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Idea 2 Product Labs

September 2, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,life,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 09:30

The Idea 2 Product (I2P) series of labs is an initiative that was launched in South Africa last year. The labs consist of CAD workstations and 3D printers for hands-on learning, experimentation, invention, and new product development. The primary goal of the labs is to offer opportunities for professional and economic development, especially in underdeveloped regions of South Africa and other parts of Africa.

The I2P initiative is the brainchild of professor Deon de Beer of Vaal University of Technology (Vanderbijlpark, South Africa). I have known Deon for 17 years and he has a track record of success with about everything he touches. If there’s a single individual responsible for helping to launch and grow additive manufacturing and 3D printing in South Africa, it is Deon. He has gained the respect of countless people from industry, academia, and government in South African and around the world.

Deon launched the first I2P lab at VUT in mid 2011 with the installation of 20 personal 3D printers—a historic first worldwide. (A personal 3D printer is one that sells for less than $5,000, but more typically $1,000 to $2,000.) He also created a smaller I2P lab with two 3D printers in a rural area of South Africa. He has ordered 70 additional 3D printers (20 have been received thus far) for four new I2P labs at educational institutions that are similar to community colleges here in the U.S. In parallel, he is creating I2P labs at three VUT satellite campuses and two more at science centers.

Deon has big future plans for I2P labs. Based on his past and current support from the South African government, I have no doubt that he will succeed. Deon envisions I2P labs across the African continent and already has tentative plans for labs in Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana. In the meantime, he sees the potential for labs at up to 22 universities, 50 community colleges, 25 private institutions, 20 science centers, and many secondary and primary schools in South Africa. He is also gaining support for the first I2P 2Go mobile unit that would take 3D printers on the road to remote areas.

The impact that the I2P labs could have is almost beyond calculation. Each lab could introduce hundreds of people of all ages to CAD, design, product development, and manufacturing. This could lead to a dramatic increase in new ideas, new products, and new mini economies that would lead to improving economic conditions in underdeveloped regions. Rural areas living in poverty conditions could develop products that they could sell on “main street” within their community, as well as to neighboring communities. I applaud Deon’s efforts and fully expect that he and his I2P labs will make a dramatic and unprecedented difference.

Dean Kamen

May 27, 2012

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 09:06

Dean Kamen’s name has come up repeatedly for many years and I have always wanted to meet and hear him speak. Kamen is best known as the inventor of the Segway, an electric, self-balancing vehicle. He has 440 patents to his name and is the head of Deka Research and Development Corp., a company with 400 employees. I got the chance to hear Kamen and later meet him briefly last week in Atlanta, Georgia. He was invited to speak at the EOS North American User Day, which coincided with the RAPID 2012 Conference and Exposition.

Kamen is an inventor and entrepreneur, but he is mostly a relentless advocate of science and technology. He is the founder of the incredibly successful FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), launched in 1989. FIRST competitions involve hundreds of thousands of elementary and secondary students in 21 countries, as well as 100,000+ volunteers that come together to make it possible. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, from The Black Eyed Peas, and many other celebrities have supported FIRST. The CEOs from Time Warner Cable, Xerox, Avon, and Baxter serve on the FIRST board of directors.

The presentation that Kamen gave on Tuesday is difficult to describe. You really needed to be there. He has an incredible passion for ensuring that young people view science and technology with as much or more enthusiasm as professional sports, music, and Hollywood entertainment. His stories and words of inspiration brought tears to many in the room.

My sincere thanks to EOS for bringing Kamen to Atlanta. Kamen’s company is a regular user of EOS laser sintering technology and he showed many interesting examples, which made his presentation even more relevant and meaningful to those in the room.

A 3D Printer for Kids

October 15, 2011

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,entertainment,future — Terry Wohlers @ 08:20

Finally, a 3D printer for children. Well, it’s not yet available, but it’s in the works. Origo, a small startup in Belgium, is in the conceptual phase of product development. The goal: to offer a product that’s attractive to 10-year olds, and to make it as easy to use as an Xbox or Wii. The estimated price of $800 may be a little steep for kids and their parents, but it’s a starting point.

For more than a decade, I’ve sensed that a large market could develop for a very low-cost 3D printer targeted at children. Young people use their imagination to create objects of all types. With so much digital content now available, and a lot more in the works, a 3D printer would be the ultimate device for creative play and entertainment. A recent article published by Singularity Hub said it could be the last toy you’ll need to buy for your child.

In February 2010, I had a short meeting with James Cameron, the producer of Avatar, Titanic, The Abyss, and many other blockbuster films. Knowing that he is a user of 3D printing, I asked him about the idea of an inexpensive 3D printer targeted at children for entertainment. He responded by saying, “Absolutely,” with interest. This is a verbal endorsement that carries some weight.

Indeed a business opportunity is out there for Origo and others to develop and commercialize a safe and simple 21st century ThingMaker for children. A price range of $100-200 has been in my mind, but maybe people would pay more for an elaborate toy that could produce almost any shape.

