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GE’s AM Acquisitions

October 23, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:41

Last month, GE surprised the world when it announced the company’s plan to acquire Arcam of Sweden and SLM Solutions of Germany for $1.4 billion. Both companies offer additive manufacturing systems that produce world-class metal parts for medical, aerospace, and other industries. Arcam also owns a prominent producer of titanium and other metal powders (AP&C of Canada), which supplies materials to many organizations. For more than two decades, some people in the AM industry have speculated whether a large OEM might acquire an AM manufacturer to give it an advantage, rather than relying on relatively small companies to serve its needs. In more than 28 years, no such corporation had made a commitment, until now.


Why would GE want to buy these two companies? I believe it’s mostly about the company’s need for machines, materials, and capacity. GE stated that it would need in the range of 1,000 industrial-grade machines over the next 10 years. If it relies on the status quo, it may need to get in line and wait. With the recent demand for metal AM, the wait could become lengthy. (Growth of metal AM has averaged 59.2% over the past three years, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2016.) With ownership of machine and material producers, GE can accelerate development and expansion, and it can be first in line to receive what it needs. Also, it can dedicate serious resources to the advancement of process control software and hardware, as well as other features to help ensure system reliability and part quality.

Greg Morris, GE Aviation’s leader of additive technologies, said that the company plans to sell Arcam and SLM machines to others, even to competitors of GE’s many businesses. It’s difficult to know exactly how sales and support of these products will be handled, but I believe it’s safe to assume that GE will receive high priority. Why wouldn’t it? As GE improves its AM technology, to what degree will these enhancements be made available to others? This is a question that may not be answered for some time. Regardless, GE is positioning itself in ways that have not been seen in the past. This is exciting for it and the influence the company will have on the entire AM industry.

Late Breaking News: On Friday, October 21, GE refused to raise its price for SLM Solutions after Elliott Management said it would reject GE’s tender offer. Elliott own 20% of SLM Solutions and more than 10% of Arcam, according to GE and SLM management are urging shareholders to accept the offer before it expires on Monday, October 24.

Proto Labs

October 8, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Event,Manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:30

Yesterday, Proto Labs celebrated the grand opening of its new 7,154 sq meter (77,000 sq ft) 3D printing facility in Cary, North Carolina, located at the west edge of Raleigh. Proto Labs is best known for quick turn injection molding and CNC machining, with headquarters in Maple Plain, Minnesota. The company entered the 3D printing business when it acquired FineLine Prototyping of North Carolina in April 2014. FineLine, headed by Rob Connelly, had a strong reputation for quality over a period of many years. Whenever I would hear something about FineLine, it was positive.

Connelly told me that the new site is running 48 stereolithography, 10 laser sintering, and 13 metal powder bed fusion machines. With its Germany and Finland sites, Proto Labs is operating 121 industrial 3D printing systems and growing. This represents a tremendous amount of prototyping and manufacturing capacity and is now one of the largest in the world.


Vicki Holt, CEO of Proto Labs since 2014, and Connelly generously gave me a personal tour on Thursday after I arrived into Raleigh. I received a second tour yesterday as part of the grand opening. As expected, I was impressed by the organization and sheer number of machines and jobs running through the facility. The company’s software for scheduling and tracking jobs, produced entirely in-house, is at the core of the operation. Large monitors in many places graphically show new and existing jobs that are making their way through the system. On average, about 275 customer projects are quoted daily for 3D printing. The site’s 150 employees handle everything from customer inquiries to scheduling jobs and shipping. For a premium, customers can obtain parts that are produced and shipped the same day.

Holt explained to me that the company’s “sweet spot” is its very quick turn around. Proto Labs is not competing on cost, but rather on consistently delivering high quality parts in the shortest amount of time possible. As a chemist and veteran in polymers and manufacturing, she knows what it takes to make customers happy. From 1979 to 2013, Holt held various positions at Monsanto, Solutia (a Monsanto spin-off), PPG Industries, Spartech Corp. (owned by PolyOne), and other companies. Holt and Connelly’s attention to detail, and that of their employees, coupled with their strengths in interacting with people, play a big role in attracting and keeping customers. Congrats to Proto Labs for its new and very impressive facility.

