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Custom Rings

April 16, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:47

I recently discovered The Future of Jewelry (TFOJ), a company that produces custom jewelry. It was founded by sisters Casey and Janine Melvin. Both left law school to start the company in 2017 and serve as co-CEOs. TFOJ’s initial focus has been on custom rings. I had the opportunity to test-drive the company’s customization platform recently and designed a ring with our company logo on it. The experience was good, and the design turned out nicely, as shown in the following images.

                           

The steps involve choosing the style of ring and selecting and designing parts of it. I chose the Oxford style from six options. I then picked silver for the material and entered my ring size of 19.5 mm. After uploading our company logo, I experienced some difficulty in getting it to produce correctly on the face of the ring. It was because our logo has a 3D effect and shading, so the problem was not with the TFOJ platform. I adjusted the logo to omit these effects and it created perfectly. The platform supports the importing of JPG, PNG, and BMP, as well as STL, OBJ, and GLTF, which was a nice surprise.

The TFOJ workflow involves a high-resolution 3D printer to produce patterns for the investment casting process. The company outsources precious metal casting work to a network of companies in the U.S. I have not yet received the custom ring because I ordered it just days ago. My experience with the platform was so good that I decided to create and order a second one with a different logo. I am looking forward to receiving both. Thanks to Casey and Janine for developing such an interesting and easy-to-use platform for producing custom jewelry.

Another Supply Chain Collapse

April 3, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 13:56

By Noah Mostow and Terry Wohlers

The five-day block of the Suez Canal underscores the instability of our global supply chains. Nearly everything around us requires global connections. The canal is a critical route for products from Asia to Europe and the east coast of the U.S. With it closed, millions of consumer goods were blocked. The alternative is to transport them around the southern tip of Africa, which is a dramatically further. Fortunately, as you may know, the ship was freed and the passage cleared, but it could have been delayed much longer.

Like the pandemic, the blocked canal exposed a problem with our supply chains. Additive manufacturing (AM) is not a perfect solution for all types of parts, but it provides a quick and agile manufacturing process. Both have been discussed in length, so we want to share an idea of what the future might look like.

                                              

The next time a disaster disrupts a supply chain, we can be prepared, and physical stockpiles of replacement parts may not be the answer. Instead of parts sitting on shelves and racks, the inventory is digital, coupled with machine capacity and feedstock. The designs are fully tested for 3D printing, a proactive step for any manufacturing process. The next disaster may be worse, so the future should not rely solely on smooth supply chains. We can start to prepare for this reality today.

If passed by U.S. Congress, proposed bipartisan legislation would invest $1 billion to manage a partnership involving the federal government, private industry, and state and local governments focused on the manufacture of critical products. The bill would establish an Office of Supply Chain Preparedness within the Department of Commerce. It has the support of America Makes, the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation.

How Wohlers Report 2021 was Produced

March 21, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:38

By Noah Mostow

Helping to develop Wohlers Report 2021 was an unbelievable experience. The report was published last week. I learned that it takes an army of bright and dedicated individuals. This year, 88 co-authors and contributors from 34 countries were a part of it. My primary role was to research and write new sections on a wide range of subjects related to additive manufacturing and 3D printing. Also, I edited content provided by the contributors, and collected and processed data from more than 130 companies.

                                             

Organizations from around the world generously responded to our requests for information. They supplied us with the some of the most detailed information available in the AM industry. Much of what was supplied is sensitive, making the job even more challenging. As a part of the team, I saw data as it arrived. This work eventually led to our conclusion that the AM industry grew by 7.5% in 2020. From the stories told by those who contributed to Wohlers Report 2021, the past 13 months have been challenging. Even so, many companies see a big potential for 2021 and 2022.

I hope you enjoy the new applications and other developments from across the industry in the new report. My personal favorite is 3D-printed food. Perhaps, I will write blog post on it at another time. The secret to this report, in my view, is the dedication, excitement, and attention to detail from Terry Wohlers. Over the past few months, he would arrive at work early—often by 4:00 am—to help produce this industry-leading report. Many refer to it as the “bible” of 3D printing. For more information about Wohlers Report 2021, click here.

3D-Printed Housing

February 27, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future — Terry Wohlers @ 12:03

The idea of using 3D printing for construction applications has merit in special circumstances. If the value it adds exceeds the costs of using the technology, it may make sense. An example is the design and manufacturing of complex architectural features that are attached to a building produced using conventional methods of construction. If these features cost more to construct using “old-school” methods, 3D printing becomes a candidate.

Producing complex shapes and features is what sets 3D printing apart, whether it is a small mechanical part or one that is meters in size. Using the technology to produce basic, orthogonal shapes does not make much sense because they can be produced faster and less expensively with conventional methods of construction. These methods may be decades old and often require manual labor, but they are affordable and accepted by city and state regulatory groups and agencies.

                                             

This article, titled “Builder says houses made with 3-D printing will cut construction costs,” was published recently. An agent with Zillow said, “The cost of construction is 50% cheaper than the cost of comparable newly-constructed homes in Riverhead, New York, and 10 times faster.” With all due respect, I strongly disagree and would like to see the real numbers behind this project. The large concrete printer was used to produce the walls only.

