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RØDE Microphones

August 15, 2016

Two of our consultants and I have had the privilege of visiting RØDE Microphones of Sydney, Australia. RØDE is a manufacturer of world-class microphone products for studio recording, performances, video broadcasts, and live interviews. It also manufactures microphones for presenters (lavalier and button mics) and smart phones. Over the past nearly two years, we have worked with RØDE and learned a great deal about the company and its products. Peter Freedman, managing director and chief executive, has given permission to disclose and discuss our relationship publicly.

RØDE hires some of the best people in Australia and other parts of the world. The company has offices in Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. Most of the Australian employees we’ve met are young, bright, and energetic. Freedman is the driver of new products, is constantly pushing the limits, and is the heart and soul of the company. RØDE is running $30 million in precision equipment, including a considerable number of new machines that were installed since we’ve started working together. Freedman seeks to be among the best of the best in the design and manufacturing of microphones. And, it shows by the company’s strong growth in recent years.

rode

I feel lucky to be able to work with great companies such as RØDE and people like Freedman and his team. He always has a can-do attitude and is constantly looking for new and better ways for product development and manufacturing. Over our 29 years in business, I have worked with a few people and organizations that find reasons why you cannot do something and serve as obstacles to progress. Fortunately, most of the people that we’ve encountered have the right spirit and outlook. Engineering consultant, futurist, and friend Joel Orr once said, “Success breeds success.” I could not agree more, and RØDE is a company that is producing a lot of it.

GE’s New AM Center

August 1, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Manufacturing,Review — Terry Wohlers @ 09:45

In April 2016, GE opened its new Center for Additive Technology Advancement (CATA), located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The 11,613-sq meter (125,000-sq ft) facility was designed to drive innovation and adoption of additive manufacturing across the company’s major businesses. They include Aviation, Energy Connections, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, Power, Renewable Energy, Transportation, and Current, powered by GE. CATA houses multiple AM machines from EOS, SLM Solutions, Stratasys, and ExOne. They are complimented by many CNC machining centers, EDM, heat treatment chambers, and other equipment. Space is available that would essentially double the number of machines and processes at the facility.

I toured CATA last Thursday and found it to be jaw-dropping impressive. It will almost guarantee an acceleration of knowledge and understanding of AM for production applications within the company. Having spent time with GE employees from several businesses over the years, I can say without reservation that many have solid AM experience. Even so, company management would be first to admit that the opportunity to grow and expand expertise across the 305,000-employee corporation is vast. CATA will help the company get there more quickly. Work at the facility is focused on mid technology readiness levels (i.e., TRL 4-7).

cata

GE advanced its position in AM when it acquired Morris Technologies, and its sister company, Rapid Quality Manufacturing, in November 2012. Greg Morris, then CEO and owner of the company, is the leader of Additive Technologies at GE Aviation. In 2013, GE Aviation announced that it had developed a 3D-printed fuel nozzle for its new LEAP engine. The attention received by the nozzle, which is now in production, has been an inspiration to countless organizations worldwide. Airbus was the first to receive LEAP engines, each with 19 nozzles, in April 2016 for the A320neo aircraft.

GE is making a big investment in additive manufacturing. However, it has shown few new designs since the public announcement of the fuel nozzle program. In my view, it is time for the company to show another advanced and exciting design for AM to serve as further inspiration inside and outside the company. It would make a bold statement and show the company’s leadership in the adoption and advancement of AM technology.

CATA is located about an hour from America Makes, which is the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. Other key organizations close to CATA are Alcoa, ATI, Carpenter Technology, ExOne, Lincoln Electric, and the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. Universities include Carnegie Mellon, Case Western Reserve, Pennsylvania State, University of Pittsburgh, and Youngstown State. These organizations were a factor in choosing the location for CATA, a $40-million facility that signals how important AM has become at GE. The world-class facility will likely serve as a model for other large corporations globally.

Lundeen Sculpture

June 5, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Review — Terry Wohlers @ 15:20

I had the pleasure of visiting Lundeen Sculpture in Loveland, Colorado, last week. The company produces world-class sculptures of about everything imaginable. The “sweet spot” at the company is the recreation of people and animals with spectacular precision and realism. The sculpting is done mostly by the Lundeen family, including Bets, George, Mark, their cousin Ann LaRose, and Joey Bainer, an unrelated sculptor. I first met Nelse Lundeen a few years ago. He handles accounting and other business issues at the company.

