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How to Become Good at Something

July 25, 2020

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 09:52

Perhaps it goes without saying, but repeated practice and hard work can lead to high levels of achievement. I used to play tennis, but I never became good at it because I did not play enough. The same is true with golf. With any sport, musical instrument, or another interest, you need to have a passion to get to the next level. Natural ability plays into it, including what you might inherit from your parents, but determination and a willingness to work hard may play a bigger role.

I have been mountain biking for about 20 years, but until this year, I would ride trails only 2-3 times annually. The bike I rode was at the low end of the quality and cost spectrum. In May, I purchased a much better bike (Signal Peak from Fezzari) and made the decision to ride more than in the past. I have not counted, but I have probably ridden mountain trails, some technical and challenging, 12+ times so far this spring and summer. I feel like I am improving but have a long way to go. I have snow skied since I was 19, but I had never made it out more than 2-3 times a season. I was an intermediate skier and rarely made it onto an advanced run. Ten years ago, I began to average more than 25 days per season, upgraded my equipment, and started to feel better about my ability. I also began to have a lot more fun.

In the book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell is convincing when he discusses what it takes to become extraordinary at something. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and the Beatles became incredibly successful, but not until they accumulated 10,000+ hours of experience at their craft. Becoming extraordinary takes more than hours of hard work, but without it, the odds of greatness are next to impossible, according to Gladwell. If other elements work in your favor, such as what you have between the ears, you have a chance. For most of us, it is about enjoying what you do and contributing, but it usually comes only after reaching a certain level of achievement.

Travel and the Pandemic

July 11, 2020

Filed under: future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:13

In any other year, I would have taken many plane trips by now, both domestically and internationally. I like to travel, and I miss it, to a degree. A bigger part of me shudders at the thought of boarding a plane. The possible consequences of being in airports, planes, and hotels are not appealing at this time. In-person meetings—a primary reason for traveling—are at odds with what health officials are recommending.

A few weeks ago, someone said that it has never been safer to be on a plane due to the extensive cleaning by the airlines. Just yesterday, a friend made a similar comment. I respectively disagree. It is not the inside of the aircraft before boarding that is the big risk. Instead, it is what passengers bring with them onboard, mainly what they expel when breathing, talking, coughing, and sneezing. When stuck inside an aluminum tube for hours, it is impossible to entirely escape the particulates in the air.

I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee in February, and it may be my only plane trip of the year. The path we are currently on as a nation suggests that safe plane travel could be in the distant future, with 2021 being in question. I feel sorry for companies and people in the travel business. Many are working hard to make it as safe as possible. Travelers are the big and unpredictable variable. Many of them are taking every precaution, thankfully, but others are not.

AM Terminology

June 29, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:44

Standard terminology for additive manufacturing and 3D printing is critical when communicating. It puts everyone on the “same page” and more accurately conveys thoughts and ideas when conversing, presenting, and publishing. Ignoring terminology standards and using whichever terms you prefer can cause confusion or worse.

The first version of the ASTM F2792 Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing Technologies defined 26 terms and was published in 2009. At the time, I served as the chairman of the ASTM F42.91 Terminology Subcommittee, so the subject is near and dear to my heart. This work led to today’s ISO/ASTM 52900 Standard Terminology for Additive Manufacturing, which is recognized worldwide. It includes nearly five pages of terms, along with additional pages of diagrams and information.

I cringe when I hear non-standard terms when formal industry standard versions are available and were established after a tremendous amount of work by many organizations and bright people worldwide. An example is “selective laser metal (SLM),” a term that some will use instead of metal powder bed fusion (PBF), the correct phrase according to the ISO/ASTM 52900 standard. One problem with using SLM is that it is a part of a company name (SLM Solutions), which offers metal PBF systems. The incorrect use of SLM could lead to a serious blunder when negotiating a legal agreement, for example.

The following are seven key terms and definitions from the ISO/ASTM 52900 standard. They represent the major processes that most AM systems fall within.

  • Material extrusion—an additive manufacturing process in which material is selectively dispensed through a nozzle or orifice
  • Material jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which droplets of build material are selectively deposited
  • Binder jetting—an additive manufacturing process in which a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join powder materials
  • Sheet lamination—an additive manufacturing process in which sheets of material are bonded to form a part
  • Vat photopolymerization—an additive manufacturing process in which liquid photopolymer in a vat is selectively cured by light-activated polymerization
  • Powder bed fusion—an additive manufacturing process in which thermal energy selectively fuses regions of a powder bed
  • Directed energy deposition—an additive manufacturing process in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting as they are being deposited

If you are not using these and other industry standard terms, I strongly urge you to do so. It will help with your communication, demonstrate your recognition of international standards, and reduce the possibility of errors and other problems.

