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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.

Wohlers Report Published

April 9, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 17:13

I’m happy to announce that Wohlers Report 2016 was published this week. It is the 21st annual edition of our state of the industry report on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. We received tremendous support from many people and organizations, including 80 co-authors and experts in 33 countries. They contributed very important sections and provided great insight from their regions of the world.

Senior consultant and principal author Tim Caffrey was vital to this year’s report (once again). He has a special ability to efficiently find “nuggets of gold” from an avalanche of “news” that is often questionable. Associate consultant and new principal author Ian Campbell played an important role for the second consecutive year. I sincerely thank both of them for helping to produce a report that offers depth, breadth, and detail unmatched by others.

WohlersHorizontal.indd

I am also grateful to the 98 service providers, 51 system manufacturers, and 15 third-party material producers for responding to our requests for detailed information. Year after year, companies provide quantitative, and sometimes sensitive, data that we compile and use to produce industry-wide totals and trend lines that benefit the entire industry. Without their support, we could not produce many of the more than 100 charts, graphs, and tables that are spread across the report’s 335 pages. We did our very best again this year to be short on words but long on information.

The report has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for two decades. We are flattered when people refer to it as the “bible” of 3D printing. I am grateful to them, our customers, and the many people that supported the development of this edition. We are very lucky to have what we believe is the largest group of friends and contacts in the 3D printing industry—a network that spans 28 years.

Passwords

March 26, 2016

Filed under: Internet,Life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:29

We have become bombarded with usernames and passwords. What does one do with all of them? More importantly, what is the best strategy for creating new passwords? I’ve learned the hard way, so I am passing along what might help you to prevent a problem or worse.

Make passwords long and complex. An example is k7*S+4c2$8R. Strength checkers, such as passwordmeter.com, will score a password on a scale of 1 to 100. I would not enter a real password, but you can try something similar by substituting like characters. Short and simple passwords, such as “sunnyday” are easy to crack.

passwords

In 2011, according to Wikipedia, commercially available products could test up to 2.8 billion passwords a second on a standard desktop computer. This means it’s possible to crack an all upper or lower case password of 10 characters in one day. Today’s computing is much faster.

Using the same password for multiple accounts is ill-advised. Make each one different, long, and complex. Managing all them is another issue. Password managers are available, although I have not used any of them, partly because our IT guy is not a fan of ’em. Those that are highly ranked by PC Magazine are Dashline 4 and LastPass 4.0 Premium.

Bottom line: do not take passwords lightly. Make them complex by mixing upper and lower case letters, numbers, and odd characters such as @#$^()=?><!~%*+&. And, make them long. For each character you add, the strength of the password improves exponentially. (It’s not linear.) Having an account hacked due to a short and simple password can make your life miserable, and it can be expensive too.

Spear Phishing

March 13, 2016

Filed under: Internet,Legal,Life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:11

Phishing is the use of email to capture usernames, passwords, credit card or bank details, and other information, for malicious reasons. The email gives the appearance that it’s from a person or organization you know, hoping that you will click a link in the email or open an attachment. You have probably received one or more of these emails, so I hope you have not fallen victim to any of them.

cyber

Spear phishing is similar, but takes the concept to another level. The email may open up by saying, “Terry, I’m sorry I missed you at last week’s event in Los Angeles. I wanted to show you the following,” with a link waiting for you to click. Alternatively, it might ask you to open an attached file. The email may include other personal details, leading you to believe it is person in your field or a friend. Due to this personalization, a percentage of people will fall for the trick and click on the link or open the file. The consequences can be dire.

My advice is to question all emails. If you receive an unexpected email like the one above, reply with a question that a stranger could not answer. For example, say, “I want to validate the authenticity of your email, so can you say what I was wearing that day?” Whatever you choose to ask, make it impossible to answer, unless the person is genuine. The bottom line: be careful because phishing and spear phishing can cause significant damage.

Mattel’s New ThingMaker

February 27, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,Entertainment,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:36

I’m old enough to remember the Creepy Crawler ThingMaker of the 1960s. I did not own one, but a neighbor friend did, and we made many plastic worms and bugs with it. We had fun with the simple product, even though we were limited to the shapes available from the small molds that came with it.

