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Climbing a Mountain

August 20, 2011

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:29

My 19-year old daughter, her boyfriend Dylan, his friend and father, and I departed Fort Collins at 1:30 am on Thursday. Our initial destination: the base of Longs Peak, a 4,346-meter (14,259-foot) mountain in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. My interest in climbing the mountain began 30 years ago, but the opportunity didn’t presented itself until this week.

We began the 26-kilometer (16-mile) round-trip hike and climb at 3:00 am with headlamps switched on. After about 3.5 hours, we reached the Boulder Field, a large area made up of rocks, some massive, for about as far as you could see. The area was created from a glacier a very long time ago. It took about one hour to cross the boulders and reach the Keyhole, a transitional point in the journey.

Many people reach the Keyhole and turn back because of the powerful winds and shear cliffs and drop-offs on the other side. When we got there, the wind was an estimated 80 km (50 miles) per hour. Passing through the Keyhole—a requirement for the route we took—is dramatic and where the difficult part of the climb begins. I was unsure about moving ahead, thinking that a wind gust could easily peel a person off the mountain, which has happened before.

We chose to proceed, with the most frightening part of the climb ahead of us. The Keyhole route is considered non-technical (i.e., no ropes, harnesses, etc.). As I carefully edged forward, I asked myself what I was thinking when I chose to attempt the summit. I had never done anything quite like this before. A mistake or dizzy spell could mean disaster. A fall during much of the next two hours toward the summit would be fatal. A friend of Dylan’s father was climbing Longs Peak a few years ago and he fell to his death. The final accent required you to scale up the side of a steep area with little to grasp.

We reached the summit about 6.5 hours after we started and celebrated with high fives. We spent about 45 minutes there enjoying the indescribable views and then began the decent. Going down was somewhat easier, but still challenging in places. I was happy to return to the Keyhole, which was essentially a “cakewalk” from that point forward. We ended the adventure after about 13 hours of hiking and climbing, with nearly every muscle in my body hurting and wanting rest. Would I do it again? Not anytime soon, but I can now check this one off my Bucket List.

Additive Manufacturing Education

August 6, 2011

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:13

Additive manufacturing (AM) is going places that many of us never anticipated. Frankly, I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. The more I explore the future potential of AM and 3D printing technology, the more excited I become. I truly believe that AM will develop to become the most useful technology for the development and production of products than any other.

The need for AM education and training has never been greater. That’s why I’m excited about the NSF-funded National Center for Rapid Technologies (RapidTech) housed at the University of California–Irvine. I had the privilege of attending this week’s seventh national workshop (RapidTech 2011), which involved about 50 educators from across the nation. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only national effort focused on preparing high schools, community colleges, and other institutions of higher education to include additive manufacturing and related technologies and processes in their programs.

RapidTech has partnered with the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEd) at Edmonds Community College—another NSF-funded program. The collaborative project aims to prepare educational institutions across the U.S. to teach the new AM standards being produced by the ASTM International F42 Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Already, terminology and file format standards have been published, with many more in the works. The work by MatEd and RapidTech could have a profound impact on our nation’s understanding and use of additive manufacturing technology and the industry standards that support it.

My hope is that Washington will continue to support RapidTech, MatEd, and other educational programs that concentrate on AM. This work will help to develop a workforce of technicians, engineers, and others that understand the potential of AM. These people will be among those that will develop, integrate, and use new-generation AM systems and materials. This will go a long way in ensuring our nation’s success in product development innovation and manufacturing for years to come.