3D-Printed Bike Saddle

June 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

On June 3, 2020, Specialized announced the commercial availability of the first 3D-printed cycling saddle, the S-Works Power Saddle with Mirror Technology. A major part of the saddle is made with technology from Silicon Valley-based Carbon. The lattice-structure design is said to improve rider comfort and performance by absorbing impact and improving stability.

I received the saddle on Friday and the new design exceeded my expectations. I had read about it and saw pictures previously, but holding and studying it provided a far better appreciation for what went into the product. After shooting images of the new saddle, I mounted it to one of my new bikes from Fezzari, a relatively small but excellent consumer-direct manufacturer in Utah. Bikes from Fezzari have received many favorable reviews from the likes of Bike Magazine, Bikerumor, and Mountain Bike Action. I absolutely love my Signal Peak mountain bike and Catania road bike, both from Fezzari. I highly recommend both.

My first ride using the new saddle was short, but I found it exceptionally comfortable. I was told the saddle is designed for road bikes, but since my Catania it currently about two hours away, I tried it with the Signal Peak. It may handle the rigors of rocky trails, but I do not know, so I am checking with both Specialized and Carbon. Meanwhile, I plan to use it on one or more long road bike rides later this week in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I will try to share more after then.

With the new 198-gram (7-oz) saddle, Carbon and Specialized reduced the overall development process from a typical 18-24 to 10 months, while creating and testing more than 70 designs. Carbon’s 3D-printing technology reduced the design process from six to two months. Design iterations occurred in as little as one day. These are among the benefits of using 3D printing to develop a new product.

The new saddle is Carbon’s third production application in sporting goods, after running shoes from adidas and custom football helmets from Riddell. The S-Works Power Saddle sells for $450 and the company is currently sold out of them. In recent months, I have found that bikes and bike accessories have been difficult to get. Biking is an activity that people believe is safe, healthy, and fun, especially during a pandemic. If you’re looking for a comfortable bike saddle that is believed to improve performance, take a close look at the S-Works Power Saddle. Based on what I have read, seen, and experienced, it is a special product.

Distributed Manufacturing

May 31, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:08

Most mass manufacturing is done at centralized locations. Many produce millions of products annually. Envision a future where this capacity occurs in many more locations much closer to the customer. Deliveries occur faster and less expensively. Relatively small quantities of products are tailored to the needs of the geographic area. Inventories are smaller, with true just-in-time delivery closer to reality for a greater number of companies and products. Functionality, quality, and value improve.

This development is slowly and quietly underway. It is being made possible from the flexibility and responsiveness of companies running additive manufacturing systems and ancillary processes. The diffusion of this approach is still small compared to the opportunity. Even so, it is real and exciting to watch develop. Most large manufacturing sites are not breaking up into smaller ones. Instead, entirely new products and businesses, such as custom eyewear, footwear, jewelry, spare parts, and after-market products are developing. Production runs are a small fraction of what a large factory produces.

How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing is the subject of the second in our Virtual Game Day Series brought to you by America Makes and Wohlers Associates. This 90-minute panel session is on June 18 and is free of charge. Four experts will answer questions and address important issues associated with supply chain challenges and how distributed manufacturing and other factors can help address them. I have the pleasure of moderating the session. Virtual networking opportunities will occur before and after the 12:00 Noon ET panel.

Plan to be a part of shaping the future of our supply chains and distribution manufacturing by attending this event. Your questions and participation are welcomed. I hope to see you there.

Response to Pandemic

May 16, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:27

On Monday of this week, an important event occurred. It was the first in the recently announced Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates. Monday’s virtual event, titled America Makes COVID-19 Response, attracted about 250 people. The panelists included:

  • Matthew Di Prima, PhD, Materials Scientist, FDA
  • Meghan McCarthy, PhD, Program Lead, 3D Printing Biovisualization, NIH/NIAID/OD/OSMO/OCICB
  • Beth Ripley, MD, PhD, Chair, VHA 3D Printing Advisory Committee, Veterans Affairs Health Administration, Innovation Ecosystem
  • John Wilczynski, Executive Director, America Makes
  • Moderator: Terry Wohlers, Principal Consultant and President, Wohlers Associates, Inc.

Additive manufacturing (AM) is playing an important role in the pandemic, especially where supply chains are disrupted. Thousands of AM systems are operating across the U.S., so local responses to the need for personal protection equipment (PPE) are occurring where traditional manufacturing is more involved. “We’ve seen it play a significant role in face shields and it’s filling a gap in the conventional supply chain for them,” Wilczynski said. Not all of it is for healthcare providers. Some has gone to the broader community, such as those working at grocery stores, restaurants, municipalities, and in shipping. Riply said that tapping into this manufacturing capacity is big, especially at a time when traditional manufacturers are pressed to deliver products. Distributed manufacturing models could become increasingly interesting in the future as local and regional disasters occur, Di Prima explained.