George Lundeen founded the company in the mid 1970s and was our host, along with Nelse. (My wife and two friends joined me on the tour.) George showed us many beautifully-crafted bronze versions of famous people, such as astronaut Jack Swigert, which is on display at Denver International Airport, and Dan Marino, a former Miami Dolphins quarterback that was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. The Marino sculpture is on display at the Dolphins stadium in Miami.

George told an amusing story of his daughter, a big Marino fan. George asked her to visit the company after school, but did not tell her that Marino was present. When she arrived, Marino walked around the corner to her astonishment and addressed her by name. I can’t imagine how big of a surprise it was to her.

lundeen

The company is working on a two-year project involving the creation of the Stations of the Cross, which depicts Jesus Christ and others on the day of his crucifixion. Each station involves incredibly detailed clay sculptures that end up being larger-than-life bronze works of art. The effort is being sponsored by billionaire Joe Ricketts, founder and former chairman and CEO of TD Ameritrade, a large discount brokerage located in Omaha, Nebraska. He is building a Christian retreat center named The Cloisters on the Platte on 930 acres near Omaha. (The Platte is a major river running through the state.) The retreat will include the bronze Stations of the Cross.

George showed us the many clay sculptures that are underway for the Stations of the Cross project. Each are being 3D scanned, scaled up, and 3D-printed using a machine from Voxeljet. He explained that the process of scanning and printing is saving a dramatic amount of time. The 3D-printed patterns are shipped to the Lundeen team for inspection and light work and then delivered to a Loveland foundry for investment casting. The bronze castings are then  assembled, welded, and finished into their final form. George allowed me to take many pictures, but asked that I not put them on the Internet. A good video, co-produced by Analise Lundeen, shows much of the work and is found here.

SME’s RAPID 2016

May 21, 2016

I attended this week’s RAPID 2016 in Orlando, Florida. As usual, the conference and exposition were excellent. An estimated 5,190 attended the event, compared to 4,512 last year. Exhibit space increased to 4,153 sq meters (44,700 sq ft), up from 2,903 sq meters (31,250 sq ft) last year. The following are a few highlights of the event:

● HP introduced and showed its Jet Fusion 3200 and 4200 3D printers for the first time publicly. The machines are capable of addressing 340 million voxels per second in thermoplastic materials, such as PA12. They are 10 times faster and operate at half the cost of competitive systems, according to HP. The systems are mostly open, which means they support third-party materials at competitive prices.

heart

● Renishaw showed its new RenAM 500M machine that produces metal parts. The engineering is impressive. Meanwhile, 3D Systems displayed its new ProX DMP 320 machine for producing metal parts. It is based on technology developed by Belgium-based LayerWise, which was acquired by 3D Systems in 2014.

● Xjet of Israel introduced its NanoParticle Jetting technology. It uses inkjet printing to produce parts in stainless steel and silver. The parts are small, but the feature detail is good.

● Event organizer SME hosted a fashion show that featured entirely new 3D-printed designs. Many were impressive. I have now attended five fashion shows that highlight 3D-printed products and it’s remarkable how far the designs have advanced in a few years.

fashion-show

Congrats to SME for another great event, which continues to improve year after year. With increasing applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing for final part production, the event has the opportunity to grow much larger in the future.

RAPID 2017 will be held May 8-11 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Add it to your calendar and plan to attend.

Premium AEROTEC

May 6, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:30

Last week, I visited Premium AEROTEC, a 10,000-employee company that is 100% owned by Airbus. The company has several locations in Germany, including Varel, the site that I visited. This is where Premium AEROTEC has installed its first four metal additive manufacturing machines, including the large X line 1000R system from Concept Laser. It served as the backdrop for the stage, as shown in the following picture. The machine was running, along with two M2 machines from Concept Laser during the one-day event. The large machine is being swapped for the newer X line 2000R later this month.

premium-aerotec

Premium AEROTEC is serving a key role in the series production of AM parts for cabin, fuselage, and other systems for Airbus. The approval by the authorities for air worthiness, a major milestone, was achieved in March 2016. Thus far, Premium AEROTEC has secured suppliers with total capacity of about 40 metal AM machines. Companies, such as Materialise, have set up manufacturing facilities nearby and are buying metal AM equipment with the hope of serving as a supplier. I had the chance to visit the new Materialise AM production facility in Bremen and was impressed by what’s already in place, coupled with its near-future growth plans. Many more machines will need to be added to the Airbus supply chain for it to meet its goal of producing 30 tons of metal AM parts monthly by December 2018.

