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Print Often, Learn Fast

November 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 11:52

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Years ago, 3D printing was generally referred to as rapid prototyping. Then and now, engineers and designers often experience inherent gaps between a 3D computer model and a physical part. 3D printing can turn an idea into reality and quickly expose mistakes, saving time and money.

A physical model or prototype does not need to be a complete part or idea. Depending on the application, the critical feature of the part may be the location of a hole or spacing for the cables to prevent pinching. These are critical features that one can quickly test with a small 3D-printed part. If you break down these critical features into individual elements, you can prototype them quickly and learn immediately.

A 3D printer can be a great investment for a company, designer, or engineer. A 3D-printed part can take minutes or hours, depending on the size of the part and the machine used. When a part is in your hands, you can learn from it in seconds. Learning also occurs from simulations and CAD models, but a 3D-printed part brings a concept to reality. With a physical part, one can learn more about its actual size, weight, ergonomics, and how it fits to mating parts. Also, a part makes it possible to test the ease or difficulty in assembly and disassembly. Some of this can be done using CAD, but you can learn so much more when you have a part in your hands.

I once designed sunglasses that fold to the size of my palm. The idea was to consolidate 17 parts into one by designing for additive manufacturing. I questioned tolerances, the hinge, and the entire concept. Before continuing to move ahead with the design, I segmented the hinge and printed it. The print took 26 minutes and cost $0.19 in material on a small filament-based, material extrusion machine. I very quickly learned that the proposed design did not work, which saved me hours because I was able to immediately adjust the design. By 3D printing a small segment of a new product, I was able to learn so much in less than 30 minutes and at little cost.

Newest Member of Wohlers Associates

November 1, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 20:28

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

I produced my first 3D-printed part while working at Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vermont. The part is shown in the following image. Its purpose was to test transforming rotation into linear motion. I found a concept online, made a quick model of it in SolidWorks, and sent it to my mentor at Burton for his review. That Friday, I stayed late to learn how to load the part into the machine. Also, I waited to see the first layers of nylon spread across the build platform of the powder bed fusion system. On Monday, I arrived early to learn how to break out parts from the build. My first 3D-printed part was hidden between components for prototype bindings and goggles.

The concept was not going to work for our application, but that was okay. It showed me how much and quickly one can learn from a physical concept model or prototype part. Since that day nearly four years ago, I have used 3D printing to prototype many new concepts and manufacture parts.

After leaving Vermont, I moved out to Colorado and was employed by 3D Systems Healthcare in Littleton. I worked my way up from a data entry job to becoming a biomedical engineer, designing craniomaxillofacial reconstruction surgeries. You can read about these types of procedures on pages 33–37 of Wohlers Report 2020. After nearly two years at the company, I was driven to learn more about additive manufacturing and enrolled in a master’s program on Advanced Manufacturing at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, not far from where I was working. I have learned from some of the best in the industry and been exposed to a wide range of new ideas and technologies. I am excited to bring my experience from academia, biomedicine, and sporting goods to Wohlers Associates. Also, I look forward to learning so much more.

Away from the computer, I am an avid outdoorsman who enjoys traveling and getting into the colorful Colorado mountains. This lifestyle can be traced back to hiking through the woods of Akron, Ohio where I grew up. I am especially passionate about snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fly fishing, and cooking. Interestingly, 3D printing is enhancing these industries, which makes them even more attractive to me. In fact, I have designed and printed a few personal parts to test new ideas. However, just like my first 3D-printed part, the initial prototypes are usually not the ideal solution. With every print, I am learning and improving, and someday, perhaps I will see one of my ideas become commercially available.

Women in 3D Printing

October 18, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:29

Women in 3D Printing, a non-profit organization, was formed in 2014 by Nora Toure of Fast Radius. In just five years, she helped build it into a community of more than 10,000 women worldwide. From the beginning, it has been her ambition to share stories of women helping to shape the additive manufacturing industry. Based on my experience over the past 30+ years, women are dramatically underrepresented in product development and manufacturing worldwide. In fact, the ratio may be close to 10:1, although it has improved slightly in recent years. Women in 3D Printing seeks to close this gender-gap in additive manufacturing. I fully support this goal of a better balance of women and men.

