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Design for AM in Montreal

May 20, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education — Terry Wohlers @ 13:28

Design for additive manufacturing (DfAM) is a key to unlocking the power of AM. Neglecting to understand its importance may present a problem for companies hoping to tap into the technology’s potential. It is quite possibly the most challenging piece of the AM puzzle and requires far more than what meets the eye.

To justify the use of AM for production applications, a well-advised company will perform an analysis on the cost to manufacture the design, both conventionally and by AM. Doing so can determine the “breakeven” point of AM versus a conventional method of manufacturing. The effort seeks to determine the volume at which it costs the same to make the part using either method. If you are producing parts up to the breakeven point, AM may be a candidate for production. The higher the breakeven point, the more attractive AM usually becomes.

If a design is not modified for AM, the breakeven point may be too low, meaning that AM is probably not suitable. If a part or assembly is redesigned to take advantage of AM, the breakeven point may be higher, and in some cases, dramatically higher. Consider, for example, the possible economic impact of consolidating many individual parts into one, as shown in the following relatively simple example.

DfAM is the subject of a hands-on course being offered June 12-14, 2018 in Montreal, Canada. Up to 20 practicing professionals will gather to learn the latest tools and methods of part consolidation, topology optimization, lattice structures, and biomimicry. The course will uncover important design rules and guidelines (e.g., thinnest walls and smallest holes possible, depending on the process and material), part orientation, and support material. These elements of design can impact build time, cost, and trial ‘n error. They can result in a reduction in the number of suppliers, manufacturing processes, tooling, inventory, assembly, labor, maintenance, and certification paperwork. Good DfAM tools and methods result in parts that use less material and are lighter in weight, with scrap reduced to a minimum.

Wohlers Associates and the Québec Industrial Research Centre (CRIQ) have partnered to offer this important DfAM course. If you want to benefit from what AM has to offer for production applications, contact Martin Lavoie at dfammtl2018@gmail.com to register for the course.

Small Batch Production at Avid

May 8, 2018

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:35

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

Two weeks ago, I visited Avid Product Development, a design, prototyping, and small batch manufacturing firm in Loveland, Colorado. In recent years, Avid has strategically invested in additive manufacturing equipment to scale part production for its customers. Among these technologies are material extrusion machines from Stratasys, photopolymer-based printers from Formlabs, and Multi Jet Fusion machines from HP.

The number of end-use parts being manufactured by Avid makes the company stand out. Doug Collins, co-owner of Avid, commented that the addition of the HP equipment has greatly increased the company’s capacity for building production parts. Recently, Avid received an order for 100 parts that were designed for injection molding. CNC machining the parts was an option, but it would have taken too much time, been very expensive, and wasted a lot of material. Instead, they were 3D printed overnight, dyed black, and shipped the next day. Nesting software from Materialise was used to reduce print time, and fast cooling on the HP post-processing station helped to speed things along. With some added sweat and hustle, the team had the parts out the door as promised.

Doug was eager to show us parts made for Vestas, a leading manufacturer of large wind turbines for power generation. Vestas ordered a batch of polymer brackets that are permanently attached to the wind turbine blades to aid in the alignment and assembly of the parts. Wanting to test the designs before production, Vestas sent multiple iterations for Avid to build. Once the designs were finalized, orders were placed for hundreds of parts to bridge the gap of time while injection-mold tooling was being produced.

Weeks before the visit, a friend had sent me a threaded leveling foot for her new kitchen stove. The feet were designed for low countertops, and were 50 mm (2 inches) too short for the stove to be level with her countertop. I redesigned the foot, sent the model to Avid, picked up the four parts when I visited, and mailed them to my friend in California. The parts fit perfectly. The project showed me that in a matter of days, parts can be designed for a new application, produced, and tested across multiple cities and teams. In future cases like this one, we could further iterate based on feedback, if necessary, and then produce a small production batch of the part. We could even market the product and manufacture it on demand, without a need to keep a single physical part in stock.

Avid and other companies are making workflows like this possible for single product designers and companies of all sizes. Many organizations have been doing this for 20+ years, but easier access to good tools and machines, combined with a decline in cost, is what makes it different today. 3D printing is opening the door to countless new business opportunities and startup companies that were previously unthinkable.

