opportunities this vibrant industry offers.

Register now for the event. I look forward to seeing you there!

Best Products of 2020

December 28, 2020

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 06:55

Each year, I name my favorite new products. This year, the first three revolve around biking, a safe and invigorating outdoor activity.

Signal Peak bike from Fezzari ($3,250): Fezzari, a direct-to-consumer company, does a fine job with its bikes. I bought two from the company in May, including this rugged mountain bike. I rode it an estimated 45-50 times, the majority involving good mountain trails, with some being quite challenging.

S-Works Power Saddle from Specialized ($300): A major part of this saddle is 3D-printed using technology from Silicon Valley-based Carbon. It is an excellent product, although not inexpensive. It is out of stock, which was the case the last time a checked months ago.

KAC Overdrive Sports bike carrier ($400): This is a good product, especially if you do not want to spend twice as much for a carrier. I was prepared to do it, but better-known brands were out of stock for months. I paid $280, but the higher price is still worth it, in my view. (KAC stands for Kick Ass Carrier.)

                                        

Fire HD 10 Tablet ($150): My favorite products of the year are not all about biking. The Fire tablet version I bought has a 257-mm (10.1-inch), 1080p HD display and 32GB of storage. I use it mostly for reading newspapers and checking weather and snow reports. I like it a lot better than my older iPad.

IPSXP ice/snow crampons ($17): This is my first pair of crampons, so I am unable to compare them to other products. Even so, it is hard to go wrong with this product at such a low price.

LED garage lights ($32): I am not sure how I got by without these lights for so long. You will see and find things in your garage you did not know you had.

AmazonSmile: It is identical to Amazon, except that the company donates a small percentage of your purchase to a charity of your choice at no cost to you. The company is supporting hundreds of thousands of charities, including many relatively small ones. If you use Amazon, use AmazonSmile instead and share a percentage with your favorite charity.

Best wishes to you for a safe and virus-free 2021. I hope it is also filled with new, interesting, and useful products.

Where is My 3D-Printed Gear?

December 13, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:47

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

With snow falling outside, I am often looking at my snowboarding equipment. It is all traditionally manufactured, along with all my outdoor gear. Where are the 3D-printed products?

It is easy to find 3D printers close to the engineers working at manufacturing companies that produce outdoor gear. For decades, many have used additive manufacturing to support modeling, prototyping, design validation, and testing. However, it is difficult to find more than a handful of products from these companies being manufactured by 3D printing.

Most outdoor gear is produced by conventional manufacturing due to the economies of scale. When I worked at Burton, 3D-printed bindings, goggles, and helmets were tested and validated in real-world settings. However, once a design was finished, tooling was made and the parts were manufactured with traditional methods such as injection molding.

The following image shows a concept snowboard binding that was designed with the help of AI and 3D printed on an HP Jet Fusion machine. It provides an opportunity to apply methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) to create intricate designs with less material. However, it may be some time before this binding is at your local ski shop due to the higher costs associated with 3D printing.

                                           

To make 3D-printed parts commercially viable, companies will need to make some fundamental changes. Methods of DfAM are key to improving designs that take advantage of 3D printing’s strengths. Topology optimization was likely used in the pictured binding, which is good. However, I believe few parts were consolidated digitally and printed as one. This can dramatically reduce cost.

The outdoor industry could gain from personalizing products to fit and perform better for a user. Customers will pay a premium for this. Most challenges related to using AM for final part production can and will be solved in time. However, not all parts and products are a good fit for AM. Even so, to survive and thrive, countless manufacturers worldwide will develop the expertise and capacity needed to produce new types of products that are commercially appealing and perform better due to the benefits of AM.

Thanks for Giving

November 27, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 14:26

The term “Thanksgiving” dates back to the 1530s. According to Macmillan Dictionary, it was formed by combining the noun “thanks,” taken from the Old English “þanc,” which means “grateful thought,” and the verb “give.” I see it simply as “thanks for giving” and to be thankful for what you have.

This year has been a challenging one, to put it mildly. It is easy to point to many problems and difficulties. At this time, I urge you to be thankful for all of those who have given so much and the blessings that many of us enjoy. I am especially thankful for:

  • healthcare providers who are risking their lives as they help so many
  • members of the military for protecting our democracy
  • those who contribute to food banks, homeless shelters, and countless other charitable organizations
  • companies who are doing their best to keep their employees and customers safe by respecting the rules of a pandemic
  • clients, partners, employees, contractors, Wohlers Report contributors, press/media, and others who have supported Wohlers Associates for 33 years

                                       

On a more personal note, I am thankful for:

  • my wife for all that she does and for tolerating me when she is used to having time for herself when I am traveling ~20 times a year
  • our kids and their spouses and children for the many family get-togethers and the fun and laughter we share
  • friends for meeting to mountain bike, ski, and socialize outdoors
  • a roof over our heads, nourishing food, and overall good health

Please take a moment to create a list of what you are thankful for, literally or in your mind. It helps to put things into perspective and focus on the positives things in life.

