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Revving the Engine with AM

November 2, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 07:46

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

The automotive industry has been a major player in the use of AM over the past 30 years, beginning with rapid product development and prototyping. In the past few years, we have begun to glimpse the possibilities of AM as a tool for end-use production parts in automotive. Among the parts we have seen are custom trim pieces, HVAC components, parking brake brackets, and lightweight convertible top mounts. We’ve also seen power window guide rails, high-performance brake calipers, and even fully printed car bodies.

Many of these parts are made in low- or medium-production quantities. BMW touted its polymer guide rail production speeds of 100 parts per day using HP Jet Fusion technology. The guide rail, shown above, is installed in the i8 Roadster sports car, a limited-production vehicle. The same can be said for Bugatti’s Chiron brake caliper and the Olli self-driving shuttle, which are both low-volume products. Perfecting these production methods could certainly translate to higher-volume models in the future, and the proving of the technology with these use cases builds a strong argument for doing so.

At a recent National Manufacturing Day round-table discussion, Ford chief technology officer Ken Washington clearly stated his hope for AM-driven innovation in the automotive sector. “We’re going to see an adoption of the mindset of designing for additive, which is going to unlock all kinds of new innovations, new ways to bring products to life, and new experiences for customers. You couldn’t do this before because you didn’t have the tools.”

As companies such as Ford, Volkswagon, and others continue to adopt AM for production, we expect to see a new range of parts. Lightweight and topology-optimized frame members, handles, and wheels are on the horizon. As metals and high-temperature polymers are perfected and tested for long-term use, we will see engine blocks, pistons, valves, pumps, pulleys, and other parts made by AM. These parts have been seen in testing, with promising performance gains and weight savings. Only time will tell where the intersection of production cost and speed by AM will meet market demand.

AM Investors

October 19, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,future,money — Terry Wohlers @ 10:32

Investors of additive manufacturing (AM) come in many forms. Among them are institutional, private equity, venture capital, angel, and individuals. Increasingly, investors are in pursuit of AM-related companies with a promising future. The challenge is to know, with reasonable certainty, what that future looks like and how AM developments will unfold in the coming years.

To date, few events on AM have been designed specifically for the investment community. This is why we are conducting the Wohlers Associates Investor Dinner Sponsored by Formnext. This exclusive evening event is November 20, 2019 in Frankfurt, Germany. It is being held at Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, an elegant five-star hotel with gourmet cuisine located within walking distance of the exhibition center (Messe Frankfurt) where Formnext is being held.

The program will concentrate on the future of AM and what investors need to know to make the best possible decisions. The Wohlers Associates’ core team of consultants will be present to express their thoughts and opinions. The following will be among the questions answered:

  • What has changed over the past 30 years?
  • Why has the investment focus shifted from AM systems to applications?
  • What are the “killer apps” of AM? Will it really take a human generation for some of them to develop?
  • Which AM processes show the most promise?
  • Why are we seeing countless partnerships and what do they mean?
  • AM growth has averaged 26.6% over the past five years. Will it continue at this rate over the next five years?

If you are an investor and attending Formnext, register now for this inaugural event. Seating is limited. Our hope is that it helps you identify timely opportunities for AM-related investments.

Bangalore

October 5, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,review,travel — Terry Wohlers @ 16:25

I visited Bangalore, India for the first time last week and the experience could not have been better. The people were extremely friendly, with many approaching me and speaking as if we had met before, although we hadn’t. I was lucky enough to spend time at interesting and successful companies, including 3D Product Development, Intech DMLS, and Supercraft3D. All three are vibrant, focused on additive manufacturing products and services, and at the forefront of AM in India.

I got two very different views of the city. A surprising number of large and notable companies that you may know little or nothing about operate out of Bangalore. Examples are HCL ($8.6 billion in annual sales), Infosys ($12.1 billion), Tata Consultancy Services ($20.9 billion), and Wipro ($8.5 billion). HCL became the first Indian IT company to reach market capitalization of $100 billion. These and other companies offer design and engineering services, and a few, such as Wipro, have a growing AM services business. These companies and their work and people are impressive.

The view of these giant and successful companies was conflicting when compared to much of the rest of Bangalore. The narrow streets were constantly clogged with cars, scooters, cycles, and motorized rickshaws. Traveling a distance that should take minutes took an hour or longer. Many of the sidewalks and curbs were crumbling and lined with coils of wire and other debris. The city is in desperate need of infrastructure improvement and updating. I was told the streets were not designed to handle such growth over the years, and trying to fix them now is next to impossible. Funding for a mass transit system would be outrageously expensive and is unlikely, according to those I spoke with.

