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SolidWorks World 2012

February 18, 2012

Filed under: CAD/CAM/CAE,event — Terry Wohlers @ 16:30

I attended SolidWorks World earlier this week and I’m glad I did. It is one of the few CAD events I attend and it’s an excellent opportunity to stay abreast of important advances in SolidWorks. More than 5,600 people from 33 countries traveled to San Diego to attend. I find the special guest speakers, and the press conferences that follow, to be among the most inspiring part of the event each year. These presentations, alone, make it worthwhile. Past speakers include Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson, movie producer James Cameron, and Apollo 13’s Jim Lovell and Gene Krantz. The guest speakers are often kept under wraps, making it a surprise when they appear on stage.

This year, we were treated to Mike Rowe of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs. Mike has been involved in 300 “dirty jobs” in all 50 states and is an exceptionally bright guy that’s down to earth. He discussed the mounting skills gap and pointed out that we no longer have only white and blue collar workers in the U.S. He stressed that there’s many important “middle ground” positions and addressed the need to recognize them and the people needed to fill them.

Tony Fadell, formerly of Apple, was another special guest speaker. Tony is considered by many as the “father” of the iPod and served as senior vice president of the iPod Division at Apple. He also led the team that developed the iPhone. Tony mentioned the arguments he had with Steve Jobs over making the iPod compatible with Windows. I told him that I was reading the Steve Jobs book and he smiled, signifying that we were both aware of Steve Jobs’ interesting management style at Apple. Tony is surprisingly young (born in 1969), and in 2010, he founded a company named NEST that’s creating a product for consumers. You might be surprised, as I was, to learn that it’s a thermostat for homes, a product that’s more exciting than it sounds.

A third special guest speaker was Ben Kaufman, the founder and head of Quirky. The company is focused on accepting new product ideas from anyone and then taking some of the best to market. Ben said that they receive about 200-300 ideas for new products every day and two of them are selected for development each week. Quirky has a team of people that advance the ideas, along with many others who contribute to the effort. The result is the commercialization of one product every week. I asked Ben how many of the products are successful and how they measure success. He responded by saying that all of them are successful at some level, although only a few of the products find their way into stores such as Walmart or Target, in the case of consumer products.

SolidWorks World 2012, for me, ended before the final day because I had to wing my way to another event near the east coast. I was lucky enough to attend the Tuesday evening Block Party at The Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego. I can’t imagine the total cost of this three-hour party for 5,000+ SolidWorks enthusiasts. SolidWorks Corp. knows how to treat its customers and how to create world-class software that gets them excited. SolidWorks World 2013, set for January 20-23 in Orlando, Florida, was announced by CEO Bertrand Sicot on Wednesday.

The White House’s Tom Kalil

February 5, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:34

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director of Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Kalil is on leave from the University of California, Berkeley, where he served as Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Science and Technology. In 2007–2008, Kalil was the Chair of the Global Health Working Group for the Clinton Global Initiative. Previously, Kalil served as the Deputy Assistant to President Clinton for Technology and Economic Policy, and the Deputy Director of the White House National Economic Council.

Over the years, Kalil has led many White House technology initiatives. Examples are the Next Generation Internet and the National Nanotechnology Initiative. He has also addressed the growing imbalance between support for biomedical research and for the physical sciences and engineering. Clearly, he has many achievements to his name and is well connected and respected.

Tim Caffrey, associate consultant here at Wohlers Associates, and I had the opportunity to meet with Kalil at OSTP in mid-December 2011. In preparation for the meeting, we tried to do our “homework” on Kalil and his interests in engineering and manufacturing in general and additive manufacturing and 3D printing in particular. What struck me most about Kalil is his understanding of AM and his appreciation for its potential impact on design, innovation, entrepreneurship, business, and advanced manufacturing. His passion for the DIY maker community is depicted in his September 29, 2010 opening remarks on innovation, education, and the maker movement at an NSF-sponsored workshop held after Maker Faire New York.

I am encouraged by Kalil’s views, opinions, and focus and where Washington would like to help take U.S. science and technology in the future. We are lucky to have an individual like Kalil who understands the power of design creativity and business opportunities that are being unleashed by AM. Also, he knows many of the top thinkers and opinion leaders in additive manufacturing, the maker community, and STEM education. Tim and I did not spend time explaining the technology or its impact. He gets it. Instead we could concentrate on what needs to be done and how our nation might get there.