Important Events in AM

April 22, 2018

Last week, I attended the 20th Annual FIRPA Conference in Espoo, Finland, which is about 20 km (12 miles) from Helsinki. The event included some excellent presentations, including one from Jonas Eriksson of Siemens Industrial Turbomachinery AB. Eriksson discussed the production of parts by additive manufacturing for land-based gas turbine engines. To date, the company has redesigned many parts for metal AM and used the technology to produce more than 1,000 burner tips. The use of AM has resulted in a time reduction from 26 weeks to just three. As many as 60 people are now focused on AM at the company, with a goal of making metal AM as simple as 2D printing on paper.

Another very interesting presentation was given by Jyrki Saarinen of the University of Eastern Finland. His group worked closely with Dutch company Luxexcel to produce an AM machine with 1,000 inkjet nozzles for the printing of optical lenses in PMMA. The surface finish of the printed lenses is <2 nm RMS (less than 2 billionths of a meter), so no post-processing is required. The machine is capable of producing 40 lenses per hour, each measuring 10 mm in diameter x 2.5 mm in height, so the process is relatively fast.

I also had the privilege of visiting two world-class companies in Finland. The first was KONE, an $11 billion manufacturer of elevators, escalators, exterior revolving doors, and security entrances for commercial buildings. The company and its products are impressive. I also visited UPM, a $12.3 billion company with a strong position in paper, pulp, plywood, composites, and bio products. The company recently entered the AM industry by introducing a material extrusion filament product consisting of cellulose fiber and PLA.

Last week’s trip to Finland could not have gone better, thanks to the fine people that organized the meetings and very successful 20th annual conference. This week, the focus is on RAPID + TCT 2018, which begins tomorrow and goes through Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. This event marks the 26th annual conference and exposition, and I’m proud to say that I have not missed a single one of them. Attendance has grown by ~2.3 times over the past four years and exhibit space has grown by ~4.5 times over the same period. If you are interested in attending one of the very best events in all things additive manufacturing, 3D printing, and 3D scanning, go to Fort Worth this week. You will not regret it.

The Future of 3D Printing

December 2, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,future — Terry Wohlers @ 09:39

Like many, I’m intrigued by the prospects of the future. For 30 years, I have put thought into the developments and applications of additive manufacturing and 3D printing—terms that are used interchangeably. For most of this time, Wohlers Associates has focused its consulting, speaking, and publications on 3D printing technology. We are proud to have worked with 260 client organizations in 26 countries, with more in the queue.

In recent years, we have been asked to give even greater thought and consideration into what the future might hold. We believe that 3D printing will lead to far more product variety, coupled with entirely new types of products, many that are unthinkable today. Generative design and other software tools will contribute. Product inventories will shrink as companies transition toward cost-saving, digital inventories and on-demand manufacturing.

Biomimicry is a fascinating field that will inspire many to produce 3D-printed products that are lighter and stronger with enhanced performance characteristics. Our industry has barely scratched the surface of the almost endless list of possibilities. The opportunity is to learn from nature and then apply it to design for additive manufacturing. If I were to begin an advanced degree program today, it would focus in this area.

For the 13th time this year in a public setting, I will present thoughts and ideas surrounding the future of 3D printing. If you would like to be a part of the discussion, attend Inside 3D Printing at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California. I speak at 9:00 am on Monday, November 4. I hope to see you there.

formnext 2017

November 18, 2017

In only its third year, formnext has quickly become the additive manufacturing event in Europe to see and to be seen. I attended last year’s formnext and shared here the impression it made. In my view, it was the most impactful additive manufacturing industry event in Europe that I had attended in my 30+ years of going to them. This week’s four-day event, held again in Frankfurt, Germany, has topped it. Three of us from Wohlers Associates were there.

With few exceptions, the most important AM companies worldwide exhibited their products and services at the Messe Frankfurt Convention Center. The exhibition filled most of two large halls. Conspicuous by its absence, one fast-growing AM system manufacturer did not exhibit, and I’m reasonably certain that it is regretting the decision.

Similar to last year, all things metal was in force at formnext. Desktop Metal, EOS, GE Additive, Renishaw, SLM Solutions, and many others showed their latest machines and parts in large, elaborate exhibits. Even HP showed parts from a metal 3D printing technology it is planning to introduce next year.