I have known about Women in 3D Printing for years, but it was not until November 2019 that I attended an activity by the organization. It was a panel session as part of the 20th annual RAPDASA conference and exhibition in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (RAPDASA stands for the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa.) The panel was led by Malika Khodja of Tiziri. She serves as the African chair of Women in 3D Printing and is also a contributor to Wohlers Report 2020. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and quality of information shared at this engaging session.

The organization is showcasing, celebrating, and profiling the work of women leaders worldwide. They include engineers, business professionals, teachers, researchers, artists, and designers. Women in 3D Printing is creating a notable list of global events, gatherings, panel sessions, and company tours. Much of the work is conducted by its local ambassadors and regional chairs, such as Malika. Its many chapters meet regularly and encourage an inclusive and diverse AM workforce. The organization has created a database of female speakers, platform for hiring, industry surveys, reports, and an annual TIPE global conference, which is January 27-28, 2021. (TIPE stands for Technology, Industry, People, and Economics.)

I applaud and endorse the work of Women in 3D Printing. Many closest to the organization are “Rock Stars in 3D Printing,” in my view. In a spirit of support, Wohlers Associates recently became a corporate member and TIPE sponsor. Women in 3D Printing has become one of the most influential and largest AM communities worldwide. I urge you to support the important work of this impressive and fast-growing organization.

Autodesk

October 3, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 05:47

In 1983, I called Autodesk and the vice president of marketing and sales answered the phone. I was employed by Colorado State University at the time. I requested free use of AutoCAD version 1.3 in a 500-level CAD course I was planning to conduct later that year. He said, “Yes” and provided the software. It turned out to be what we believe was the first university credit course on the subject worldwide.

Autodesk was launched a year earlier, so the company was small. Even so, it was vibrant, progressive, and gaining attention and traction. The IBM PC was introduced in 1981, so the software and hardware combination offered a new platform to millions that could not otherwise afford or justify CAD. I recall people saying that AutoCAD offered 60% of the capabilities of “conventional” CAD at one-tenth the price.

In 1984, I had the privilege of meeting Autodesk founder John Walker here in Fort Collins, Colorado. He attended our first International Forum on Micro-based CAD. We had one international guest, but we later found out he was from Iowa working as a theater set designer at the Malmö Stadseater theater in Sweden. The forum continued for five consecutive years, with the fourth and fifth events in North Carolina and England. I credit Autodesk as the main sponsor for helping us get it off the ground.

In the 1980s and well in to the 90s, Autodesk did not receive the respect some of us felt it deserved. Many clung to the idea of needing to invest in expensive hardware and software to get “real” CAD. Options back then were from the likes of Auto-trol, CADAM, Calma, Computervision, Intergraph, and Tektronix. Eventually, most of these companies did not survive the assault brought on by Autodesk and others offering less expensive alternatives. With Moore’s Law at work, CAD on a PC became more powerful at an exponential rate. As a result, companies offering the more expensive systems went out of business or morphed into something else.

Fast-forward 35+ years. At nearly $3.3 billion in fiscal 2020, Autodesk’s has risen to unthinkable heights. It the largest 3D modeling software company in the world, according to Autodesk. The company offers 140 products, including software for additive manufacturing and 3D printing. I certainly would not have guessed the company would become so incredibly successful, although some of us could tell it was doing something special back in the 1980s. A few things needed to line up for real change to occur. This is one case in which many elements came together and provided a new price-to-performance ratio that brought significant benefits to millions of designers and engineers worldwide. Similar benefits developed many years later when designers and engineers gained access to affordable 3D printing.

Game Day Series

September 19, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:35

America Makes’ Virtual Game Day Series with Wohlers Associates concluded last week. The four events spanned four months and covered a range of key topics related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. In all, 728 people worldwide attended the events.

Last week’s focus on the future of AM was an excellent conclusion to the series. Top managers and executives from five major industrial sectors shared their views of the future. The immense knowledge and experience among the panelists, coupled with great chemistry among them, resulted in a wealth of inspiring comments. YouTube videos of the four 90-minute panel discussions are now available.

GAME DAY 1
America Makes COVID-19 Response

GAME DAY 2
How AM Addresses Supply Chain Gaps and Distributed Manufacturing

GAME DAY 3
The Economics, Opportunities, and Challenges of Designing for AM

GAME DAY 4
The Future of Additive Manufacturing

Thanks to everyone who attended and supported the four events, including Link3D for hosting them on the Remo conferencing platform. I hope everyone learned as much as I did.