More than 100 people attended the special Premium AEROTEC event. I was asked to speak on the state of the additive manufacturing industry and provide highlights and details from the recently published Wohlers Report 2016. I spoke 70 minutes to an enthusiastic crowd, followed by questions from many people in the room. Click here if you are interested in reading a recent article on Premium AEROTEC and the April 26 event.

Peter Sander, Head of Emerging Technologies & Concepts at Airbus, was my host during my stay in Bremen and Hamburg. The day after visiting Premium AEROTEC, Peter arranged to have me speak to a group of about 150 Airbus employees in Hamburg. The one-hour presentation was also broadcast live to an additional 150 people at Airbus sites in Bremen (Germany), Toulouse (France), Getafe (Spain), and Filton (UK). I was surprised but happy to see so many young people in the audience, several of which introduced themselves to me after the presentation. I could tell that they are clearly very excited about the potential of AM. The presentation was held in the new and impressive ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research at Airbus, which is pictured below.

zal

My time in Germany could not have gone better, thanks to Peter Sander and his team. Thanks also to Dr. Thomas Ehm, Chairman of Premium AEROTEC, and Gerd Weber, Site Manager for the Varel location, for their warm welcome and kind words. They rolled out the red carpet for my visit and I appreciate it very much.

Wohlers Report Published

April 9, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 17:13

I’m happy to announce that Wohlers Report 2016 was published this week. It is the 21st annual edition of our state of the industry report on additive manufacturing and 3D printing. We received tremendous support from many people and organizations, including 80 co-authors and experts in 33 countries. They contributed very important sections and provided great insight from their regions of the world.

Senior consultant and principal author Tim Caffrey was vital to this year’s report (once again). He has a special ability to efficiently find “nuggets of gold” from an avalanche of “news” that is often questionable. Associate consultant and new principal author Ian Campbell played an important role for the second consecutive year. I sincerely thank both of them for helping to produce a report that offers depth, breadth, and detail unmatched by others.

WohlersHorizontal.indd

I am also grateful to the 98 service providers, 51 system manufacturers, and 15 third-party material producers for responding to our requests for detailed information. Year after year, companies provide quantitative, and sometimes sensitive, data that we compile and use to produce industry-wide totals and trend lines that benefit the entire industry. Without their support, we could not produce many of the more than 100 charts, graphs, and tables that are spread across the report’s 335 pages. We did our very best again this year to be short on words but long on information.

The report has served as the undisputed industry-leading report on the subject for two decades. We are flattered when people refer to it as the “bible” of 3D printing. I am grateful to them, our customers, and the many people that supported the development of this edition. We are very lucky to have what we believe is the largest group of friends and contacts in the 3D printing industry—a network that spans 28 years.

Mattel’s New ThingMaker

February 27, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,Entertainment,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 06:36

I’m old enough to remember the Creepy Crawler ThingMaker of the 1960s. I did not own one, but a neighbor friend did, and we made many plastic worms and bugs with it. We had fun with the simple product, even though we were limited to the shapes available from the small molds that came with it.

Fast forward a half century to two weeks ago. At the New York Toy Fair, Mattel announced that it is introducing a new ThingMaker that takes advantage of 3D printing. Price: $299. For me, this is an exciting announcement, given that I have put considerable thought into the idea over the past two decades. I even ran it by film producer James Cameron back in 2010 and he liked it.

thingmaker

Sure wish I could take credit for the idea, but I cannot. In the 1990s, Charles (Chuck) Johnson, then with the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, shared with me a future vision of 3D printing. He imagined a child waking up on a weekend morning and going to the kitchen for breakfast. The child switches on a device and then pours dry cereal, such as Cheerios, into it. She then pours milk into a reservoir inside the device. Viewing a small display, she selects a number of digital action figures that’s available and then readies the small machine.

The 3D printer grinds the cereal into fine powder and spreads it, as a print head jets milk for binder, layer by layer. If you’ve ever spilled milk, you know that it becomes sticky as it dries. After minutes of printing, she removes the action figures from the bed of powder, brushes them off, and then eats them.

Mattel’s new ThingMaker does not work like this, but it has a chance of becoming as popular as what Johnson had envisioned so many years ago. Over the past, I’ve shared his story with many groups and most found it interesting. Perhaps the new ThingMaker, slated to become available in October, will be a stepping stone toward Johnson’s cereal printer.

Autodesk has partnered with Mattel to provide software and an easy way to create 3D content—a key to success, in my opinion. So, stay tuned. It could be the beginning of something big.

