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Outliers: The Story of Success

July 19, 2009

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:32

What makes someone extraordinarily successful? Being very bright and getting a good education help, but Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, explains that there’s many other factors at work. For example, Bill Gates, at age 13, was given unlimited access to a computer terminal at a time when top computer science professors didn’t have similar access. According to Gladwell, the Beatles, before it became a success, performed in Hamburg, Germany eight hours a day, seven days a week for a year. In both cases, more than 10,000 hours of experience were accumulated, which Gladwell said is key.

Opportunities present themselves. Gates and the Beatles capitalized on them and worked extremely hard. Talent played a role, but it wasn’t talent alone that led to their remarkable success. Perhaps this is obvious, but Gladwell explains the forces at work in a clever and enlightening way. He had my attention from beginning to end.

Timing also plays a key role in success, Gladwell said. For example Gates, Sun Microsystems founder Bill Joy, and Apple’s Steve Jobs were born within six months of one another. Gladwell argues that if they—and others that experienced great success in computing—had not been born in late 1954 or 1955, they probably would not have experienced the success they did. Bill Gates would not be Bill Gates, as we know him.

Gladwell goes on to say why it’s unlikely for someone born in December to become a professional hockey player. Most elite hockey players are born in the first three months of the year and Gladwell explains way.

I found Outliers to be a fascinating read and one that I highly recommend. Gladwell makes clear that if someone is bright, benefits from some luck, and puts in 10,000 hours of hard work, he or she can go to great heights in life. You don’t have to be a genius or attend a top university to experience extraordinary success.

If you have not yet read Outliers, you should. It’s an excellent book.

Additive Manufacturing Roadmap

July 2, 2009

Filed under: additive manufacturing,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 15:26

The National Center for Manufacturing Sciences led the development of a roadmap for the additive manufacturing (AM) industry in 1998. The effort was supported by many industrial, government, and academic organizations in the U.S. and it led to a report titled The Road to Manufacturing. It served as a useful guide, although I believe it was the work leading up to the document that was of most value. As Dwight Eisenhower once said, and I will paraphrase: Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Little organization on the national level has occurred over the past 10 years in the U.S. This has been a little puzzling to some, especially when considering the vast economic and strategic benefits of AM technology. To some degree, the AM industry—particularly in the U.S.—has struggled with focus and direction. This, however, is beginning to change. One cause is the recent launch of the ASTM International Committee F42 on Additive Manufacturing, an effort concentrating on the development of industry standards. (See this blog commentary.) Another is an event titled Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing (RAM) Workshop, held in March 2009 in Washington, DC.

Sixty-five experts from academia, industry, and government attended the RAM Workshop. Its purpose: to develop a roadmap for research in additive manufacturing for the next 10-12 years. The effort was led by David Bourell of the University of Texas at Austin, Ming Leu of Missouri University of Science and Technology, and David Rosen of Georgia Institute of Technology. These three individuals, and those at the workshop, worked together to create a new roadmap. Sponsors were the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research.

The workshop, and the work that followed, resulted in 26 research recommendations. Among them: 1) produce a new foundation for CAD systems to overcome modeling limitations associated with building AM parts, 2) create closed-loop and adaptive control systems with feed-forward and feedback capabilities for AM machines, 3) develop and identify sustainable (green) materials that are recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable, 4) develop training programs with certifications for industry practitioners, 5) develop and adopt internationally recognized standards, such as those initiated by ASTM Committee F42, and 6) establish a national test bed center with AM machines and expert users to leverage equipment and human resources in future research.