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AM Adoption in Aerospace

February 23, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 17:18

At an impressive pace, companies in the aerospace industry are building in-house capacity and expanding the number of certified suppliers in additive manufacturing. The Federal Aviation Administration and others have indicated to me that a half dozen or more metal AM parts have been certified for flight. In the 2014 to 2016 time frame, I saw more than 30 new designs for metal AM at Airbus and its subsidiary Premium AEROTEC. It is believed that hundreds of different polymer AM parts (i.e., part numbers) are flying on aircraft around the world. Boeing, alone, had more than 60,000 parts flying on a minimum of 16 different military and commercial aircraft in June 2018.

The following bracket design, created by MBFZ Toolcraft GmbH for Airbus, was produced in titanium. The 14 parts in the original design were consolidated into two and weight was reduced by about half. Go to this page for a much larger version of the bracket. Scroll down to near the bottom to see it.

One aerospace company that asked not to be named claimed it would be flying 25 different AM designs by the end of 2018. It expected to have an astounding 300 new designs certified for AM by the end of this year. It is believed that most are for metal AM. When considering that thousands of aerospace companies are in operation around the world, the potential for AM parts in this industrial segment is significant. As Michael Gorelik of the FAA stated at the America Makes MMX in Youngstown, Ohio in October 2018, “The transition to safety-critical AM parts will occur sooner than initially expected.”

New Website

February 9, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,Internet,life — Terry Wohlers @ 16:05

I am happy to announce the launch of our updated website. It has been some time since we introduced the last one, so we are excited to roll it out. We hope you like the organization and presentation of the content, as well as the overall user experience.

As you browse the site, either on your desktop or mobile device, let us know what you think. If you see something that is not quite right, I’d like to hear about it. If you like it, let us know. Any feedback from you is good.

Additive Manufacturing in 2019

January 13, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 14:23

In recent months and years, the additive manufacturing and 3D printing industry has been anything but dull, with stirring news nearly every week. Last week, for example, footwear product company Dr. Scholl’s announced a partnership with Wiivv to produce custom insoles by AM. I own a pair of the Wiivv-branded custom insoles (see the left image in the following) and wrote about them here.

The next 12 months will offer a wide range of interesting, even exciting, developments in AM. We will see companies of all types bridge the chasm from stand-alone AM systems to developing end-to-end solutions for final part production. A few companies have made a lot of progress, but most others are in the early phase. One challenge is to organize many systems at multiple sites. This means managing capacity, sending the right jobs to the correct facilities, and tracking progress. It’s one thing to do it for prototypes, but it is dramatically more difficult to conform to manufacturing quality standards and procedures.

Methods of post-processing will further develop this year. Post-processing involves support material removal, clearing access material from holes and cavities, surface finishing, coloring, coating, texturing, and inspection. Metal parts may also require stress relief, hot isostatic pressing, CNC machining, additional heat treatment, and polishing. Automating some or most of these steps will contribute greatly toward justifying the cost of using AM for production volumes. Post-processing is an area in which each company is developing what it believes to be distinct know-how and IP—and keeping it to themselves—yet much of the work is similar from one company to the next.

Materialise founder and CEO Fried Vancraen said recently that 2019 will be a year of incremental steps and a continuation of a slow revolution. He also stated that applications, not technology, will drive the AM industry in the form of investment. I could not agree more with his views. The year may not bring anything that is completely game-changing. Yet, the collective effort of thousands of organizations worldwide will help to bring AM closer to maturity for production applications, such as the custom insoles from Dr. Scholl’s and Wiivv.

RAPDASA and Formnext

November 17, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 17:11

I attended last week’s 19th annual conference and exhibition of the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa (RAPDASA) in Johannesburg. About 220 people attended from several countries. The RAPDASA organization does a fantastic job with the event year after year, and this year was no exception. (I’ve attended all 19 of them.) Thanks to the fine people at Resolution Circle and the University of Johannesburg for hosting the event, and many others who worked hard to make it a success. Pictured in the following image are Ian van Zyl and Deon de Beer, both of Central University of Technology (CUT), and Amelia Du Toit of Lonmin, and me. CUT and Lonmin are a part of an interesting project named PlatForum, which involves the development and 3D printing of parts in platinum.

This week was Formnext, a trade fair in Frankfurt, Germany, which included much of the best in additive manufacturing products and services worldwide. An estimated 26,919 people and 632 exhibitors filled two large exhibition halls at Messe Frankfurt. AM machines and parts dominated, but design software products for AM and post-processing machinery were also in abundance at this year’s fourth annual event. The development of end-to-end process chains has never been more important and it was evident. The following image shows the XJet exhibit—one of the many impressive displays at Formnext.

On November 14 at Formnext, a half-day Additive Manufacturing Standards Forum was held. It was initiated by America Makes and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) with support from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s U.S. Commercial Service in Düsseldorf. The purpose of the half-day session was to bring together key stakeholders and others to provide an update, answer questions, and discuss AM standards development worldwide. I had the privilege of moderating the session. The following shows the organizations that supported the event.