Bangalore is an intriguing place to visit and I’m glad I did. It was a privilege to participate in the 11th NASSCOM Design & Engineering Summit, which was the primary reason for the trip. Visits to the Bangalore Palace, the State Legislature building, the city’s oldest and best known bazaar shopping district, and two microbreweries made the trip even more interesting. The food was incredibly flavorful and outstanding. Best of all, I spent quality time with a couple friends from India and met many new ones that I hope will develop into lasting relationships. Bangalore offers differing views of itself, yet I look forward to the possibility of returning.

AM in India

September 15, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 18:11

For years, additive manufacturing and 3D printing have been put to work in India for concept modeling, design validation, prototyping, and some tooling. Organizations in the U.S., Germany, and other countries are pushing hard to adopt AM for production applications, with India showing similar interest. AM is the subject of a session at the 11th NASSCOM Design & Engineering Summit on September 26-27, 2019 in Bangalore. I’m excited about participating in this important event.

In 2018, AM in India was dominated by growing interest in metal AM systems, according to Mukesh Agarwala, managing director of 3D Product Development (3DPD) of Bangalore, India’s largest AM service provider. Agarwala contributes a summary on AM in India for publication in the annual Wohlers Report. He said that Indian organizations in the oil/gas and IT sectors are currently evaluating ways in which AM might help their businesses.

AM machines, materials, and services in India in 2018 were an estimated $100+ million, according to Agarwala. While this is not insignificant, it represents only about 1% of the global AM total of $9.8 billion, according to Wohlers Report 2019. Even so, the opportunity in India is vast. As more educational, research, and corporate entities understand the many benefits and competitive advantages that AM offers, adoption will increase to become significant.

Elastic and Rigid Behavior in Single-Material Parts

September 9, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 14:41

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

The elastic behavior of polymers, coupled with the design freedom of AM, allows designers to produce some very interesting products. A single-material part can have rigid and springy features, all driven by design. A good example is a small catapult on display in our office. The coil around the main shaft provides the spring force for operating the catapult, although both parts are made of PA12. The image at the left shows the catapult loaded and ready to launch. The one at the right shows the catapult after launching the ball. Notice the coil spring and locking mechanism.

Recent applications have developed with this principle in mind, many using elastomers to amplify this behavior. An example is the latticed helmet liners developed by Riddell and Carbon. Using sophisticated software, designers produce thicker lattice members and meshes where more rigid behavior is needed. Thinner lattice members alloy more flex and shock absorption in other areas. Similar functionality is being developed by HP for use with TPU on its new Jet Fusion 5200 series machines. Lattice structures and hybrid flexible/rigid components are a relatively new frontier, but we expect to see more of these types of products in the near future.

Dave Bourell Honored

August 26, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event — Terry Wohlers @ 10:55

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Two weeks ago, Wohlers Associates attended the 30th annual Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) Symposium in Austin, Texas. The event brought together more than 700 attendees from 25 countries to present and discuss research on additive manufacturing (AM). Dave Bourell, PhD, of the University of Texas at Austin opened the event by recalling the nascent stages of AM 30 years ago and the many contributors to the technology since that time.

Terry Wohlers, introduced as the “Indiana Jones” of AM, continued this discussion in a keynote presentation by highlighting key developments since 1987. He then called Bourell back to the stage to name him an honorary associate consultant of Wohlers Associates. Bourell is only the third in the company’s 32-year history to be given this distinction. His contribution to the research community and AM as a whole is far-reaching and inspiring. Bourell continues to serve as the principal organizer of the SFF Symposium. He is also one of three associate authors of Wohlers Report 2019.

Bourell was given a special Wohlers Associates lapel pin, which is shown in the previous image. The pin was 3D-printed in titanium by the Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing at Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

Design Rules for AM

August 11, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE — Terry Wohlers @ 09:57

Little by little, companies are learning that it can be very different to design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). To make AM economical for production quantities, DfAM is usually necessary. As costs of the machines, materials, and post-processing are driven downward over time, this may change in some instances. For the foreseeable future, DfAM is not only useful, it’s a requirement.

When considering DfAM, we often think of using topology optimization, lattice structures, and other methods to reduce material and weight and potentially improve part functionality. Just as important are design rules and guidelines to reduce trial ‘n error among engineers and designers. This information usually comes from experience and tribal knowledge among very few at a company.

The previous guitar stand was designed by Olaf Diegel, an associate consultant and DfAM instructor at Wohlers Associates. The stand is cleverly designed to fold and unfold, as shown. The large hinge depicted at the left requires a surface gap of 0.4 mm (0.016 inch) for it to operate so that it is not too tight or lose. A smaller hinge, shown in the center, requires a gap of 0.3 mm (0.012 inch) because the rotating surface area is much less. Making the gap larger would result in a hinge that’s too lose.