Fast forward a half century to two weeks ago. At the New York Toy Fair, Mattel announced that it is introducing a new ThingMaker that takes advantage of 3D printing. Price: $299. For me, this is an exciting announcement, given that I have put considerable thought into the idea over the past two decades. I even ran it by film producer James Cameron back in 2010 and he liked it.

thingmaker

Sure wish I could take credit for the idea, but I cannot. In the 1990s, Charles (Chuck) Johnson, then with the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, shared with me a future vision of 3D printing. He imagined a child waking up on a weekend morning and going to the kitchen for breakfast. The child switches on a device and then pours dry cereal, such as Cheerios, into it. She then pours milk into a reservoir inside the device. Viewing a small display, she selects a number of digital action figures that’s available and then readies the small machine.

The 3D printer grinds the cereal into fine powder and spreads it, as a print head jets milk for binder, layer by layer. If you’ve ever spilled milk, you know that it becomes sticky as it dries. After minutes of printing, she removes the action figures from the bed of powder, brushes them off, and then eats them.

Mattel’s new ThingMaker does not work like this, but it has a chance of becoming as popular as what Johnson had envisioned so many years ago. Over the past, I’ve shared his story with many groups and most found it interesting. Perhaps the new ThingMaker, slated to become available in October, will be a stepping stone toward Johnson’s cereal printer.

Autodesk has partnered with Mattel to provide software and an easy way to create 3D content—a key to success, in my opinion. So, stay tuned. It could be the beginning of something big.

NextEngine 3D Scanner

February 13, 2016

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,Review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:59

When NextEngine introduced its first 3D scanner at SolidWorks World 2006, it got my attention. The product is based on the company’s patented MultiStripe Laser Triangulation (MLT) technology. At the time, it was the lowest priced scanner of its kind. If my memory serves me correctly, the price of the new Ultra HD version is the same as it was back then (base price of $2,995), yet the scan quality is now far better.

The small Ultra HD unit is capable of 268,000 points per 6.5 sq cm (1 sq inch), which is very good for such a low-cost product. NextEngine publishes an accuracy of +/- 0.125 mm (0.005 inch), although it is capable of +/- 0.025 mm (0.001 inch) accuracy under optimal conditions, according to Dan Gustafson, director of marketing at the Santa Monica, California company. When running the scanner in “Optional Extended Range Mode,” which covers a scan envelope of 55.9 x 41.9 x 27.9 cm (22 x 16.5 x 11 inches), accuracy is +/- 1.14 mm (0.045 inch).

An interesting tool for comparing low-cost 3D scanning options is located here. Click each of the models near the bottom of the window and play around with them. When selecting one, it splits the window into quadrants, as shown in the following example, with each representing a different scanning solution. Click and drag the circle at the center to increase or decrease the size of the quadrants. Click the small circles near the bottom to create different views of the 3D model.

nextengine

The functionality built into the NextEngine website is one of the best and most effective I’ve seen for comparing products. My only suggestion would be to include at least one product that is priced similarly or higher than the Ultra HD scanner. Other than that, the people at NextEngine have nailed it. Congratulations to NextEngine for 10 years of commercializing low-cost 3D scanning products based on MLT technology.

Nano Dimension

February 2, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 07:07

Nano Dimension is an Israeli company that is producing a 3D printer for making printed circuit boards. The machine and sample PCBs are on display at SolidWorks World 2016 here in Dallas, Texas. The dual printhead machine uses material jetting technology to deposit photopolymer as the base material and a silver nanoparticle ink for the conductive traces.

The printhead deposits the silver in layers that are 2 microns in thickness. It took about 75 minutes to print the circuit board pictured in the following. Light is used to fully cure the photopolymer and sinter the silver.

nano-dimension

The build volume of the machine is 20 x 20 x 0.3 cm (7.9 x 7.9 x 0.12 inches). In the future, the company hopes to increase the Z dimension to permit the printing of circuits that are fully integrated into a design.

Nano Dimension’s software accepts standard PCB Gerber design files, as well as STEP, JPG, and TIFF files. The company is hoping that SolidWorks Corp. and other companies will develop software that takes advantage of the machine’s capabilities.

The company expects to commercialize and ship machines later this year.

Popularity of FDM

January 17, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 08:29

Since the early 2000s, fused deposition modeling (FDM)—more formally referred to as material extrusion by ASTM and ISO—has been the most popular additive manufacturing and 3D printing process worldwide. In 2003, Stratasys sold nearly as many FDM machines as all other AM machines combined, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2004. In 2006, Stratasys was responsible for 54.7% (1,723) of all AM systems sold.

