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June 23, 2013

Filed under: review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 23:07

My wife and I have spent the past several days in Belgium and the trip has been outstanding. After some work in Brussels, we made our way to Brugge by train. We had never been to Brugge before and we’re impressed. The architecture, canals, and overall “feel” of the place is like no other we’ve experienced. It is absolutely charming and picturesque almost everywhere you look.

Waffles: Restaurants in the U.S. often refer to breakfast waffles as “Belgian waffles,” but they’re only vaguely similar. Real Belgian waffles are sold in many areas as snacks and they’re outstanding. They can be loaded with chocolate, fruit, whipped cream, and other toppings, but I like them plain. It’s a good thing they don’t offer these treats in the U.S. because I’d weigh a lot more.

Chocolate: Belgium is also known for its fine chocolate and it does not get much better. We sampled some last night and again today and the stuff is mouth-watering delicious. You can easily get it in the U.S., but it’s at nearly every street corner in Brussels and Brugge where tourists are found. If we stayed much longer, I’d gain even more weight because Belgian chocolate is that good.

Beer: At a tour of a brewery yesterday afternoon, we were told that 2,500 different beers are available in Belgium. That’s a lot of variety for a relatively small country. Wikipedia says the country has about 178 breweries, so maybe our tour guide exaggerated a bit. Regardless, it’s not difficult to find a good Belgian beer here. We found that Belgians have a beer or two at lunch, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Some will even drink beer in the morning—probably because it tastes so good.

If you haven’t spent time in Belgium, you should. We could have easily taken time to visit nearby France, Germany or the Netherlands, but we chose to relax and get to know the lifestyle of our Belgium friends. The waffles, chocolate, and beer made it all the better. Soon, we will be returning home and we’ll miss the many pleasures that this beautiful country and its people have to offer.

3D Printed in China

June 8, 2013

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 16:39

Recent trips to China have taught me a lot about the country’s plans for 3D printing. The central government, as well as provinces and cities, are planning to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into 3D printing over the next several years. One 500-employee Chinese company, with assistance from a city and provincial government, is expected to invest about $120 million over the next three years.

Another company, Haier, is going to enter the 3D printing area, according to a May 31, 2013 article published by China Daily Europe. With 80,000 employees, Haier is the world’s largest supplier of white goods. The company also manufactures computers, televisions, air conditioners, and many other household products. Xinqi Zhang, mayor of Qingdao (Haier’s headquarters location), said that the 3D printing industry needs the support of government due to the cost of implementing the technology. Zhang did not disclose the amount that Haier is planning to invest.

The Asian Manufacturing Association (AMA), a Beijing organization, launched the World 3D Printing Technology Alliance last week. Its primary purpose is to promote industrial cooperation within the 3D printing industry. Jun Luo, AMA’s CEO, believes revenues from 3D printing products and services in China will reach $1.6 billion in three years, making it the world’s largest market for 3D printing. According to Wohlers Report 2013, the worldwide 3D printing market in 2012 was $2.2 billion, so it would be difficult for China to grow so large in such a short time. AMA plans to establish 10 innovation institutes on 3D printing in China, with initial funding of $3.3 million per institute.

AMA was the organizer of last week’s 2013 World 3D Printing Technology Industry Conference in Beijing. More than 600 very enthusiastic people attended the two-day event, including 100 members of the media. China Daily and CCTV, China’s predominant state television broadcaster, were present. Associate consultant Tim Caffrey and I attended, and we have rarely seen the level of interest in 3D printing that we saw last week. Major organizations were in attendance and television cameras and reporters were nearly everywhere. China as a country wants to see 3D printing progress to a new level and it is determined to be very central to it all.