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Investment

February 23, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future,money — Terry Wohlers @ 10:03

In the recent past, we have tracked investments totaling nearly $1.5 billion in additive manufacturing (AM) products and services worldwide. These dollars are critical to the future of AM and its developing ecosystem. Without it, countess companies offering machines, materials, software, and services would not survive. Investment dollars do not ensure success, but it gives companies, especially startups, a fighting chance.

We believe it is important, even critical, for AM-related companies to have a strong understanding of the latest developments and trends in this industry. Likewise, it is vital for investors to have accurate information on AM at their fingertips. Without it, they cannot make the best possible decisions. That’s why we are conducting the Wohlers Associates Investor’s Dinner Sponsored by RAPID + TCT.

The April 20 event coincides with RAPID + TCT 2020, the largest and most successful gathering on AM in North America. The evening program is designed for institutional, private equity, venture capital, angel, and individual investors. If you or your company is investing in AM, consider this special opportunity. It promises to set you in the right direction. Space is limited, so register now.

World’s Largest Firework

February 9, 2020

Filed under: event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:49

Last night in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Tim Borden and three others broke the world’s record for the largest ever firework. A Guinness World Records official attended the event and said the 157-cm (62-inch) diameter shell was indeed the largest. The shell of nearly 1,270 kg (2,800 lbs) launched out of the mountain at 483 kph (300 mph). Mortar weighing seven tons and buried nearly 8 meters (26 feet) in the ground at Howelsen Hill near downtown Steamboat served as the propellent that hurled the shell out of the ground.

Seeing it live was spectacular! It lit the sky in a bright orange that I had never seen before. The event was part of Steamboat Springs 107th Winter Carnival. The firework came after a failed attempt in 2019 when it exploded prematurely in the ground. It resulted in a fountain of fireworks at the surface of the mountain that was seen for miles.

Attending the carnival was my first. The record-setting firework was the grand finale, but everything leading up to it was also impressive. People from age 5 to adults, lit up in colorful lights, performed skiing maneuvers and stunts on the mountain. It was really extraordinary to see.

Recycling with AM

January 26, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:50

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

No one is surprised to hear that people produce copious amounts of waste every day. A 2017 study found that over 300 million tons of waste plastic is generated annually. The question of how to reuse this material, rather than leaving it to degrade over millions of years, may be tiresome. Fortunately, AM is bringing new options much closer to home in a variety of ways.

Companies are looking at methods of using some of this waste material for AM. GreenGate3D produces and sells plastic filament from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG). I recently bought a spool and I am making useful home goods with it. Filamentive, NefilaTek, Refil, RePLAy 3D, and others have produced fully or partially recycled filaments. Research shows that recycled filament is slightly weaker than virgin plastic, but this is predictable, which means that it can be accounted for in design. As proof of this, the U.S. military has used recycled plastics to build bridges that supported Abrams tanks in at least two cases.

In a recent article, 30,000 water bottles were recycled to 3D print a public structure in Dubai. The pavilion, called Deciduous, showcases how AM can be applied to creative structures using materials that would otherwise be waste. An advantage to using AM is the option of repurposing locally produced materials. With cleaning, grinding, and extruding technologies, such as those advocated by Netherland-based Precious Plastic, nearly anyone can recycle plastics in their hometown.

Recycling initiatives are not restricted to polymers. Newly renamed 6K (formerly Amastan Technologies) of North Andover, Massachusetts has developed a method of grinding and melting recycled metals into spherical powder particles for AM. The company is expected to commercially launch its materials soon. Similar techniques can be applied to produce wires and sheet materials for metal AM. The AM supply chain has not developed sufficiently for recycled materials to economically replace virgin materials. Growing interest, investment, and global conscience is sure to tip the scale, hopefully within a few years.

Beatlemania Bass Guitar

January 12, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 14:39

Associate consultant Olaf Diegel has designed and manufactured an impressive range of guitars. The main body of each is the most interesting part because it is designed for 3D printing. The character and complexity of these guitars make them, in my opinion, remarkable.

One of Olaf’s most recent creations is the Beatlemania bass. The design and details are stunning. It features the four Beatles crossing Abbey Road, John Lennon’s glasses, a yellow submarine, and other items associated with the Beatles. The music (notes) on the front are from the song Yesterday. You can’t look at the guitar without thinking, “Wow!” Olaf’s wife, Akiko, did the painting. She is a talented artist, and I have no idea how she did it so beautifully and flawlessly.

Olaf is an gifted designer and it is a privilege to work with him. He serves as lead instructor for the design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) courses we conduct. He also plays an important role in the development of the Wohlers Report. Olaf has hands-on DfAM experience that almost no one has or will ever achieve. He knows what works based on countless hours of fine-tuning designs and manufacturing them. The Beatlemania bass is a great example of DfAM and what is possible with extraordinary talent.