Nano Dimension

February 2, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 07:07

Nano Dimension is an Israeli company that is producing a 3D printer for making printed circuit boards. The machine and sample PCBs are on display at SolidWorks World 2016 here in Dallas, Texas. The dual printhead machine uses material jetting technology to deposit photopolymer as the base material and a silver nanoparticle ink for the conductive traces.

The printhead deposits the silver in layers that are 2 microns in thickness. It took about 75 minutes to print the circuit board pictured in the following. Light is used to fully cure the photopolymer and sinter the silver.

nano-dimension

The build volume of the machine is 20 x 20 x 0.3 cm (7.9 x 7.9 x 0.12 inches). In the future, the company hopes to increase the Z dimension to permit the printing of circuits that are fully integrated into a design.

Nano Dimension’s software accepts standard PCB Gerber design files, as well as STEP, JPG, and TIFF files. The company is hoping that SolidWorks Corp. and other companies will develop software that takes advantage of the machine’s capabilities.

The company expects to commercialize and ship machines later this year.

Popularity of FDM

January 17, 2016

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 08:29

Since the early 2000s, fused deposition modeling (FDM)—more formally referred to as material extrusion by ASTM and ISO—has been the most popular additive manufacturing and 3D printing process worldwide. In 2003, Stratasys sold nearly as many FDM machines as all other AM machines combined, according to our research for Wohlers Report 2004. In 2006, Stratasys was responsible for 54.7% (1,723) of all AM systems sold.

2007 was a turning point for FDM technology, although few people knew it at the time. This was when the RepRap project, an open-source effort on FDM technology, began to gain traction. It coincided with the expiration of key FDM foundation patents held by Stratasys. We believe that 66 low-cost (under $5,000) FDM clones were sold in 2007, but the number of these products grew to an estimated 139,584 by 2014, based on our research for Wohlers Report 2015. To give some appreciation for this growth, 12,850 industrial AM machines, priced at more than $5,000, were sold in 2014.

fdm

Two people are responsible for the popularity of FDM technology. First is Scott Crump, the inventor of FDM and co-founder of Stratasys. His pioneering work in the late 1980s and early 1990s led to the commercialization of the technology. Without his efforts, the industry might look quite different than it does today. Second is Adrian Bowyer, the person that started the RepRap project. No one knew at the time that it would serve as the foundation for hundreds of start-up companies that would produce and sell FDM clones around the world.

Earlier this month, it was announced that RepRapPro, a company that Bowyer founded, was shutting down. In some ways, Bowyer was a victim of his own success. Over the recent past, we have told others that we believe 300+ companies are producing and selling FDM clones worldwide. A knowledgeable and well-connected person I spoke with in Shanghai last month said that as many as 1,000 FDM clone manufacturers may be in operation, in China alone. If he is even half right, our 300+ estimate is quite low.

A lot has happened in the world of FDM since the first machines were sold by Stratasys in 1991. Few envisioned the impact of the expiring patents and the open-source RepRap project. The future is also unclear, especially with so many companies trying to build businesses around FDM. I recall hearing someone say that it’s a race to the bottom. I’m sure that even Crump is amazed by what has happened to FDM over the past 25 years, especially over the past decade.

Investment in AM

December 20, 2015

Filed under: 3D printing,Additive Manufacturing,Future — Terry Wohlers @ 11:29

Alcoa is investing $60 million in additive manufacturing and 3D printing methods and materials. Autodesk’s $100 million Spark Investment Fund is in full swing. Early next year, GE will a $32 million R&D facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, called the Center for Additive Manufacturing Advancement. Michelin and Fives are collaborating on a EUR 25 million investment involving the creation of a new company and metal AM. The state of New York is investing $125 million in a 3D printing facility in partnership with Norsk Titanium.

invest

Are these types and sizes of investments the new norm for AM? I believe they are. In some ways, the 27-year old AM industry is just getting started, especially in the context of production applications. Consider the current AM supply chain and how underdeveloped it is. A tremendous amount of work is ahead of us, so I expect that we will continue to see a string of significant investments in AM across many areas. Among them: software and web-based tools for the creation and optimization of 3D content, IT, process controls, automation, materials, postprocessing, inspection, industry standards, education, training, and research.

AM will indeed grow to become a very big industry, up from $4.1 billion in 2014 (Source: Wohlers Report 2015). In fact, we believe it will grow into the tens of billions, and eventually to hundreds of billions. With the attention and investment that it’s finally getting, it is well on its way.

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