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Traveling the Iron Road

July 28, 2017

Filed under: life,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 04:05

Note: The following was authored by Julie Whitney, executive assistant at Wohlers Associates.

What do World War I, the Dolomites in Italy, and Telluride, Colorado have in common? The Iron Road (aka, via ferrata). Previously, I did not know what a “via ferrata” was and had never even heard the term before our German exchange student introduced it to me. According to Wikipedia, a via ferrata is a protected climbing route in the Alps and other areas. A modern version uses a steel cable, iron rungs, pegs, or other climbing aids that run along the route. Our exchange student’s family does a via ferrata trip every summer, and I wanted to try one.

When my Google search found a via ferrata route in Telluride, Colorado, I could not believe it. I anticipated a need to travel much further. Unlike its European brethren, the Telluride route is almost completely horizontal. Traversing 4 km (2.5 miles) and 152 meters (500 feet) above the valley floor, it is one of the most spectacular and breathtaking things I’ve ever experienced.

The route is not all metal rungs. In fact, most is hiked along a trail, albeit a very narrow one with a significant drop off. At certain points, it becomes so narrow that it is necessary to hook in with harness lanyards. At these points, the trail is literally a foot step in width. At one particularly interesting spot, a tree is in the middle of the path with a cable running behind it. It’s necessary to hook in and then hug the tree as you swing around, with your rear suspended in the air.

The actual via ferrata section is called the “main event.” It’s not particularly physical, but it is “off the charts” mentally-challenging, especially to those new to rock climbing. Tyler, our guide, was cheering me on and it felt awesome. As we were eating our lunch after successfully completing one pass, Tyler asked if we would like to return using the same route. He felt confident in our abilities and suggested that we head back while he stayed to take pictures of us. How could we say no to that?

As we eased back onto the rungs, I felt a little differently than before. I was missing Tyler and his encouragement. In the middle of the “main event,” panic was knocking at my door, but I was able to give myself a pep talk and pull myself back from the figurative edge, while standing on the literal one. Nothing worthwhile is easy, and sometimes you need to get out of your own way and go for it. The result is having one of the most memorable times of your life.

Click here to read the full version of this story at Empty Nest Adventures.

The Wonder of Flight

July 15, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,entertainment,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:07

Note: The following was authored by Joseph Kowen, associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

I have always loved to fly. As far back as I can remember, I was always looking upward at the first sound of a plane. I can still feel the excitement of a trip to the airport as a child. I grew up in the southern tip of Africa when air travel was not very popular, so an airport visit might result in seeing only two or three planes. The Concorde came to visit one year, and my cousin was allowed off school to see it. I was not so lucky and had to make do with viewing the pictures he took.

Last month, I visited the Paris Air Show for the first time, a dream come true for an aviation aficionado. The show is a biennial celebration of all things aerospace. It’s a big deal—and big business. Orders valued at $150 billion were announced at the event.

The event is a showcase for new aircraft. It is also an opportunity for more than 2,000 exhibitors to display products and services used to build these complex machines. One of the main reasons for my attendance was to observe how additive manufacturing is advancing in the aerospace industry. AM is indeed playing an increasingly important role in aircraft design and manufacturing. Many AM systems and service providers demonstrated how complex shapes and geometric features can be built additively. Also, they showed how these parts can be made much lighter without sacrificing strength. In the aviation industry, every bit of weight reduction translates into cost savings.

After my professional duties were out of the way, the real excitement was seeing the aircraft on display. The Airbus A380 showed remarkable agility for a craft of its size. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and the Dassault Rafale performed breathtaking feats in the air.

I have always felt that flying was the ultimate mastery of science over the forces of nature. I never fail to marvel at the ease with which tons of equipment lift off the ground. Having spent a few days soaking up the latest that aerospace has to offer, I am more in awe of the ingenuity of the engineers that have made flight seem so effortless.

When leaving for home, I again luxuriated in the wonder of flight, as I have done since first stepping onto a plane. I suppose I’ll always feel the excitement of flight every time the wheels lift off the runway. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

Importance of Design for AM

July 1, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 08:35

Note: The following was authored by Olaf Diegel, associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

Lasertech, a metal additive manufacturing (AM) company in northern Sweden, asked me to design something that showcased metal AM, so I chose a small still. The company wanted to use it as a special gift for executives. I designed the barrels of the still to measure 117 x 58 mm (4.6 x 2.3 inches).

One of the largest obstacles to broad adoption of metal AM is the significant amount of post-processing that is required. Premium AEROTEC, Daimler, and EOS agree that about 70% of the cost of metal AM is related to pre- and post-processing. For metal parts, support structures are used to anchor them to the build plate when printed. These structures are used to transfer heat to the build plate and prevent features of the parts from warping and distorting.

After the build process, the support structures must be removed—a process that often requires labor, skill, tools, and equipment. After removal, the surfaces of the parts require smoothing, such as hand filing and/or milling. I treated the small still as a design challenge, with the goal of using little or no support structures, other than what is required to attach the still to the build plate.

In general, it is important to avoid overhanging features with a surface area of more than a few square millimeters. Also, it is helpful to avoid features that are produced at angles greater than 45 degrees from vertical because they will require support material. The exact angle can vary depending on the material being used. For this project, I chose aluminum and made certain that features did not exceed a 45-degree angle.

The design resulted in no support structures whatsoever. The still was cut off the build plate and shot-peened and then was ready for use. The design shows that it is possible to reduce or entirely eliminate the need for these structures. It can dramatically reduce the time and cost in producing metal parts by AM.

Click here to see a series of nine images related to this project.