The scale of some of the new machines is striking, along with the large and complex parts coming from them. The quality of exhibits, people, and announcements at formnext signaled how far the AM industry has developed and matured in the recent past. It was great to meet so many engineers, top managers, and visitors from around the world.

Congrats to Mesago for the impressive formnext exhibition and to the TCT Group for the expertly-organized four-day conference. The formnext event grew from nothing to something very special in three short years. Other events have taken a decade or longer to reach this point and many never have. Next year’s formnext is November 13-16, again in Frankfurt, so add it to your calendar now and begin to make plans. It has become THE place in Europe to conduct business in the AM industry.

CSU’s Idea2Product Lab

October 9, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education — Terry Wohlers @ 09:53

Note: The following was authored by Ray Huff, manager of the I2P lab at Colorado State University. He is an intern at Wohlers Associates.

At universities worldwide, 3D printing is unlocking doors previously unavailable to students, staff, and others. Five years ago, David Prawel introduced Colorado State University to 3D printing with a single RepRap 3D printer in the mechanical engineering department. News of the new technology spread quickly, and soon Prawel spun off a dedicated lab providing 3D printing education and services. The lab was modeled after Idea 2 Product (I2P) labs originally launched in South Africa by professor Deon de Beer.

I was introduced to the I2P lab in mid 2014. I had spent the first half of that year managing a fledgling web marketing startup in Denver, and was looking to shift into a more dynamic industry. After some preliminary research into the 3D printing industry in Colorado, I came across an open house at Colorado State hosted by the I2P lab. It included a symposium featuring Terry Wohlers, Andy Christensen, and others in Colorado. I was blown away by the amazing, cutting edge developments in my backyard. It was then I knew I had to find a way into this industry. A year later, while working at then 3D-printing startup Aleph Objects, I was encouraged to pursue a degree in engineering, and that brought me back to Colorado State and the I2P lab.

I accepted an offer to serve as lab manager during my first year and was immediately exposed to more developmental projects than I could have imagined. Entrepreneurs came to the lab seeking help in 3D modeling and proof-of-concept development. Researchers designed custom apparatuses for their experiments and fabricated them on the spot. Educators learned to think creatively in completely new ways to clearly demonstrate difficult concepts. Artists came to modify and replicate their models digitally and physically using 3D scanning and printing. Veterinary surgeons brought CT scan data to create bone and organ analogies in preparation for surgical procedures. Countless engineering students began to produce models of their designs from classes and projects. I found that with a little bit of education and guidance, people of all backgrounds can go further and faster with their ideas and innovations than ever before.

Today, the I2P lab looks vastly different than it did in the days of a single student running one 3D printer. Over the past two years, the I2P lab customer base has doubled to more than 700 registered users. The lab boasts 20 3D printers of both material extrusion and vat photopolymerization technologies. Users come from across campus and the community to make their dreams into realities.

As these technologies mature and become less expensive to implement, labs like I2P are developing and multiplying in nearly every corner of education. Already, maker spaces, schools at many levels, and even libraries are benefiting from the creative freedom offered by 3D printing, 3D scanning, and design software to empower the community. They are being challenged to transform ideas into realities that affect and improve lives.

Time in Silicon Valley

September 23, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,event,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 10:44

I spent some time in the San Francisco Bay area this week, including the illustrious Silicon Valley. My first stop was Jabil, which is one of the largest and most interesting contract manufacturers on the planet. The company employs 175,000 people at 100+ sites in 23 countries. I visited the Jabil Blue Sky Center located in San Jose. The facility includes an impressive customer showcase of products, along with some of the best equipment and people available. The work that Jabil is doing in additive manufacturing has progressed significantly in a relatively short period of time. Already, many employees at the company are dedicated to AM. The Blue Sky facility has extensive labs with ~100 subject experts. It was a privilege to visit the site and spend time with two key employees.

My next stop was Carbon in Redwood City. The company produces the M2 machine that’s based on a stereolithography-like technology called CLIP—short for Continuous Liquid Interface Production. The process uses light to set the shape of a part and heat to set its mechanical properties. Whenever a new process or product is introduced by any young company, I’m somewhat sceptical until it’s proven and used by customers. Carbon has found one in adidas. Machines from Carbon are being used to manufacturer the sole for the new Futurecraft 4D running shoe from the footwear and clothing giant. About 10,000 units will be produced this year, 400,000 near year, 2 million in 2019, and 5 million in 2020. The commitment that adidas has made to Carbon speaks volumes.

