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Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing

February 27, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education — Terry Wohlers @ 13:48

Note: The following was authored by Tyler Hudson, an intern at Wohlers Associates.

With the declining prices for consumer-grade material extrusion (FDM-like) 3D printers, more people are purchasing them. This has created a need for a basic understanding of how to get started with the technology.

The orientation of the part you are building is key to success. Orientation that produces the fewest number of overhangs tend to result in better builds because it requires less support material that later must be manually removed.

Few designs can be oriented in a way that eliminates overhangs and the need for some support material. When this happens, it is best to orient the part in a way that results in external overhangs instead of internal. The orientation at the left in the following is usually preferred over the one at the right.


The orientation on the left results in external overhangs, which means that the support material will be easier to remove. The orientation at the right results in internal overhangs, so removing the support material becomes much for difficult. Some designs may not be as easy to orient as this one, but with experience, you will be able to decide which orientation works the best.

Click here to read the entire Beginner’s Guide to 3D Printing.

Leno’s Garage

February 15, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 19:02

I had the great opportunity of visiting Jay Leno’s garage about three weeks ago. I first visited it in August 2009 and was very impressed by Leno’s rare, restored, and expensive collection of 128 cars and 100 motorcycles that he had at the time. In some ways, I was even more impressed by the most recent visit. The vehicles, all of which Jay drives, may well be the largest in the world. And, it’s not getting any smaller or less valuable.

I brought with me several 3D-printed gifts for Jay to keep. One was a topology-optimized titanium cabin bracket from a major aircraft manufacturer. I like the design so much that I almost kept it, but I gave it to him. Another was a window crank handle for an antique car (see the following image) that was redesigned and 3D printed in aluminum. Both are beautiful designs. Another part I gave to Jay was a metal impeller with paper-thin fins. I also gave him an investment casting pattern for a small two-cycle cylinder head, as well as a sand core for an intake manifold.


The tour was excellent, but the time we spent discussing 3D printing was cut short, unfortunately, because we arrived late. Jay and his staff are aware of 3D printing and they even had a machine for a while. The team works extensively with unique and hard to find metal parts, so metal 3D printing is of interest to them. Thanks to Bob for the inspiring tour and to Bernard (garage manager), Jim, and Per for meeting with us. Thanks also to Jay for letting us through the door.

Major Brands Adopt 3D Printing

February 2, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 14:07

Commercial 3D printing has been around since 1988, but change over the past two years is unlike anything we’ve seen in the industry’s first 25 years. Major corporations are making commitments to 3D printing. The earliest adopters of the technology were the likes of Chrysler, GM, Pratt & Whitney, and Texas Instruments, but the recent wave of big companies and brands fall into another category.

Among the new companies are Autodesk, Adobe, and Microsoft. Led by CEO Carl Bass, Autodesk is planning to play a role in easing the flow of 3D model data, from concept to 3D printing. Pre-processing steps can include the cleanup and “healing” of 3D models, the creation of support structures, slicing, and optimizing the orientation of parts. Autodesk aims to simplify these steps. Adobe has added features to Photoshop CC that it hopes will help users streamline the preparation of data for 3D printing. Microsoft is promoting its new 3MF file format as an alternative to the STL and AMF formats.


Wohlers discussed these brands in an “analyst outlook” presentation
at CES in January 2015 in Las Vegas

Other major brands that have entered the 3D printing industry are Amazon, eBay, and Dell. Amazon has created a new 3D printing store that competes, to some degree, with Shapeways. About 1.5 years ago, eBay launched a new app for creating custom print-on-demand products, and Dell is selling 3D printers and materials. Meanwhile, Office Depot, Staples, Home Depot, Toys “R” Us, and UPS have gotten into 3D printing market at various levels. The two office supply stores and Home Depot are attempting to sell 3D printers. Toys “R” Us is installing kiosks for creating and printing toys in two of it stores. UPS is offering 3D printing services at 100 of its stores across the U.S.

What does all of this mean? A vote of confidence from major software companies, large e-commerce sites, and retail outlets has propelled 3D printing to a new height. It’s uncertain whether these companies will succeed with their initiatives, but the technology is finally getting the attention and respect it deserves.