Blog Menu

The Pros Have Tarnished a Great Sport

August 31, 2007

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 18:35

Fall is in the air and football season has arrived. I’ve been anxiously waiting for months. American football is arguably the most exciting sport on the planet, although some outside the U.S. may disagree. It’s college football that really gets my blood pumping. Life doesn’t get much better than watching an in-state rivalry such as the Colorado State University Rams and the University of Colorado Buffalos go head to head. Kick off between the two is tomorrow at 10:00.

Professional football can be thrilling to watch too, but some of the players take the fun out of it. Michael Vick is one of them. Another is Travis Henry of the Denver Broncos. Henry is listed as the starting running back ahead of Cecil Sapp, a standout from Colorado State.

Henry has reportedly fathered nine children by nine women in at least four states, including Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Can you believe it? I didn’t, until I did some research. What’s more, he is unwilling to support them without a court order. Yet, he spent $100,000 on a new Mercedes and $146,000 on gold jewelry. Henry has a $25 million contract with Denver and a base salary of $50,000 per month.

Highly visible players, such as Henry and Vick, are often “worshipped” by kids of all ages, which is horribly sad. These athletes are not setting the kind of example that I want my kids, or other kids, to follow. The majority of pro players are likely fine people, but it’s the “sour grapes” that leave such a bad taste in my mouth. And, that’s a big reason why I prefer college football over the pro version of the game.

Design and Manufacturing in the Future

August 20, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:23

Many types of products that are made and sold today will be designed and manufactured similarly in the future. Conventional methods of molding, casting, and stamping of high volumes of parts will continue. However, a new wave of designs that before were impractical or too risky to produce by traditional means is beginning to emerge. It is being made possible with advances in additive fabrication techniques and materials, coupled with artistic and engineering creativity of those who are good at modeling new ideas with SolidWorks, Rhino, and other CAD and design products.

Already, we’re seeing what’s possible. One of the best examples is the .MGX collection from Materialise. Many years ago, no company in their right mind would have attempted to offer such a wide range of unusual and difficult to manufacture products. With additive fabrication, it is possible to produce wild and complex shapes. What’s more, companies can manufacture them on demand when the order is received. The inventory consists of a library of solid models stored as bits and bytes.

If the manufacturer or customer would like to introduce a change to a design, the cost of doing so is negligible. Contrast this with products that are produced from tooling. A change usually costs thousands of dollars and weeks or months of time. It wasn’t until additive fabrication became an option that one-off custom or personalized manufacturing became affordable and attractive.

In the future, expect to see a staggering range of new and distinctive products. Many will come from people working at home, as well as from design-savvy students. With advances in additive processes, expect the development of custom jewelry, collectables such as action and sports figures and bobble heads, and personalized awards, gifts, and corporate give-aways. In the world of professional design, anticipate custom designs for business jet interiors, high-end automobiles, and motorcycles.

Brace yourself for new ways of designing and manufacturing in the future. As the late Larry Rhoades once said, “This revolution will enable people to live where they’d like and produce what they need locally.” Rhoades envisioned a factory in the home, or at least in the neighborhood, where people will pay for the plans, not the product. I agree that it will happen. In the future, millions of 3D models of all types will be produced with products such as Cosmic Blobs, Spore, and SketchUp, as well as new generation design and 3D content creation tools.

Predicting the Future of Additive Fabrication

August 4, 2007

Filed under: additive manufacturing,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 12:45

There is more than one way to anticipate the future. In the area of additive fabrication, one can study trend lines to gauge the interest in machines, materials, applications, and industries. Another way is to review the most interesting developments among the leading academic researchers from around the world. Not all ideas come from academia, but a respectable share does. I recall Geoff Smith-Moritz, former editor of the Rapid Prototyping Report newsletter, saying that he attended the Solid Freeform Fabrication Symposium in Austin, Texas to gain a sense of what might develop in the future.

Geoff was right. When I attended the symposium the first time, I was impressed by the quality and quantity of research that was presented. Many of those in attendance know that a high percentage—maybe 98%—of what is shared will never develop or lead to anything more than a technical paper or thesis. However, if you can locate the 2% that has good potential for developing into something that is commercially viable, the time spent at the conference is unquestionably worthwhile.

The challenge is to recognize the 2% when it’s mixed in with the other 98%. What’s more, no one knows for certain what will lead to a successful product or service. However, if one considers the trends that are underway, and has some insight, it’s not impossible to gain some sense of the future. The symposium, organized each year by the University of Texas at Austin, provides this opportunity like no other. The 18th symposium begins on Monday and I’m hoping that it will provide the quality of research results that it has in the past. If it does, and I expect it will, it will be worth enduring the heat and humidity of Texas in August.