Andrew Riddle, owner of Hanover Custom Builders in northern Colorado, said unfinished interior and exterior walls are in the range of 4.7% of the total cost of an average house. Even if you saved 50% on them, it would not “move the needle” much on the total project. Consider also how much more difficult it would be to run electrical, plumbing, and heating/cooling ducts and vents through these 3D-printed concrete walls. Installing doors, windows, trim, and wall hangings would also be more difficult. In the end, the total cost of the house may be more expensive, and modifications and remodels could cost far more.

Using AM for Design and Production

February 8, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:04

By Noah Mostow

The additive manufacturing industry has progressed well beyond prototyping only. Companies using it for both product development and series production are finding interesting benefits. The same process and material can be used for concept modeling, prototyping, testing, and final production. This is not the case when using AM for product development and a conventional manufacturing process for series production.

When designing a product that will go into production using the same AM process and material, one can “prototype” not only the design, but also the production process. This uncovers possible challenges that develop before production begins. Design iterations, coupled with new prototypes, can help improve the best methods of post-processing and to better understand the start-to-finish workflow.

                                      

Using the same process and material, from concept to manufacturing, can dramatically shorten the time it takes to get a new product to market. Also, it can create opportunities for entirely new types of products that result in new revenue streams. A growing number of manufacturers are exploring what is possible as they witness what others are doing.

TIPE 3D Printing 2021

January 11, 2021

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 19:03

The TIPE 3D Printing event is less than 2.5 weeks away. (TIPE stands for technology, industry, people, and economics.) The organizer of the January 27-28 virtual conference is Women in 3D Printing. It features an all-female line-up of more than 120 speakers and panelists globally, which I find interesting and is a first. Women in 3D Printing has developed into an organization of more than 75 chapters in 28 countries, representing one of the largest additive manufacturing communities anywhere.

                              

Sara Safari is keynote speaker of the event. She is an author, professor, engineer, and advocate for women empowerment. Sara is clearly a high achiever in more than one way. She has climbed the seven highest peaks on every continent, including Mount   Everest, which I find remarkable. Sara grew up in Iran with few personal freedoms or rights under the law, so I am sure her perspective on an array of subjects will grip one’s attention.

Women in 3D Printing and TIPE serve as inspiration for females of all ages, but especially for those who are young. Seeing what this organization is accomplishing, coupled with the TIPE event, will surely motivate people to learn more about 3D printing and the career opportunities this vibrant industry offers.

Register now for the event. I look forward to seeing you there!

Where is My 3D-Printed Gear?

December 13, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:47

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

With snow falling outside, I am often looking at my snowboarding equipment. It is all traditionally manufactured, along with all my outdoor gear. Where are the 3D-printed products?

It is easy to find 3D printers close to the engineers working at manufacturing companies that produce outdoor gear. For decades, many have used additive manufacturing to support modeling, prototyping, design validation, and testing. However, it is difficult to find more than a handful of products from these companies being manufactured by 3D printing.

Most outdoor gear is produced by conventional manufacturing due to the economies of scale. When I worked at Burton, 3D-printed bindings, goggles, and helmets were tested and validated in real-world settings. However, once a design was finished, tooling was made and the parts were manufactured with traditional methods such as injection molding.

The following image shows a concept snowboard binding that was designed with the help of AI and 3D printed on an HP Jet Fusion machine. It provides an opportunity to apply methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) to create intricate designs with less material. However, it may be some time before this binding is at your local ski shop due to the higher costs associated with 3D printing.

                                           

To make 3D-printed parts commercially viable, companies will need to make some fundamental changes. Methods of DfAM are key to improving designs that take advantage of 3D printing’s strengths. Topology optimization was likely used in the pictured binding, which is good. However, I believe few parts were consolidated digitally and printed as one. This can dramatically reduce cost.

The outdoor industry could gain from personalizing products to fit and perform better for a user. Customers will pay a premium for this. Most challenges related to using AM for final part production can and will be solved in time. However, not all parts and products are a good fit for AM. Even so, to survive and thrive, countless manufacturers worldwide will develop the expertise and capacity needed to produce new types of products that are commercially appealing and perform better due to the benefits of AM.

Print Often, Learn Fast

November 14, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 11:52

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Years ago, 3D printing was generally referred to as rapid prototyping. Then and now, engineers and designers often experience inherent gaps between a 3D computer model and a physical part. 3D printing can turn an idea into reality and quickly expose mistakes, saving time and money.

A physical model or prototype does not need to be a complete part or idea. Depending on the application, the critical feature of the part may be the location of a hole or spacing for the cables to prevent pinching. These are critical features that one can quickly test with a small 3D-printed part. If you break down these critical features into individual elements, you can prototype them quickly and learn immediately.

