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Inside 3D Printing

April 27, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,review — Terry Wohlers @ 11:22

This is the name of an event that was launched this week at the Javits Convention Center in New York. I attended and was very impressed on a number of levels. First, I was surprised to learn that about 3,000 attended the two-day conference and exposition. I cannot remember attending a first-time event that has attracted more a few hundred people. Some events have been around for 10, even 20 years, and still draw fewer than 2,000 people.

Second, I was pleased at how well it was organized. Mediabistro, a company led by Alan Meckler, PhD, is the group behind it. The company clearly knows what it takes to organize and run events. Every detail, down to the refreshments, was handled expertly. Some might consider Meckler a trade show genius. In 1990, he created a newsletter called Internet World, the first of its kind. It led to the launch of the Internet World trade shows, which were the fastest growing in trade show history. His company, Mecklermedia Corp., was subsequently acquired by Penton Media in 1998 for $274 million in cash.

Seeing an audience of 1,000+ is a speaker’s dream come true. That’s what I saw when walking onto the stage early Tuesday morning. The attendees were a mix of NY investors, analysts, startup companies, and corporations of all types. Most were more interested in business opportunities in 3D printing than in the technology itself. What struck me most about the audience was their amazing appetite for information on the subject. They behaved like people that hadn’t eaten in days.

Mediabistro has scheduled Inside 3D Printing events for July 10-11 in Chicago, Illinois, September 17-18 in San Jose, California, October 1-2 in Singapore, and February 2014 in Munich or Berlin, Germany. The event returns to the Javits Convention Center in New York April 3-4, 2014. It’s clear that Meckler sees a window of opportunity, similar to the Internet shows of the early 1990s. If these additional events follow the formula used for this first event, they stand a good chance of success.

My Dad

April 15, 2013

Filed under: life — Terry Wohlers @ 07:20

As time passes, my appreciation for what my father taught me strengthens. He was a successful building contractor, so I was surrounded by tools, materials, and opportunities to make things. And, I took advantage of it. He taught me the right and wrong ways to use tools, the meaning of form, fit, and function, and the importance of precision. He had an eye for quality, especially when making hardwood cabinets and fine furniture. My dad could build almost anything out of wood or metal, so I learned from one of the best, while gaining precious hands-on experience. This helped establish a foundation of understanding and know-how that I’ve enjoyed for more than 35 years.

After graduating from high school and going to the University of Nebraska at Kearney, I worked for another building contractor for four years. This work helped pay the bills and get me through the four-year program. Without the previous experience, I probably would have been flipping burgers or bar tending. I was lucky enough to learn even more during this period as I used my hands and head.

In recent years, most of my time has been spent in the office, with travel, snow skiing, hiking, biking, and other recreational and family activities. Maybe someday, I will set up a proper shop with space and tools. In the meantime, I would not trade my hands-on experience for anything.

Children growing up on farms and in rural areas get their hands dirty and learn how to fix things—something that does not happen as much in cities. As urbanization continues around the world, fewer young people are given the chance to learn how to work with tools and materials. For this reason, I’m happy to watch the recent maker movement unfold. Hacker and maker spaces are popping up in many communities here in the U.S. and elsewhere. The Shanghai Government Technology Committee (Shanghai, China), for example, initiated the launch of 100 community hacker spaces and “innovation houses” more than a year ago.

For communities and countries to prosper, it’s important for them to create products of value from materials of much lower value. This helps to create a thriving economy. My father indirectly taught me this, although I didn’t quite get it at the time. Service industries are important, but they only move money from one pocket to another. Making stuff creates wealth and prosperity—something I value more now than ever. Thanks, Dad.

Urbanization of China

April 1, 2013

Filed under: future,life,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 15:15

I spent three days in China last week and it was one of the most interesting trips in a long time. It was my fifth visit to the country, and I found that change continues in a big way. I spent time in Hefei, Anqing, and Huaining—all in the Anhui Province, home to 67 million people. The three cities are relatively close to one another and located about 500 km (310 miles) west of Shanghai. Hefei to Shanghai is one hour by jet, three hours by high-speed train, and five hours by car.

Hefei has a population of more than 7.5 million and is the capital of the Anhui Province. About 500 million people live within a 500-km radius of Hefei, and the area represents 48% of China’s gross domestic product, so it is a very important region to the country. Hefei’s 2012 GDP was RMB 416 billion ($67.1 billion), which is a 13.6% increase over 2011. A new international airport, with non-stop service to New York and Frankfurt, will open near Hefei at the end of May.

I was especially impressed by the construction of high rise apartment complexes. Clusters of 20 or more buildings are going up about everywhere you look. I doubt more than five minutes passed between seeing a new group of them when traveling by train from Hefei to Shanghai. The expansion is nothing short of astounding.

Urbanization is occurring at a rapid pace. At the end of last year, 52.6% of China’s people lived in urban areas, up from 26% in 1990, according to Wikipedia. A Chinese government official told me that about 10% of the entire population of China (135 million) would move from rural areas to urban communities over the next several years.

China’s success in manufacturing has created tremendous wealth in the country and this has led to much of the development in real estate. When I visited Beijing in 1998, the streets were filled with bicycles. Now, they are filled with trucks and cars, including many expensive European brands. You will see some bikes and three-wheel vehicles, still without lights or reflectors at night, but they are disappearing. Meanwhile, clusters of high rises are covering the landscape and I’ve not seen development like it anywhere else.