Print Often, Learn Fast

November 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 11:52

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Years ago, 3D printing was generally referred to as rapid prototyping. Then and now, engineers and designers often experience inherent gaps between a 3D computer model and a physical part. 3D printing can turn an idea into reality and quickly expose mistakes, saving time and money.

A physical model or prototype does not need to be a complete part or idea. Depending on the application, the critical feature of the part may be the location of a hole or spacing for the cables to prevent pinching. These are critical features that one can quickly test with a small 3D-printed part. If you break down these critical features into individual elements, you can prototype them quickly and learn immediately.

A 3D printer can be a great investment for a company, designer, or engineer. A 3D-printed part can take minutes or hours, depending on the size of the part and the machine used. When a part is in your hands, you can learn from it in seconds. Learning also occurs from simulations and CAD models, but a 3D-printed part brings a concept to reality. With a physical part, one can learn more about its actual size, weight, ergonomics, and how it fits to mating parts. Also, a part makes it possible to test the ease or difficulty in assembly and disassembly. Some of this can be done using CAD, but you can learn so much more when you have a part in your hands.

                                                   

I once designed sunglasses that fold to the size of my palm. The idea was to consolidate 17 parts into one by designing for additive manufacturing. I questioned tolerances, the hinge, and the entire concept. Before continuing to move ahead with the design, I segmented the hinge and printed it. The print took 26 minutes and cost $0.19 in material on a small filament-based, material extrusion machine. I very quickly learned that the proposed design did not work, which saved me hours because I was able to immediately adjust the design. By 3D printing a small segment of a new product, I was able to learn so much in less than 30 minutes and at little cost.

Newest Member of Wohlers Associates

November 1, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 20:28

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

I produced my first 3D-printed part while working at Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vermont. The part is shown in the following image. Its purpose was to test transforming rotation into linear motion. I found a concept online, made a quick model of it in SolidWorks, and sent it to my mentor at Burton for his review. That Friday, I stayed late to learn how to load the part into the machine. Also, I waited to see the first layers of nylon spread across the build platform of the powder bed fusion system. On Monday, I arrived early to learn how to break out parts from the build. My first 3D-printed part was hidden between components for prototype bindings and goggles.

                                                        

The concept was not going to work for our application, but that was okay. It showed me how much and quickly one can learn from a physical concept model or prototype part. Since that day nearly four years ago, I have used 3D printing to prototype many new concepts and manufacture parts.

After leaving Vermont, I moved out to Colorado and was employed by 3D Systems Healthcare in Littleton. I worked my way up from a data entry job to becoming a biomedical engineer, designing craniomaxillofacial reconstruction surgeries. You can read about these types of procedures on pages 33–37 of Wohlers Report 2020. After nearly two years at the company, I was driven to learn more about additive manufacturing and enrolled in a master’s program on Advanced Manufacturing at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, not far from where I was working. I have learned from some of the best in the industry and been exposed to a wide range of new ideas and technologies. I am excited to bring my experience from academia, biomedicine, and sporting goods to Wohlers Associates. Also, I look forward to learning so much more.

                                                     

Away from the computer, I am an avid outdoorsman who enjoys traveling and getting into the colorful Colorado mountains. This lifestyle can be traced back to hiking through the woods of Akron, Ohio where I grew up. I am especially passionate about snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fly fishing, and cooking. Interestingly, 3D printing is enhancing these industries, which makes them even more attractive to me. In fact, I have designed and printed a few personal parts to test new ideas. However, just like my first 3D-printed part, the initial prototypes are usually not the ideal solution. With every print, I am learning and improving, and someday, perhaps I will see one of my ideas become commercially available.

Women in 3D Printing

October 18, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:29

Women in 3D Printing, a non-profit organization, was formed in 2014 by Nora Toure of Fast Radius. In just five years, she helped build it into a community of more than 10,000 women worldwide. From the beginning, it has been her ambition to share stories of women helping to shape the additive manufacturing industry. Based on my experience over the past 30+ years, women are dramatically underrepresented in product development and manufacturing worldwide. In fact, the ratio may be close to 10:1, although it has improved slightly in recent years. Women in 3D Printing seeks to close this gender-gap in additive manufacturing. I fully support this goal of a better balance of women and men.

