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Custom Rings

April 16, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:47

I recently discovered The Future of Jewelry (TFOJ), a company that produces custom jewelry. It was founded by sisters Casey and Janine Melvin. Both left law school to start the company in 2017 and serve as co-CEOs. TFOJ’s initial focus has been on custom rings. I had the opportunity to test-drive the company’s customization platform recently and designed a ring with our company logo on it. The experience was good, and the design turned out nicely, as shown in the following images.

                           

The steps involve choosing the style of ring and selecting and designing parts of it. I chose the Oxford style from six options. I then picked silver for the material and entered my ring size of 19.5 mm. After uploading our company logo, I experienced some difficulty in getting it to produce correctly on the face of the ring. It was because our logo has a 3D effect and shading, so the problem was not with the TFOJ platform. I adjusted the logo to omit these effects and it created perfectly. The platform supports the importing of JPG, PNG, and BMP, as well as STL, OBJ, and GLTF, which was a nice surprise.

The TFOJ workflow involves a high-resolution 3D printer to produce patterns for the investment casting process. The company outsources precious metal casting work to a network of companies in the U.S. I have not yet received the custom ring because I ordered it just days ago. My experience with the platform was so good that I decided to create and order a second one with a different logo. I am looking forward to receiving both. Thanks to Casey and Janine for developing such an interesting and easy-to-use platform for producing custom jewelry.

Another Supply Chain Collapse

April 3, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 13:56

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

The five-day block of the Suez Canal underscores the instability of our global supply chains. Nearly everything around us requires global connections. The canal is a critical route for products from Asia to Europe and the east coast of the U.S. With it closed, millions of consumer goods were blocked. The alternative is to transport them around the southern tip of Africa, which is a dramatically further. Fortunately, as you may know, the ship was freed and the passage cleared, but it could have been delayed much longer.

Like the pandemic, the blocked canal exposed a problem with our supply chains. Additive manufacturing (AM) is not a perfect solution for all types of parts, but it provides a quick and agile manufacturing process. Both have been discussed in length, so we want to share an idea of what the future might look like.

                                              

The next time a disaster disrupts a supply chain, we can be prepared, and physical stockpiles of replacement parts may not be the answer. Instead of parts sitting on shelves and racks, the inventory is digital, coupled with machine capacity and feedstock. The designs are fully tested for 3D printing, a proactive step for any manufacturing process. The next disaster may be worse, so the future should not rely solely on smooth supply chains. We can start to prepare for this reality today.

If passed by U.S. Congress, proposed bipartisan legislation would invest $1 billion to manage a partnership involving the federal government, private industry, and state and local governments focused on the manufacture of critical products. The bill would establish an Office of Supply Chain Preparedness within the Department of Commerce. It has the support of America Makes, the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation.

How Wohlers Report 2021 was Produced

March 21, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:38

By Noah Mostow

Helping to develop Wohlers Report 2021 was an unbelievable experience. The report was published last week. I learned that it takes an army of bright and dedicated individuals. This year, 88 co-authors and contributors from 34 countries were a part of it. My primary role was to research and write new sections on a wide range of subjects related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Also, I edited content provided by the contributors, and collected and processed data from more than 130 companies.

                                             

Organizations from around the world generously responded to our requests for information. They supplied us with the some of the most detailed information available in the AM industry. Much of what was supplied is sensitive, making the job even more challenging. As a part of the team, I saw data as it arrived. This work eventually led to our conclusion that the AM industry grew by 7.5% in 2020. From the stories told by those who contributed to Wohlers Report 2021, the past 13 months have been challenging. Even so, many companies see a big potential for 2021 and 2022.

I hope you enjoy the new applications and other developments from across the industry in the new report. My personal favorite is 3D-printed food. Perhaps, I will write blog post on it at another time. The secret to this report, in my view, is the dedication, excitement, and attention to detail from Terry Wohlers. Over the past few months, he would arrive at work early—often by 4:00 am—to help produce this industry-leading report. Many refer to it as the “bible” of 3D printing. For more information about Wohlers Report 2021, click here.

Vaccinated

March 6, 2021

Filed under: event,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:52

Yesterday was a good day. That’s because my wife and I received our first vaccination. Our second Moderna shot occurs in 28 days from yesterday. Both of us are ecstatic! I feel great today, other than a mildly sore left arm. The injection, itself, could not have gone faster or better. Honestly, I did not feel a thing, so I asked if she had given it to me.

                               

Thank God for vaccines and the scientists who create them. My mother got polio when she was 17 and it significantly impacted the quality of her life. Thankfully, a polio vaccine prevented my wife, kids, and me from getting it, along with hundreds of millions of others worldwide. If you are unsure about getting a COVID-19 vaccination, do not think twice about it.

3D-Printed Housing

February 27, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 12:03

The idea of using 3D printing for construction applications has merit in special circumstances. If the value it adds exceeds the costs of using the technology, it may make sense. An example is the design and manufacturing of complex architectural features that are attached to a building produced using conventional methods of construction. If these features cost more to construct using “old-school” methods, 3D printing becomes a candidate.

Producing complex shapes and features is what sets 3D printing apart, whether it is a small mechanical part or one that is meters in size. Using the technology to produce basic, orthogonal shapes does not make much sense because they can be produced faster and less expensively with conventional methods of construction. These methods may be decades old and often require manual labor, but they are affordable and accepted by city and state regulatory groups and agencies.

                                             

This article, titled “Builder says houses made with 3-D printing will cut construction costs,” was published recently. An agent with Zillow said, “The cost of construction is 50% cheaper than the cost of comparable newly-constructed homes in Riverhead, New York, and 10 times faster.” With all due respect, I strongly disagree and would like to see the real numbers behind this project. The large concrete printer was used to produce the walls only.

Andrew Riddle, owner of Hanover Custom Builders in northern Colorado, said unfinished interior and exterior walls are in the range of 4.7% of the total cost of an average house. Even if you saved 50% on them, it would not “move the needle” much on the total project. Consider also how much more difficult it would be to run electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling ducts and vents through these 3D-printed concrete walls. Installing doors, windows, trim, and wall hangings would also be more difficult. In the end, the total cost of the house may be more expensive, and modifications and remodels could cost far more.

Using AM for Design and Production

February 8, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:04

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed well beyond prototyping only. Companies using it for both product development and series production are finding interesting benefits. The same process and material can be used for concept modeling, prototyping, testing, and final production. This is not the case when using AM for product development and a conventional manufacturing process for series production.

When designing a product that will go into production using the same AM process and material, one can “prototype” not only the design, but also the production process. This uncovers possible challenges that develop before production begins. Design iterations, coupled with new prototypes, can help improve the best methods of post-processing and to better understand the start-to-finish workflow.

                                      

Using the same process and material, from concept to manufacturing, can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get a new product to market. Also, it can create opportunities for entirely new types of products that result in new revenue streams. A growing number of manufacturers are exploring what is possible as they witness what others are doing.

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.

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