American Football

September 23, 2016

Filed under: Entertainment,Life — Terry Wohlers @ 14:06

In my view, it’s the greatest sport on the planet. The action, hits, and wide mix of plays makes the game so exciting to watch. Sure wish they could fix the head injury problems. I’m hopeful that with creative 3D printing methods using lattice and cellular structures, someone will design a helmet that cushions hard blows far better than with conventional methods of manufacturing and materials.

Colorado State Rams: We’ve been season ticket holders for many years, so we attend most of the home games in Fort Collins. This is the last season for Hughes Stadium, so we can expect an entirely new experience next season. More importantly, I hope the Rams improve. The first two games were not pretty, but last Saturday’s game was encouraging. The Rams have finally found a quarterback in true freshman Collin Hill. He threw four touchdown passes and ran 51 yards for a fifth, all in the first half. And, he’s only 18 years old. Tomorrow’s game at Minnesota will be a big test for him and the team.


Nebraska Cornhuskers: Last Saturday, the team pulled through in a nail biter against a ranked Oregon team. My wife and I both grew up in Nebraska, with family and friends still there, and we’ve cheered for the team since we can remember. In recent years, the Huskers have not shown the national prominence of the past, but they’re off to a 3-0 start this season. There’s nothing like a Huskers game in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Denver Broncos: These Super Bowl champs are fun to watch. Defenses win games and Denver’s D could be even better than last season. Prior to the start of this season, the quarterback position was a big question mark with the retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of backup Brock Osweiler. So far, second year rookie Trevor Siemian has been solid and better than most expected. He looked sharp again in last Sunday’s defeat of the Indianapolis Colts, but it was Denver’s Von Miller and its defense that won the game.

With some luck, these three teams will have a good season. Injuries and other factors usually determine the outcome. Regardless, we’re looking forward to watching some great football in the coming weeks and months.

3D Veterans Bootcamp

September 12, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,Education,Life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:43

An interesting program for U.S. veterans concluded on Friday of last week in San Antonio, Texas. A start-up organization, named 3D Veterans, was formed to train veterans in CAD and 3D printing for high-tech American jobs. The first six-week “bootcamp” involved 13 enthusiastic veterans out of 70 applicants. I was lucky enough to witness them in action on Wednesday as they were wrapping up several intriguing final class projects—the culmination of expert instruction and hands-on learning. The projects were aimed at designing and 3D printing devices that would help less fortunate fellow veterans. I was moved by this giving of time, creativity, and energy to other veterans.

The 3D Veterans organization was founded by Michael Moncada and David Schnepp, with subsequent involvement from Andy Miller, Wayne Dudding, and others. I first met Moncada, a veteran himself, at Inside 3D Printing in New York City in April, and what he told me about the program got my attention. Among the current partners and sponsors are America Makes, Autodesk, and the Department of Veterans Affairs., Google’s chartable arm, is the primary sponsor. The veterans completed the program with new skills in using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD software, which was used for most of the design work.


I was with the staff and student veterans for about 2.5 hours. I especially wanted to meet the veterans and see their work, and I was lucky enough to get fairly in-depth explanations from six of them. Len, 59, designed a knee brace that he hopes will be more effective and fit more comfortably under a pair of slacks. The available 3D printers and materials did not allow him to complete and test his design, but I like the path he has taken, coupled with his passion. One of his comments to me said it all. “This is the most exciting time of my life,” referring to the class, the knowledge and skills he has gained, and where all of it could take him in the future. Wow!

Another student veteran, Deborah, designed a brace for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. She said the ones on the market work with mixed results. She went on to say, “The course has been challenging and exciting and something I needed.” Other projects involved 1) the use of a transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation device to treat pain, 2) an exoskeleton device for therapy of finger and hand movement, 3) a device to hold a straw in place in a drinking cup or glass, and 4) a versatile cup holder that can be mounted just about anywhere, including onto wheel chairs.

I like this program a lot. Credit goes to Moncada, his colleagues, and the program’s supporters. Gratitude also goes to the participating veterans for enrolling in the program and giving back to fellow veterans. It was a privilege to see, up close, the veterans at work. Plans are underway to expand it into other locations across the U.S. in coming months. If you are interested in supporting this outstanding program or hiring one of the 13 veterans, contact Michael Moncada at

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. The government of the Netherlands said that it will invest €134 million into research projects focused on AM.


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 and represents a significant amount of money in just two months of announcements from 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 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.


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).


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.


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.


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).


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.

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