My final stop was the TRX+ event organized by America Makes and held at the Hyatt Regency San Francisco. (TRX is short for Technical Review and eXchange.) The event was co-sponsored by San Rafael-based Autodesk. The company opened up its Pier 9 workshop and Autodesk Gallery to a sold-out crowd of 175 attendees. The two Autodesk sites are in easy walking distance from the Hyatt. I had visited both three years ago, so it was good to see what had changed. Since first making contact with Autodesk in 1983, I have been impressed by the achievements of the company, which is said to be the largest 3D modeling software company in the world.

Together, America Makes and Autodesk did an outstanding job with the organization of the TRX+ meetings and events. For the first time, an America Makes event was dedicated entirely to the subject of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). The first day provided the audience with reports on many DfAM-related R&D projects being conducted by the members of America Makes. The second day was an opportunity for speakers and panellists to share experiences, perspectives, and challenges associated DfAM. I found the presentations, discussions, and Q&A to be extremely interesting and worthwhile.

There’s no place like Silicon Valley. It’s crowded and expensive, but some of the largest and most successful corporations in the world are located there, along with thousands of start-up companies. One-third of all venture capital in the U.S. is spent in Silicon Valley. The talent and resources in the area are truly astounding. And, it’s a great place to see some of the most advanced AM-related technology, products, and services.

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.

DfAM at Materialise

June 4, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 13:27

What does a major German car manufacturer, surgeon from Brazil, producer of food-making equipment, and large toy maker have in common? All are interested in methods of design for additive manufacturing (DfAM). Twenty-five people from five continents came together last week to explore, discuss, and learn how to design products for AM. Also represented were manufacturers of pumps, audio systems for cars, data projection systems, packaging equipment, heavy industrial products, and large vacuum systems. Key service providers from South Africa and China also participated.

The advanced, three-day course from Wohlers Associates took a deep dive into methods of DfAM, including the consolidation of many parts into one to reduce tooling, manufacturing, and inventory costs. The training, held in Leuven, Belgium, provided guidance on design optimization for reducing the use of material and making parts as light as possible. The participants used their own CAD software, along with Inspire from solidThinking for topology optimization and Magics Structures from Materialise for lattices and meshes.

Materialise hosted the event and provided five DfAM experts in a 75-minute panel session. The company also gave an outstanding 90-minute tour of its impressive facilities. It was helpful to those in attendance to see the wide range of machines, parts, and new businesses at Materialise. One example is the production of Yuniku 3D scanning systems for custom eyewear. The prescription eyeglasses are designed so that the optics are located in the optimal location relative to the eyes. They come with beautifully-designed frames that are produced by AM at Materialise.

We are thrilled with the participant feedback and glad the training went so well. Even so, we plan to make a number of adjustments prior to offering it again. A big thank you goes to those who attended from around the world and to the fine people at Materialise for contributing to its success. We could not have partnered with a better company.

25 Years of RAPID

May 6, 2017

Next week is RAPID+TCT 2017, North America’s largest conference and exposition on additive manufacturing (AM) and 3D printing. It also includes CAD, 3D scanning, and other design and manufacturing products and services. The event marks the 25th year for me to attend the event. Although I don’t have hard proof, I’m reasonably certain I stand alone in that category, for what it’s worth. SME, the organization that launched the event in May 1993, has generously invited me to speak at RAPID for 25 consecutive years.

RAPID has been the go-to event in this region of the world for all things 3D printing. The multi-day, multi-track conference has always been the strength of the event and a big reason why people attend. With more than 330 exhibitors from around the world, the exposition is now a very serious part of it. UK-based Rapid News Communications Group, with its strong TCT brand, has partnered with SME for the first time. RAPID+TCT has the potential to grow significantly as organizations around the world expand their use of AM.

As usual, I’m looking forward to next week. I like to attend the conference sessions and see new products and services in the exposition. Meeting people, however, is a major reason why many choose to attend. Business is conducted, ideas are explored, and new friendships are forged. The people in attendance have been a big part of why I like to participate year after year. If you’re going to be in Pittsburgh next week to attend RAPID+TCT, I look forward to seeing you there!

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