Best Products of 2019

December 30, 2019

Filed under: review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:50

Most years in the past, I have named my favorite products and services of the past 12 months. For this year, I’ve selected six that have made life better and more interesting.

Dell XPS 13 Laptop – My only concern when getting this computer was its screen size. It turns out that it’s the perfect size for small spaces on planes and in airports and hotel rooms. It’s a great product and I recommend it highly.

Amazon Prime – I can order some products on Saturday and receive them on Sunday. The shipping cost: $0. In any given week, we will order one or more products for free next day or two-day delivery. If you use Amazon Smile, the company donates 0.5% of your purchases to a charity of your choice. Everything else is identical.

SiriusXM App – If you are a SiriusXM subscriber, get the free phone app. With it, you can access all channels. It’s great for listening to music or the news when you’re out and about or at the gym.

WhatsApp – When Facebook acquired this company for $16 billion ($4 billion in cash and $12 billion in Facebook shares) in 2014, few had heard of it. When traveling, I use it to message and talk with others who have it. What’s especially nice is that if wi-fi is not available, WhatsApp uses mobile data, meaning that you can talk from almost anywhere at little or no cost.

HP LaserJet Pro M15w – This $109 wireless laser printer is the smallest in its class. Footprint: just 35 x 19 cm (13.6 x 7.5 inches). The cost of operation is a fraction of most small, low-cost inkjet printers, and it’s fast, reliable, and easy to use.

Three Bears – This new ski lift, which opened last week, is the latest at Copper Mountain. It takes you to terrain that was previously accessible only by the Tucker Mountain Snowcat and 30+ minutes of hiking. We got on it six times last week. If you like extreme skiing, check it out.

I hope to uncover another group of great products and services in 2020. Best wishes to you for a fantastic New Year!

The Edge of the Ledge

December 14, 2019

Filed under: entertainment,event,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 11:36

In February 1989, Diane and I were driving in the countryside near Queenstown, New Zealand when we saw some interesting activity on a bridge. It extended over a deep gorge down to a raging river. We pulled into a small dirt parking lot overlooking the scenic area and walked onto the bridge. A person was being geared up with straps and ropes for something we knew nothing about at the time. Those in charge said the person was about to jump off the bridge with an elastic rope connected to his legs. In astonishment, we saw him take the plunge.

Weeks after returning to the U.S., we read about bungy jumping on the South Island of New Zealand. This news was the introduction of commercial bungy jumping as we know it today. It originated at this place, named Kawarau Bridge, located 43 meters (141 feet) above the water. In recent years, I developed the urge to return. A big part of me wanted to make the jump, although another part was unsure about the idea.

Last Saturday, December 7, Diane and I drove to Kawarau Bridge, which now has a large parking lot, nicely constructed overlook to watch jumpers, and a substantial visitor’s center. Early that morning, the forecast showed possible sun at 2:00 pm, so I booked the time slot for the jump. It had been raining daily for more than a week—unusual for early summer in New Zealand—resulting in a rise of the river by nearly 10 meters (33 feet), according to the guy rigging me up. It turned out to be windy, raining, and cold, but the weather was the least of my worries. I made small talk with the staff and then realized I was not paying close attention to how things were being connected. I asked myself whether he fastened everything correctly, but I had no way of checking because the connections were covered by fabric and Velcro. This made me feel uneasy, but I could not turn back at that point.

Stepping up to the edge of the platform and taking a peek over it was terrifying. I tried not to look down when the attendant counted “5, 4, 3, 2, ….” and that’s when I made the last small step to the edge and pushed off. I bounced upward a good distance after the bungy fully extended, and I bobbed around for what was probably 30 seconds. The connections were sound. By then, my nerves were mostly calm, knowing the equipment was secure, and I would probably survive. About an hour later, the clouds had cleared and the sun was bright. Diane and I walked across the bridge to shoot pictures, soak up the rays, and relax after experiencing some adventure we discovered 30 years earlier.

Professional videography captured it all.

Formnext 2019

November 30, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 18:00

Last week’s Formnext in Frankfurt, Germany was outstanding. Nearly 35,000 people attended, up more than 28% from last year. Four large exhibition halls were nearly filled with 852 exhibitors, an increase of 35% over 2018. These companies showed their latest products and services related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. We had a team of five people there, yet it was difficult to see it all. Mesago, the organizers of Formnext, did a great job with every facet of this fast-growing international event.