As of Monday, more than 523 PPE designs were submitted to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) 3D Print Exchange, a repository of designs hosted by NIH. Eighteen designs have been reviewed for clinical use and 14 have been optimized for community use, McCarthy said. She went on to say the site has seen more than 200,000 page views and a lot of interaction among users. This capability is central to the response and has had an impact.

America Makes brought together the FDA, NIH, and VA and launched the initiative just eight weeks ago. It has come a long way in a short time. The group, made up of the four panelists, have talked every day since the beginning.

The initiative is helping manufacturers understand where they can help. The group is providing clarification around complex questions on how to make products that can be used safely. A lot is based on a risk-benefit analysis, especially where few alternatives are available, Riply explained. The biggest thing to come out of this response is a trusted resource, explained Wilczynski. Di Prima has found that hospitals are showing increased interest in 3D printing parts because of the pandemic.

Will this response to COVID-19 create a change in the adoption of AM in the medical industry? For years, the industry has adopted AM in a substantial way for surgical planning models, drill and cutting guides, orthopedic implants, hearing aids, and dental parts. The medical industry has already been a large adopter of AM, Di Prima clarified. Even so, the work and learning surrounding the response to the coronavirus will help both the AM and medical industries better and more quickly respond to supply chain gaps when widespread emergencies occur in the future, McCarthy stated.

Will we look at this time as a turning point in the AM industry? Wilczynski said, “Yes.” It will open the eyes to the capabilities of the technology, he said. This experience is teaching us how to mobilize quickly in response to emergencies, with people ready to do the work, McCarthy explained. This initiative could not have happened without these four organization coming together. One of the groups on its own could not have done it, she said.

Following the panel was an interesting opportunity for virtual networking, which worked exceptionally well. Up to six people could “sit down” to a theme-based table or join a virtual lounge to discuss specific topics related to the pandemic and AM. Among the labeled tables were face shields, face masks, swabs, ventilators, designers, manufacturers, health care community, medical devices, maker community, and member mobilization. The networking on these and other topics was about as close as you can get to actual in-person meetings. Link3D supported the event by sharing its experience with Remo, an online platform for conferencing, meetings, and other activities.

Groundhog Day

May 3, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:22

This a rough time for many. A big part is keeping our heads up and staying positive. With so much uncertainty, it is easier said than done. I am not an expert in psychology or pandemics, but I will do my best to offer some ideas.

As best you can, mix things up each day. If you do not, it will feel like the movie Groundhog Day where weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, repeatedly relives the same day. He needed to adjust to maintain his sanity and so do we.

My wife and I go for one or more long walks every day. While this sounds repetitious, we try to take different routes. The fresh air, sky, trees, and birds are calming and invigorating. We also go for long bike rides, although less often. We do our best to maintain our distance from others and wear a mask, as necessary.

When working from a home office, it may be helpful to take frequent breaks and mix in some personal “business” as time allows. I may take out the trash, do some lawn care, or work on a small household task. I never let these things prevent me from completing important office work, but these diversions help to add variety to the day. I especially look forward to regular Zoom meetings with family and friends.

Do what you can to mix things up while staying productive in your home office. Take short, frequent breaks and do not feel guilty for working on a personal task or two as time allows. You will make up for it. Get outside if you can but practice social distancing. We will get through it, but it may require some imagination and safe adventure to maintain a healthy level of sanity.

Working from Home

April 18, 2020

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 15:53

Prior to COVID-19, 5.2% of working Americans (8 million) called home their place of work, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, estimates that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home by the end of 2021. That is 38–46 million Americans. I believe many will like it a lot, but others may have a difficult time adjusting to it. I have had many years of practice, so I will try to pass along some suggestions. Depending on your specific situation, such as the number of people and rooms in your home, my words may or may not be helpful.

Many years ago, we had a new home built with a reasonably large garden-level office dedicated to Wohlers Associates. I remember designing the space using 3D CAD so that I could see how the custom desks, chairs, and work tables would fit with the windows, lighting, and other surroundings. With adjacent storage and work rooms, good music, and an abundance of outlets and power, the space has worked very well for up to four people. At this point in my life, I cannot imagine working anywhere else, except for airports, planes, and hotel rooms.

I especially like the extreme flexibility that comes with working from home. I can start at 4:30 or 7:30 in the morning. The commute is short. I pass by the Keurig coffee maker for a rich cup of java, and two minutes later, I am in the office getting things done. It is important to have good computers, large screens, reliable internet, and solid phone services. Professional IT support and security are also vital. A quality webcam is worth its weight in gold, especially now. If possible, find a place that is private and quiet, and make it your office “away from home.”