2007 was a turning point for FDM technology, although few people knew it at the time. This was when the RepRap project, an open-source effort on FDM technology, began to gain traction. It coincided with the expiration of key FDM foundation patents held by Stratasys. We believe that 66 low-cost (under $5,000) FDM clones were sold in 2007, but the number of these products grew to an estimated 139,584 by 2014, based on our research for Wohlers Report 2015. To give some appreciation for this growth, 12,850 industrial AM machines, priced at more than $5,000, were sold in 2014.

fdm

Two people are responsible for the popularity of FDM technology. First is Scott Crump, the inventor of FDM and co-founder of Stratasys. His pioneering work in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to the commercialization of the technology. Without his efforts, the industry might look quite different than it does today. Second is Adrian Bowyer, the person that started the RepRap project. No one knew at the time that it would serve as the foundation for hundreds of start-up companies that would produce and sell FDM clones around the world.

Earlier this month, it was announced that RepRapPro, a company that Bowyer founded, was shutting down. In some ways, Bowyer was a victim of his own success. Over the recent past, we have told others that we believe 300+ companies are producing and selling FDM clones worldwide. A knowledgeable and well-connected person I spoke with in Shanghai last month said that as many as 1,000 FDM clone manufacturers may be in operation, in China alone. If he is even half right, our 300+ estimate is quite low.

A lot has happened in the world of FDM since the first machines were sold by Stratasys in 1991. Few envisioned the impact of the expiring patents and the open-source RepRap project. The future is also unclear, especially with so many companies trying to build businesses around FDM. I recall hearing someone say that it’s a race to the bottom. I’m sure that even Crump is amazed by what has happened to FDM over the past 25 years, especially over the past decade.

Best Products of 2015

December 31, 2015

Filed under: Review — Terry Wohlers @ 11:18

The following are among the best products that I purchased this year.

ExpressVPN – If you’re looking for a good VPN, consider this one. A VPN encrypts all of your Internet traffic, which is especially important when using public wireless services at hotels, airports, and coffee shops. If someone tries to tap into your communications while you’re using a VPN, they will not be able to detect your IP address or location. You could be sitting in Shanghai, but it’d show that you’re in another city and country. (More than 100 cities in 78 countries are available to choose from.) Use of the product is $8.32 per month with an annual subscription.

HTC One M9 Smartphone – I liked my previous HTC One smartphone, so I upgraded to the M9 version. The phone has a good battery life, a fast processor, and is the perfect size for me. One of the nicest features is Wi-Fi calling. If you have a wireless connection, you can make a call to or from anywhere in the world at no cost.

Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Speaker III – This $269 device is perfect for portable use, although we use it in one location. The product plays for up to 14 hours on one battery charge. It sounds great and works well.

bose

Salomon Q-98 Snow Skis – I bought these skis in January 2015 and I’m glad I did. They are 98 mm under foot and work well in deep powder, as well as on groomed surfaces. They turn very well on hard-packed snow—even better than my K2 Rictor skis, which are narrower and considered excellent for hard-surface turning. The Salomon STH 10 bindings that I bought for them are also good.

Honeywell Humidifier – If you live in a dry climate, humidity is important. I purchased Honeywell’s Model HEV312 for our property in Frisco, Colorado. It is located at 2,766 meters (9,075 feet) in the Rocky Mountains where the air is especially dry in the winter. The product has a small footprint, is quiet, and offers many settings. Most importantly, it really kicks out the moisture.

2015 was a great year and I expect 2016 to be even better. Best wishes to you for a safe and prosperous New Year!

Investment in AM

December 20, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 11:29

Alcoa is investing $60 million in additive manufacturing and 3D printing methods and materials. Autodesk’s $100 million Spark Investment Fund is in full swing. Early next year, GE will a $32 million R&D facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called the Center for Additive Manufacturing Advancement. Michelin and Fives are collaborating on a EUR 25 million investment involving the creation of a new company and metal AM. The state of New York is investing $125 million in a 3D printing facility in partnership with Norsk Titanium.

invest

Are these types and sizes of investments the new norm for AM? I believe they are. In some ways, the 27-year old AM industry is just getting started, especially in the context of production applications. Consider the current AM supply chain and how underdeveloped it is. A tremendous amount of work is ahead of us, so I expect that we will continue to see a string of significant investments in AM across many areas. Among them: software and web-based tools for the creation and optimization of 3D content, IT, process controls, automation, materials, postprocessing, inspection, industry standards, education, training, and research.

AM will indeed grow to become a very big industry, up from $4.1 billion in 2014 (Source: Wohlers Report 2015). In fact, we believe it will grow into the tens of billions, and eventually to hundreds of billions. With the attention and investment that it’s finally getting, it is well on its way.

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