Olaf has learned many rules and guidelines from his extensive experience with DfAM, AM, and post-processing parts. They often differ from process to process and material to material. Many of these methods of DfAM will be discussed at a special three-day DfAM course in Frisco, Colorado next month. If you’re transitioning to AM for production applications, you or your colleagues may want to attend this training. It could save your organization months or longer and help you determine if/when a part or assembly is a good candidate to produce by AM.

Selecting Parts for AM

July 28, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 16:26

Note: Ray Huff, associate engineer at Wohlers Associates, authored the following.

Adopting additive manufacturing (AM) for serial production is one of the biggest and most interesting recent trends in industry. Many companies want to know the secret of how to choose parts that are a good fit. Selecting the right parts is very specific to the process, material, product, and market, yet some overarching guidelines help in the process. For an in-depth discussion of these guidelines, and a handful of recent industry success stories, see our article titled DfAM insight: How to choose candidate products for AM production applications in Metal AM magazine.

Knowing the hallmarks of the AM process is key to succeeding in production. Low part quantities can be an easy win for small-batch production. As material and operating costs are driven downward, AM is expanding to larger production quantities. In a recent visit to Avid Product Development of Loveland, Colorado, I saw parts being produced on two HP Jet Fusion 4210 machines to fill an order of 100,000 pieces. Such quantities were unheard of in AM a few years ago. Parts produced in this volume are generally a few cubic inches or less. Their complex shape and features make them difficult to injection mold or process using another method.

Mechanical and functional requirements must be satisfied with the relatively narrow selection of materials available for AM. If new designs can reduce tooling, part numbers, assembly, and material costs, AM can become an excellent alternative to conventional manufacturing. Saving material, alone, can help make the business case for a high-cost titanium alloy, for example.

AM provides the opportunity to deliver parts quickly, although some regulatory requirements can slow things significantly. In heavily regulated markets such as aerospace, experience at certifying parts for AM is key. GE has been active at this longer than most, and it has put more than 500 different parts into production with AM, according to a recent conversation I had with Mohammad Ehteshami, former CEO of GE Additive. Other companies are working hard to keep pace. Honeywell has set a goal to have 250 parts in production by AM before the end of this year. To meet this goal, choosing the best parts for AM is crucial.

World Economic Forum

June 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 10:49

I attended a first-ever 3D printing and additive manufacturing event organized and hosted by the World Economic Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in San Francisco. The June 3, 2019 workshop, titled 3D Printing and Trade Logistics: Impact on Global Value Chains, involved 18 invited company executives, government officials, and others from many countries.

The World Economic Forum is an independent and non-profit international organization that engages political, business, and other leaders to shape global, regional, and industrial agendas. It serves as a platform to bring together public and private sector stakeholders to tackle global issues. In this context, the workshop was organized in two phases. The first explored significant issues that may be raised by the proliferation of 3D printing, followed by ways in which they might be addressed with many working together.

Venkataraman “Sundar” Sundareswaran of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. did a fine job at organizing the workshop. He is currently serving as a fellow at the World Economic Forum to bring 3D printing to the forefront. The group of 18 participants split into three workgroups on three separate occasions to identify and prioritize major issues, followed by the generation of ideas for addressing them.

“Workforce displacement and skill gaps” was identified as the top issue. University and industry training, coupled with retraining programs and government incentives, were named as likely solutions. “Governance of IP, legal issues, cyber, trade, and customs” was ranked as the second biggest issue. Among the possible solutions: national strategies, new laws, technology, and self-regulation. “Supply chain disruption” was determined as the third most important issue. The group cited new taxation models from government and standards development, principally by industry, as ways to address it.

The next challenge and opportunity for the World Economic Forum is to tackle these issues. A good foundation has been set. I’m looking forward to staying engaged and helping however we can to advance the development and adoption of 3D printing technology worldwide.

DfAM in Germany

May 18, 2019

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,future — Terry Wohlers @ 05:33

Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is not easy. That’s why we have been offering DfAM courses since 2015. Our first two were for NASA Marshal Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. We have since conducted courses in other parts of the U.S., as well as in Australia, Belgium, Canada, and South Africa. Our most recent course was held with Protolabs 2.5 weeks ago near Raleigh, North Carolina. It could not have gone much better.

Our first DfAM course in Germany will occur next month in cooperation with Airbus and ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research. ZAL is hosting the event in Hamburg and we are very excited about it. Already, people from many countries in Europe and North America have registered to attend.

Other DfAM courses are being planned. Our second annual Design at Elevation DfAM course is September 2019 in Frisco, Colorado. Elevation: 2,774 meters (9,097 feet). Attend the course in Hamburg, but if you cannot, visit the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado in September—the most colorful month of the year.

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