An important part of this session was the presentation of the America Makes and ANSI Standardization Roadmap for Additive Manufacturing (Version 2.0) and the Additive Manufacturing Standardization Collaborative (AMSC). Both could have a long-term impact on the adoption of AM around the world.

After 14 days on four continents, it was nice to return to Colorado. I like to meet with friends and make new ones, but it’s also good to be home with family and friends, especially over the holidays. (Thanksgiving is next week in the U.S.) The ski season is underway, so it’s time to visit the high country to take part in a sport that is relaxing and exhilarating. It’s a great compliment to a full and rewarding year of travel and work.

AM in Formula One

November 3, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:26

Note: Research associate Ray Huff authored the following.

Two weeks ago, I attended the Circuit of the Americas Formula One race near Austin, Texas. I was a guest of Additive Industries, along with the Sauber Alfa Romeo team, for practice day at the track. The day was rainy, but spirits were high, and we enjoyed the spectacle of heavily-engineered race cars burning down the track at speeds of more than 322 km (200 miles) per hour.

We watched the race from the Paddock Club, an incredible location just above the garages. At midday, we toured the pits and watched the premier teams conducting pit stop practice, vehicle maintenance, and inspection. The greatest treat of all was to meet Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson, drivers of the Sauber team. The two young men were charming, amicable, and laser-focused on their task when it was race time.

Formula One is an amazing use case for AM. Each car is effectively a custom product, with a new design each year. Performance is the number one priority, with an emphasis on stiffness and weight. The cars and drivers are supported by teams of hundreds of engineers, mechanics, and others. Team budgets famously soar in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars. Each F1 team is allowed to bring a maximum of 60 crew members on race day at each of their 21 races throughout the year. I was completely inspired and impressed at the amount of engineering involved in this sport, and look forward to more races in the future.

AM in Africa

October 21, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 07:29

Yesterday, I recently returned from my 22nd visit to Africa. Twenty of them have been to South Africa where additive manufacturing activity is the strongest. In fact, I estimate that 99% of AM work on the continent has occurred in the country. Some limited activity is underway in Botswana, Egypt, Namibia, and Nigeria. Adoption has been especially strong at Central University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, Stellenbosch University, and North-West University—all in South Africa.

The Government of South Africa has been supportive of AM, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) doing the most in a hands-on way. Among the companies that are leading the way is Aerosud, an 800-person supplier of parts and assemblies to Airbus and Boeing. Many other companies are benefiting from AM parts, but they do not own high-end equipment. A reseller network of companies for AM products has been in place for many years.

Central University of Technology (CUT) in Bloemfontein was the first to install multiple high-end industrial machines in South Africa. Its world-class Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM), shown in the following two images, continues to have the largest commercial impact in the country. Last year, the CRPM completed 580 projects consisting of ~13,500 AM parts. Twenty-five percent of the projects were medical cases, most of high complexity. The centre received ISO 13485 quality certification for medical devices in 2016, which has contributed to its capabilities.

CUT and its impressive CRPM served as host to last week’s three-day course on design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) conducted by Wohlers Associates. Twenty-five engineers and others participated, and many were advanced in their knowledge and experience in AM and DfAM when they arrived. Wohlers Associates has conducted many of these courses, the first in August 2015 for NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. One exercise involved the redesign of a manifold by the participants on the first day. Five of them were manufactured in titanium and delivered for inspection by the third day. Thanks to our good friends at the CRPM for helping to make this happen.

The previous images show the conventional manifold design (left) and five versions of the manifold produced by AM. One of the primary objectives of this hands-on, DfAM exercise was to reduce weight and substantially reduce or eliminate the need for support material, which can add substantial time and cost to a part. We are thankful to those who participated, for how engaging they were, and for their favorable feedback. It was one of our very best three-day DfAM courses. Thanks also to CUT and its CRPM for organizing the event and serving as such great hosts.

AM in the U.S. Military

October 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,life — Terry Wohlers @ 05:37

I had the great privilege of spending most of last Thursday at the Pentagon, and what I learned was encouraging. The U.S. Department of Defense has advanced its use of additive manufacturing beyond what I had anticipated. I gained a better understanding of what the military is doing and where it hopes to take AM in the future. More than anything, it made me proud to be an American because these people are incredibly bright and passionate about AM.

I met with 25 people from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and, Navy, as well as various groups within them. They fully understand the consequences of not being prepared and responsive to our adversaries. Suppose one of them took out our supply of spare parts for equipment, vehicles, and weapons. The nation would be crippled and entirely vulnerable to the worst possible scenario. Envision instead a manufacturing capacity so diverse and distributed that it would be impossible to find the thousands of organizations, some very small, that are a part of it. As odd as it may seem, an obscure bait shop that produces custom fishing gear could operate 3D printers and produce parts for DoD.

Those at the Pentagon understand the challenges, most of which revolve around tradition, culture, and people. Humans are creatures of habit and change does not come easily. The procurement process, alone, can be daunting, especially for the smallest defense contractors. Joe’s Bait Shop can process credit cards, but it may not have the personnel or tolerance to process the paperwork required by most DoD-related contracts. The people at the Pentagon are working to address this problem.