A 3D printer can be a great investment for a company, designer, or engineer. A 3D-printed part can take minutes or hours, depending on the size of the part and the machine used. When a part is in your hands, you can learn from it in seconds. Learning also occurs from simulations and CAD models, but a 3D-printed part brings a concept to reality. With a physical part, one can learn more about its actual size, weight, ergonomics, and how it fits to mating parts. Also, a part makes it possible to test the ease or difficulty in assembly and disassembly. Some of this can be done using CAD, but you can learn so much more when you have a part in your hands.

                                                   

I once designed sunglasses that fold to the size of my palm. The idea was to consolidate 17 parts into one by designing for additive manufacturing. I questioned tolerances, the hinge, and the entire concept. Before continuing to move ahead with the design, I segmented the hinge and printed it. The print took 26 minutes and cost $0.19 in material on a small filament-based, material extrusion machine. I very quickly learned that the proposed design did not work, which saved me hours because I was able to immediately adjust the design. By 3D printing a small segment of a new product, I was able to learn so much in less than 30 minutes and at little cost.

Newest Member of Wohlers Associates

November 1, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 20:28

Note: Noah J. Mostow, research associate at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

I produced my first 3D-printed part while working at Burton Snowboards in Burlington, Vermont. The part is shown in the following image. Its purpose was to test transforming rotation into linear motion. I found a concept online, made a quick model of it in SolidWorks, and sent it to my mentor at Burton for his review. That Friday, I stayed late to learn how to load the part into the machine. Also, I waited to see the first layers of nylon spread across the build platform of the powder bed fusion system. On Monday, I arrived early to learn how to break out parts from the build. My first 3D-printed part was hidden between components for prototype bindings and goggles.

                                                        

The concept was not going to work for our application, but that was okay. It showed me how much and quickly one can learn from a physical concept model or prototype part. Since that day nearly four years ago, I have used 3D printing to prototype many new concepts and manufacture parts.

After leaving Vermont, I moved out to Colorado and was employed by 3D Systems Healthcare in Littleton. I worked my way up from a data entry job to becoming a biomedical engineer, designing craniomaxillofacial reconstruction surgeries. You can read about these types of procedures on pages 33–37 of Wohlers Report 2020. After nearly two years at the company, I was driven to learn more about additive manufacturing and enrolled in a master’s program on Advanced Manufacturing at Colorado School of Mines in Golden, not far from where I was working. I have learned from some of the best in the industry and been exposed to a wide range of new ideas and technologies. I am excited to bring my experience from academia, biomedicine, and sporting goods to Wohlers Associates. Also, I look forward to learning so much more.

                                                     

Away from the computer, I am an avid outdoorsman who enjoys traveling and getting into the colorful Colorado mountains. This lifestyle can be traced back to hiking through the woods of Akron, Ohio where I grew up. I am especially passionate about snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, camping, fly fishing, and cooking. Interestingly, 3D printing is enhancing these industries, which makes them even more attractive to me. In fact, I have designed and printed a few personal parts to test new ideas. However, just like my first 3D-printed part, the initial prototypes are usually not the ideal solution. With every print, I am learning and improving, and someday, perhaps I will see one of my ideas become commercially available.

Women in 3D Printing

October 18, 2020

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:29

Women in 3D Printing, a non-profit organization, was formed in 2014 by Nora Toure of Fast Radius. In just five years, she helped build it into a community of more than 10,000 women worldwide. From the beginning, it has been her ambition to share stories of women helping to shape the additive manufacturing industry. Based on my experience over the past 30+ years, women are dramatically underrepresented in product development and manufacturing worldwide. In fact, the ratio may be close to 10:1, although it has improved slightly in recent years. Women in 3D Printing seeks to close this gender-gap in additive manufacturing. I fully support this goal of a better balance of women and men.

I have known about Women in 3D Printing for years, but it was not until November 2019 that I attended an activity by the organization. It was a panel session as part of the 20th annual RAPDASA conference and exhibition in Bloemfontein, South Africa. (RAPDASA stands for the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa.) The panel was led by Malika Khodja of Tiziri. She serves as the African chair of Women in 3D Printing and is also a contributor to Wohlers Report 2020. I was impressed by the enthusiasm and quality of information shared at this engaging session.

                                  

The organization is showcasing, celebrating, and profiling the work of women leaders worldwide. They include engineers, business professionals, teachers, researchers, artists, and designers. Women in 3D Printing is creating a notable list of global events, gatherings, panel sessions, and company tours. Much of the work is conducted by its local ambassadors and regional chairs, such as Malika. Its many chapters meet regularly and encourage an inclusive and diverse AM workforce. The organization has created a database of female speakers, platform for hiring, industry surveys, reports, and an annual TIPE global conference, which is January 27-28, 2021. (TIPE stands for Technology, Industry, People, and Economics.)

I applaud and endorse the work of Women in 3D Printing. Many closest to the organization are “Rock Stars in 3D Printing,” in my view. In a spirit of support, Wohlers Associates recently became a corporate member and TIPE sponsor. Women in 3D Printing has become one of the most influential and largest AM communities worldwide. I urge you to support the important work of this impressive and fast-growing organization.

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