One of the best investments I made years ago was a sit-stand workstation from Ergotron. Previously, I viewed a quality chair as being the most critical, but I rarely use it now because I stand most of the day. Fitness experts claim it is good for the body, and it burns calories. Some days, my legs become a little tired, so I can sit in literally seconds. A few seconds later, I can be standing and working. Moving up and down is incredibly fast and simple. If you buy one, get a work tray, which is positioned just below the monitor and above the keyboard. It is where my mobile phone, coffee cup, and other odds ‘n ends rest.

Our daughter, Heather, is a PA and now working from home. She sees 12-20 patients daily using Zoom. Many have COVID-19. She likes wearing more comfortable clothing and having extra time in the day without a commute. At lunch time, she can walk, work, or nap. She said the Zoom appointments with patients are focused and some people are more open and candid. The downside, she said, is that she moves less and misses the in-office interaction.

If you are working from home, do your best to make the most of it and enjoy the perks it offers. If you can, find a place that is mostly off limits to others. Take frequent breaks and take full advantage of the freedom. I could not imagine driving to work. I can get so much done working from our home office, and I am sure you can too with the right setup.

Remarkable Struggles

April 5, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 06:58

Our nation’s healthcare providers are doing extraordinary work. They are risking their lives to help many of us. We cannot provide too much support to them. I’m hopeful they receive the personal protection equipment (PPE) they deserve. To date, many have not, and that’s unbelievably sad, especially given the sacrifices they are making.

Several organizations have stepped up to try to fill this void. One of hundreds of efforts underway stands out. America Makes, also referred to as the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, is a public-private partnership launched in 2012 by the White House. The organization, based in Youngstown, Ohio, is focused on the nation’s development and adoption of additive manufacturing (AM), more popularly known as 3D printing. The organization is largely supported by the U.S. Department of Defense, other government agencies, and 180 members. In the interest of full disclosure, Wohlers Associates has been involved with it from the very beginning, so I will admit some bias.

On or around March 19, John Wilczynski, executive director and others at America Makes made the decision to launch a nation-wide initiative to help healthcare providers with desperately needed PPE and other equipment, such as ventilators. The effort, fully described here, is fighting COVID-19 with 3D printing. It is bringing together designers, manufacturers, and healthcare providers in close collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and, and National Institutes of Health. An online repository is connecting the needs of healthcare providers with the capabilities of some of our nation’s best designers and manufacturers.

Many individuals and small companies are also doing great work. One example is Avid Product Development of Loveland, Colorado. The 18-person service provider has designed and manufactured 1,500–2,000 parts for face shields in its effort to fight the deadly virus. The company expects to produce tens of thousands. Separately, Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant at our company, has designed a face shield that can be laser cut and assembled in less than three minutes. His latest development is a ventilator, which uses MIT’s E-Vent design as the starting point. Olaf believes it could be manufactured for about $150, including the 3D-printed parts, a motor, electronics, and ventilator bladder.

Many of the hundreds of initiatives are nothing short of remarkable. They are are bringing out some of the very best in people and organizations. I urge you to do what you can to help support them so that our precious front-line healthcare professionals are protected and receive the support they deserve.

Extraordinary Times

March 21, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 13:21

Countless organizations have shut down indefinitely. The economy is tanking while the stock market declines to unthinkable levels. United Airlines cut 95% of its international flights and most business travel has halted. Meeting with others, even close friends and relatives, is discouraged. Except for getting out to pick up food and medicine, we are mostly trapped in our homes. Most of the world is in various levels of chaos, with no end in sight.

I cannot remember a time when life was so uncertain. So much has changed in a few short days. As a nation, we were slow to recognize the threat, so we may pay a very high price. My wife and I consider ourselves lucky because we have a warm home and enough supplies. I cannot imagine the fear among those who are less fortunate. All of us need to see some light—and hope—at the other end.

The crisis did not slow us down in the last few days of developing Wohlers Report 2020, a project that began to ramp up in December 2019. We published it on Wednesday—a week earlier than the past two years. I owe tremendous gratitude to our core team of nine consultants and authors, and our 79 co-authors and contributors in 33 countries. So many great people pulled together to make it happen.

Now, we need to pull together for other reasons. In today’s edition of The New York Times, I read about a group of volunteers who are working day and night to develop an open-source ventilator to help save lives. A crisis will sometimes bring out the best and worst in people, and this is an example of the best. Others in the U.S. and abroad are 3D printing masks and other devices to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

If you have ideas on how we can work together to combat the virus and support our healthcare providers, please contact me. We stand ready to help.

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