Legend Scott Crump

September 11, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:51

Scott is the inventor of the most popular method of additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing in the world. It is called fused deposition modeling (FDM), and about nine out of 10 AM systems are based on it according to our research for Wohlers Report 2020. I first met Scott in 1990 in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The purpose of the meeting was to learn about FDM, a process that few knew about at the time.

After 34 years, Scott spent his first day—last Friday—not working full-time for the company, transitioning from chief innovation officer to technology advisor to the board. Scott and his wife, Lisa, co-founded Stratasys in 1989. He served as CEO of the company for 25 years.

Having known Scott for 30+ years, I can say without reservation that he is one of the most approachable executives I know. His sense of humor and willingness to put himself out there is unusual in the world of business. He will do and say things that you may never see or hear from most executives, but that is what I like about Scott. I believe it is a big reason why he has been so successful and why so many people like and appreciate him.

Scott is not leaving the AM industry. He said we can expect to see him around, probably online and at in-person events when they resume. He will no doubt continue to make himself available for interviews by the media and press. To me, he is a model C-level executive that I hope others would follow. It is refreshing to hear about technology and strategy without a “sugar coating” and scripted text written by marketing groups or PR firms.

Scott has been an inspiration to many and instrumental in shaping the AM industry. Without his involvement, it would not be as vibrant in recent years. Thank you, Scott, and congratulations for what you have done.

Impact of a University Instructor

August 23, 2020

Filed under: education,life — Terry Wohlers @ 17:10

When attending the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I learned that first-year students were required to take a 100-level English composition course focused mostly on writing. If you did not receive a B or better in the course, you were required to take it again. The instructor (I do not recall her rank) and I did not get along well, which may have contributed to the C+ I received in the course. Alternatively, the score may have been due to my poor writing skills.

I had to repeat a course in a subject that I did not like, and I was not happy about it. Fortunately, I had a different instructor (also a relatively young woman whose rank I do not recall) the second time around and it turned out better than I could have possibly imagined. It was many years later when I began to appreciate what she did for me and probably many other students. I wish I could remember her name. She inspired me to work hard on the fundamentals of writing, so I practiced, listened to her suggestions, and improved.

To this day, I credit her for helping me to create an interest in writing and for understanding that it can take years of practice. It is somewhat like skiing or mountain-bike riding. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more you appreciate the result. Like new product development, writing is an iterative process. The product improves with each iteration. My experience in the course created a strong foundation for what was ahead. At the time, I did not know that writing would become such an important part of my work and daily life. One cannot ask for more from a college instructor.

The Stars Aligned

August 9, 2020

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Good timing and luck can do wonders. In November 1986, Wohlers Associates was launched. Joel Orr, PhD, an extremely influential and successful engineering consultant, author, and speaker, provided the inspiration. When attending his fascinating presentations and meeting in person, I told myself repeatedly, “I want to do what he does.”

Prior to the founding of our company, I was completing my fifth year as an instructor and research associate in the Department of Industrial Sciences at Colorado State University. A year earlier, I was lucky enough to author a CAD textbook for McGraw-Hill. The publisher asked if I would create a second edition of the book in 1986, so it was time to say good-bye to the university, with book royalties serving as a safety net.

Consulting was slow at first. I learned from Joel and others how important it is to travel, meet people, and begin to carve out a niche. I began to write and publish articles and speak at industry events. I met many good people and one thing led to another. The first two major clients were especially helpful in establishing the company and I learned so much. This work served as a foundation for what was ahead.

My wife, Diane, has been an anchor of support over the company’s 33 years. Without it, I could not have survived. Autodesk played a role in the early years because I relied on AutoCAD for the hands-on training that I conducted, content for articles and speaking, and hands-on instruction at CSU. It may not be viewed today as the most advanced design software for 3D modeling and simulation, but at the time, it was the de facto standard CAD software worldwide.

I credit many for contributing to the decision to start the company and for supporting it in its first several years. Many thanks to my wife, Joel Orr, McGraw-Hill, Autodesk, and CSU. Without these “stars” aligning in 1986, Wohlers Associates would not have emerged.

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.

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