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Tom Kurfess

January 20, 2013

Filed under: additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 15:54

How many people do you know with four degrees from Massachusetts Institute of Technology? I know only one: Thomas Kurfess. Tom received a Bachelor of Science degree, two Master of Science degrees, and a PhD from MIT. One of his primary areas of research has been the design and development of advanced automotive systems, and he is a top expert in precision manufacturing and metrology systems.

Over the past nearly 12 months, Tom has served as the Assistant Director of Advanced Manufacturing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. It is one of the few positions at the White House focused on manufacturing, so Tom has had his hands very full over the past year. His routine has involved being up at 4:00 am and working late into the night. Yet, I’ve heard him say more than once, “I’m living the dream.” And, he’s right. How many people get to do what he’s doing?

One of Tom’s responsibilities is to coordinate additive manufacturing in Washington. This means he is tasked with orchestrating AM across the many government agencies and projects that are underway, including the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute. Tom chaired an important additive manufacturing symposium that was held on August 20, 2012 at the White House Conference Center. He did an outstanding job with his opening presentation, as well as his many comments before and after the speakers.

Tom’s work at the White House is expected to end in one month. My hope is that he will stay, if the option presents itself. My second choice is that his position is filled with another capable individual. More now than ever, we need someone like Tom to focus on national policy issues associated with additive and advanced manufacturing.

I’ve known Tom for many years, but got to know him much better over the past four years when he and I worked together on a project. Over that time, I’ve gained a great deal of respect for him as a person, professional, and national spokesperson and advocate for advanced manufacturing. I know that success will come with whatever he chooses to do in the future. We need more people like Tom in Washington to help shape policy in manufacturing for our great nation.

Bend, Not Break

January 6, 2013

Filed under: life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:33

I finished reading Ping Fu’s new book Bend, Not Break, a few days ago. What an incredible story! The book is about the two lives that Ping lived: one in China and the other in the U.S. She grew up during China’s Cultural Revolution, a time when families were split up and forced to live in dire conditions. At age 8, Ping was sent away and lived in horrible surroundings with little food. She was also faced with caring for her 4-year old sister by herself.

Ping overcame unbelievable adversity. At age 10, she was gang raped. Many years later, her university thesis described atrocities associated with China’s one-child policy, which led to her imprisonment, solitary confinement, and being forced to leave China. She arrived into the U.S. with $80 and knowing only three words of English.

Ping’s remarkable story is written with such honesty and clarity. Parts of the book are extremely sad, while others are uplifting and inspiring. I found it difficult to put down.

I’ve had the special privilege of knowing Ping for many years and consider her a friend. She has served as a keynote speaker at many events, twice at the annual international Wohlers conference at EuroMold in Frankfurt, Germany. At the recent EuroMold 2012, she arranged for more than 100 copies of her new book for those attending the conference and she appeared to say a few words and autograph the book—an extremely kind gesture.

Ping is a strong leader, entrepreneur, and friend to many. I consider her among the top thinkers in product development and manufacturing. While at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, her team developed NCSA Mosaic, the web browser that popularized the Worldwide Wide Web. The Mosaic work led to the development of Netscape Navigator in the early 1990s. In 2005, Ping was Inc. magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year, an honor given to one person each year. She currently serves on President Obama’s National Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and she sat in the first lady’s box at the 2010 State of the Union address.

No one should encounter what Ping went through, yet it helped shape who she is today. My sincere congratulations to her for writing what I’m sure will become a bestseller.