On Wednesday, the inaugural Wohlers Associates Investor Dinner Sponsored by Formnext was held. The event sold-out quickly, so we secured a larger room at the Grandhotel, located within walking distance of Frankfurt Messe where Formnext was held. Nearly 50 people attended from 15 countries, spanning from Poland and Israel to Saudi Arabia and Australia. The feedback was favorable, so we are looking ahead at next year.

If you work in AM, Formnext is the place to be in November. Many interesting discussions and business deals are conducted there. Next year, it is 10-13 November, again in Frankfurt. I hope to see you there.

BrewSpoon

November 17, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 13:52

When traveling, I like to wake up to a cup of rich coffee. Most hotel rooms in the U.S. include a coffee maker with decent coffee. When traveling outside the U.S., coffee makers in hotel rooms are not common, although many include a hot water kettle.

For years, I have traveled abroad with a Bodum travel press, which produces a good cup of coffee. The first one I had was made of plastic and eventually cracked when pouring boiling water into it. The Bodum travel press that I have now is stainless steel, which also does a good job.

About 1.5 weeks ago, I stumbled across a very clever product that rivals my relatively heavy and bulky steel press. The product, called BrewSpoon, was developed at the Product Development Technology Station (PDTS), which is a part of Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, South Africa. It is a clever design that the group is now in the process of commercializing.

The previous images show the basic steps in using BrewSpoon, along with my first cup of coffee from the product. I’ve only had two cups from it so far, but I believe the brewed coffee is as good or better than from my steel press. For my next trip abroad, it’s going with me instead of the press. My thanks to those at PDTS, especially Allan Kinnear, for producing such as useful product and giving one to me to try.

Revving the Engine with AM

November 2, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:46

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

The automotive industry has been a major player in the use of AM over the past 30 years, beginning with rapid product development and prototyping. In the past few years, we have begun to glimpse the possibilities of AM as a tool for end-use production parts in automotive. Among the parts we have seen are custom trim pieces, HVAC components, parking brake brackets, and lightweight convertible top mounts. We’ve also seen power window guide rails, high-performance brake calipers, and even fully printed car bodies.

Many of these parts are made in low- or medium-production quantities. BMW touted its polymer guide rail production speeds of 100 parts per day using HP Jet Fusion technology. The guide rail, shown above, is installed in the i8 Roadster sports car, a limited-production vehicle. The same can be said for Bugatti’s Chiron brake caliper and the Olli self-driving shuttle, which are both low-volume products. Perfecting these production methods could certainly translate to higher-volume models in the future, and the proving of the technology with these use cases builds a strong argument for doing so.

At a recent National Manufacturing Day round-table discussion, Ford chief technology officer Ken Washington clearly stated his hope for AM-driven innovation in the automotive sector. “We’re going to see an adoption of the mindset of designing for additive, which is going to unlock all kinds of new innovations, new ways to bring products to life, and new experiences for customers. You couldn’t do this before because you didn’t have the tools.”

As companies such as Ford, Volkswagon, and others continue to adopt AM for production, we expect to see a new range of parts. Lightweight and topology-optimized frame members, handles, and wheels are on the horizon. As metals and high-temperature polymers are perfected and tested for long-term use, we will see engine blocks, pistons, valves, pumps, pulleys, and other parts made by AM. These parts have been seen in testing, with promising performance gains and weight savings. Only time will tell where the intersection of production cost and speed by AM will meet market demand.

AM Investors

October 19, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,money — Terry Wohlers @ 10:32

Investors of additive manufacturing (AM) come in many forms. Among them are institutional, private equity, venture capital, angel, and individuals. Increasingly, investors are in pursuit of AM-related companies with a promising future. The challenge is to know, with reasonable certainty, what that future looks like and how AM developments will unfold in the coming years.

To date, few events on AM have been designed specifically for the investment community. This is why we are conducting the Wohlers Associates Investor Dinner Sponsored by Formnext. This exclusive evening event is November 20, 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany. It is being held at Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, an elegant five-star hotel with gourmet cuisine located within walking distance of the exhibition center (Messe Frankfurt) where Formnext is being held.

The program will concentrate on the future of AM and what investors need to know to make the best possible decisions. The Wohlers Associates’ core team of consultants will be present to express their thoughts and opinions. The following will be among the questions answered:

  • What has changed over the past 30 years?
  • Why has the investment focus shifted from AM systems to applications?
  • What are the “killer apps” of AM? Will it really take a human generation for some of them to develop?
  • Which AM processes show the most promise?
  • Why are we seeing countless partnerships and what do they mean?
  • AM growth has averaged 26.6% over the past five years. Will it continue at this rate over the next five years?

If you are an investor and attending Formnext, register now for this inaugural event. Seating is limited. Our hope is that it helps you identify timely opportunities for AM-related investments.

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