I have known about Women in 3D Printing for years, but it was not until November 2019 that I attended an activity by the organization. It was a panel session as part of the 20th annual RAPDASA conference and exhibition in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (RAPDASA stands for the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa.) The panel was led by Malika Khodja of Tiziri. She serves as the African chair of Women in 3D Printing and is also a contributor to Wohlers Report 2020. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and quality of information shared at this engaging session.

                                  

The organization is showcasing, celebrating, and profiling the work of women leaders worldwide. They include engineers, business professionals, teachers, researchers, artists, and designers. Women in 3D Printing is creating a notable list of global events, gatherings, panel sessions, and company tours. Much of the work is conducted by its local ambassadors and regional chairs, such as Malika. Its many chapters meet regularly and encourage an inclusive and diverse AM workforce. The organization has created a database of female speakers, platform for hiring, industry surveys, reports, and an annual TIPE global conference, which is January 27-28, 2021. (TIPE stands for Technology, Industry, People, and Economics.)

I applaud and endorse the work of Women in 3D Printing. Many closest to the organization are “Rock Stars in 3D Printing,” in my view. In a spirit of support, Wohlers Associates recently became a corporate member and TIPE sponsor. Women in 3D Printing has become one of the most influential and largest AM communities worldwide. I urge you to support the important work of this impressive and fast-growing organization.

Autodesk

October 3, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 05:47

In 1983, I called Autodesk and the vice president of marketing and sales answered the phone. I was employed by Colorado State University at the time. I requested free use of AutoCAD version 1.3 in a 500-level CAD course I was planning to conduct later that year. He said, “Yes” and provided the software. It turned out to be what we believe was the first university credit course on the subject worldwide.

Autodesk was launched a year earlier, so the company was small. Even so, it was vibrant, progressive, and gaining attention and traction. The IBM PC was introduced in 1981, so the software and hardware combination offered a new platform to millions that could not otherwise afford or justify CAD. I recall people saying that AutoCAD offered 60% of the capabilities of “conventional” CAD at one-tenth the price.

In 1984, I had the privilege of meeting Autodesk founder John Walker here in Fort Collins, Colorado. He attended our first International Forum on Micro-based CAD. We had one international guest, but we later found out he was from Iowa working as a theater set designer at the Malmö Stadseater theater in Sweden. The forum continued for five consecutive years, with the fourth and fifth events in North Carolina and England. I credit Autodesk as the main sponsor for helping us get it off the ground.

                    

In the 1980s and well in to the 90s, Autodesk did not receive the respect some of us felt it deserved. Many clung to the idea of needing to invest in expensive hardware and software to get “real” CAD. Options back then were from the likes of Auto-trol, CADAM, Calma, Computervision, Intergraph, and Tektronix. Eventually, most of these companies did not survive the assault brought on by Autodesk and others offering less expensive alternatives. With Moore’s Law at work, CAD on a PC became more powerful at an exponential rate. As a result, companies offering the more expensive systems went out of business or morphed into something else.

Fast-forward 35+ years. At nearly $3.3 billion in fiscal 2020, Autodesk’s has risen to unthinkable heights. It the largest 3D modeling software company in the world, according to Autodesk. The company offers 140 products, including software for additive manufacturing and 3D printing. I certainly would not have guessed the company would become so incredibly successful, although some of us could tell it was doing something special back in the 1980s. A few things needed to line up for real change to occur. This is one case in which many elements came together and provided a new price-to-performance ratio that brought significant benefits to millions of designers and engineers worldwide. Similar benefits developed many years later when designers and engineers gained access to affordable 3D printing.

Game Day Series

September 19, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:35

America Makes’ Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates concluded last week. The four events spanned four months and covered a range of key topics related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. In all, 728 people worldwide attended the events.

Last week’s focus on the future of AM was an excellent conclusion to the series. Top managers and executives from five major industrial sectors shared their views of the future. The immense knowledge and experience among the panelists, coupled with great chemistry among them, resulted in a wealth of inspiring comments. YouTube videos of the four 90-minute panel discussions are now available.

GAME DAY 1
America Makes COVID-19 Response

GAME DAY 2
How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing

GAME DAY 3
The Economics, Opportunities, and Challenges of Designing for AM

GAME DAY 4
The Future of Additive Manufacturing

                     

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the four events, including Link3D for hosting them on the Remo conferencing platform. I hope everyone learned as much as I did.

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