Even with the issues that the military face in more fully adopting AM technology, I am optimistic. Individuals, such as Captain Matthew Friedell of the Marine Corps (pictured with me in the following image at the Pentagon), are sharp and among our nation’s best. After hours at the Pentagon, I can say without reservation that we are in very good hands. They do not have all of the answers, but they’ve identified most of the problems. Thank God we have men and women like them, and I sincerely thank them for what they do to keep our nation safe and secure.

Footwear from Wiivv

September 9, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:38

The idea of 3D-printed footwear is appealing. The technology makes it possible to affordably print custom parts that make up the product. Recent history shows that customers are willing to pay a premium for products that have been designed specifically for them. I have many personalized, 3D-printed products, and they are of more value to me than other products. What’s more, I will never get rid of any of them, which is something I cannot say about most other products.

Recently, I received personalized insoles and sandals from Wiivv, a young company that has already shipped more than 50,000 pairs of custom products. The insoles, shown in the following (left), includes a custom, gray part made in nylon by powder bed fusion. I have dedicated them to my dress shoes that I wear at formal events. In fact, I wore them Friday night at a wedding and walked and stood on them for hours without sitting and my feet felt good the entire evening.

For about three weeks, I have been wearing sandals from Wiivv in the office. I have a sit-stand workstation and stand about 70-80% of each day. The sandals took 2–3 days to break in, especially in the area of the arch. In the middle and right images, notice the gray, custom 3D-printed part, along with the arch pocket into which the part is inserted. Both arches felt overly firm in the beginning, but are now comfortable. The straps lock into the sole and can be adjusted for fit and comfort.

When ordering insoles or sandals from Wiivv, a special phone app is used that steps you through the process. It was easy and took no longer than about 15 minutes total. The app prompts you to stand against a wall on a white, 8.5 x 11-inch sheet of paper, and asks you to shoot images from various angles. The company could not have made the measuring and ordering process much easier.

The look and feel of the materials and workmanship of the Wiivv products are of high quality. It’s too soon to know how long they will last, but I have no reason to believe they will not hold up for years. The price of custom, full-length insoles is $99, while custom sandals are $129, both of which are reasonable, in my view. I recommend them highly.

3D-Printed Food

August 26, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:58

The idea of 3D-printed food came in or around 2011 when Hod Lipson and his team at Cornell University produced some crude but intriguing examples. The team showed that it was possible to use a syringe-based material extrusion-based 3D printer to deposit cheese, peanut butter, chocolate, and other types of foods. The objects clearly demonstrated the concept.

In 2014, 3D Systems introduced its ChefJet 3D printer for making candy and other food items. Some time later, the machine was quietly removed from the market after the company found that few people wanted it.

On Friday, I attended the First International Symposium on Precision Nutrition and Food 3D Printing Science and Technology in Beijing, China. The event was the first of its type. Prof. Jack Zhou of Drexel University co-organized it with Hong Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which is China’s version of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. I wanted to attend the event to better understand where the technology and its application might go in the future. Few in attendance had combined expertise in nutrition, food, and 3D printing technology. The disciplines are currently pretty far apart, but they are slowly coming together, as illustrated in the following.

Potential market opportunities are specialty food products such as custom chocolates and candies for weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and special corporate events. At the conference, the following edible items were each printed in a few minutes each. The Wohlers Associates logo (left) was printed using a mixture of white beans, starch, sugar, and water. The decorative pancake at the right tasted surprisingly good.

The 3D printing of food may be a solution looking for a problem. Applying nutrition to the concept may have merit. Making soft foods for babies and the elderly is a potential area of development, although I am not convinced that 3D printing offers an advantage. Maybe. At the conference, it was decided to form an international association on the subject. After dinner on Friday, many of the organizers and attendees met to initiate the new organization. We will see if it can help take the 3D printing of food to a new level.

3D-Printed Guns

August 11, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,legal — Terry Wohlers @ 05:29

With the “green light” looming for the 3D printing of guns on July 31, I was contacted by CNN, ABC7 News (San Francisco), and others. In two days, I conducted the following interviews, as well as two others:

I’m hopeful the interviews will help to educate our nation’s policy makers and the less-informed public on the realities of 3D-printed guns. Making it legal is not a good idea on a number of levels. First and foremost, it’s just plain dangerous. In 2013, soon after the idea of plastic 3D-printed guns was introduced, the Australian police 3D-printed two of them. When fired, both exploded. Watch the video.

Second, the 3D printing of guns sidesteps background checks and a registration process, making it impossible to track the firearms and their owners. And third, it is possible to 3D print the parts of a gun and then assemble them on the other side of security, whether it’s at a government office, sports arena, airport, or somewhere else. The individual plastic pieces would not resemble the parts of gun and may not be detected when being scanned.

In the afternoon of July 31, a Seattle judge granted a temporary restraining order to block the release of the files of guns on the Internet. A day earlier, eight states and the District of Columbia sued to block the publication of the files. The bottom line: the 3D printing of guns is a bad idea.

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