As the saying goes, the devil is in the details and Origo is faced with many. To reach a level of volume that drives cost and price to a minimum, the effort would require significant investment in engineering, manufacturing, market development, distribution, and support. It’s a giant mountain to climb, but I hope company founders Joris Peels and Autur Tchoukanov, both young men, are able to raise the capital needed to succeed. Peels is a former employee of Shapeways and i.materialise and a contributor to Wohlers Report 2011.

Additive Manufacturing Education

August 6, 2011

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,education,future,manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 08:13

Additive manufacturing (AM) is going places that many of us never anticipated. Frankly, I believe we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. The more I explore the future potential of AM and 3D printing technology, the more excited I become. I truly believe that AM will develop to become the most useful technology for the development and production of products than any other.

The need for AM education and training has never been greater. That’s why I’m excited about the NSF-funded National Center for Rapid Technologies (RapidTech) housed at the University of California–Irvine. I had the privilege of attending this week’s seventh national workshop (RapidTech 2011), which involved about 50 educators from across the nation. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only national effort focused on preparing high schools, community colleges, and other institutions of higher education to include additive manufacturing and related technologies and processes in their programs.

RapidTech has partnered with the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEd) at Edmonds Community College—another NSF-funded program. The collaborative project aims to prepare educational institutions across the U.S. to teach the new AM standards being produced by the ASTM International F42 Committee on Additive Manufacturing Technologies. Already, terminology and file format standards have been published, with many more in the works. The work by MatEd and RapidTech could have a profound impact on our nation’s understanding and use of additive manufacturing technology and the industry standards that support it.

My hope is that Washington will continue to support RapidTech, MatEd, and other educational programs that concentrate on AM. This work will help to develop a workforce of technicians, engineers, and others that understand the potential of AM. These people will be among those that will develop, integrate, and use new-generation AM systems and materials. This will go a long way in ensuring our nation’s success in product development innovation and manufacturing for years to come.

Universities Create Wealth

April 30, 2011

Filed under: education,money — Terry Wohlers @ 06:23

Someone once said that our university system is the envy of the world. I don’t know whether this is true, but I do know that we have many special institutions of higher education within our borders. One is Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an organization that has produced more than I would have ever thought.

MIT graduates have founded 25,800 companies, according to the January 22, 2011 issue of The Economist. These companies employ 3.3 million people and generate annual sales of $3 trillion, according to the article. This is more than three times the gross domestic product (GDP) of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, and many other countries.

Another article in the same issue of The Economist stated that 41% of millionaires worldwide live in the U.S. This is an extraordinary percentage when considering the world population. The article went on to say that the world’s most wealthy are entrepreneurs that started a business.

Our university system has undoubtedly contributed greatly to entrepreneurism, which has led to personal and national wealth. If one university can do what it has done—albeit MIT—imagine what the more than 4,800 colleges and universities spread across the U.S. are achieving. Regardless of what you might hear from others, supporting higher education is a wise investment.

An Impressive Facility

January 22, 2011

Filed under: additive manufacturing,education,manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 16:19

I’ve had the opportunity to visit many educational facilities over the past 20 years, but I have never seen anything like the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology (SiMT) in Florence, South Carolina. This new, world-class building offers the best of the best: an 800-person auditorium with a 2,700-watt surround sound system; a conference and exhibition center that can seat 800 people at tables; classrooms and CAD labs with the latest audio/visual equipment; and a beautiful executive boardroom. Top management at Fortune 100 companies would salivate over the place, including the dramatic lobby and open floor plan.

SiMT offers equipment and space for design, prototyping, and manufacturing. The 3D/Virtual Reality Center is one of only six Interactive Digital Centers in the world. Separately, two spacious labs house four large-frame additive manufacturing systems, including a new Fortus 900mc from Stratasys.

A visit to the facility earlier this week refreshed my memory of how impressive it really is. SiMT held a very successful forum on additive manufacturing in February 2010, which I had the privilege of attending. Planning is now underway for the second forum, which is scheduled for April 19, 2011. Add it to your calendar and plan to visit this one-of-kind facility. I hope to see you there!

South African Bright Minds

November 9, 2009

Filed under: additive manufacturing,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 17:00

High school students—160 of them—came together last week at Walter Sisulu University in East London, South Africa. The purpose: to introduce them to additive manufacturing (AM) technology and plant a seed in the minds of these young people. The hope is for them to consider formal education or work in engineering, manufacturing, or a related area of rapid product development. All of the kids are currently in grade 10, so most have not yet decided what they will do after high school.

This one-day program was inspired, in part, by the annual Bright Minds Mentoring Program held each year at the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ RAPID Conference and Exposition. The sixth one will be held in May 2010. The program brings 40-50 high school students to the event for a day and pairs them with practicing professionals who guide them through the exhibition and answer questions. Logistics and other considerations prevented the mentoring element from being a part of the South African program, but the format has allowed for a much larger number of students. Last week marked the third year for this “awareness creation” program, now being dubbed Bright Minds South Africa. The second annual Bright Minds UK program was held in October, so with it, the Bright Minds program is now on three continents and two hemispheres.

Last week’s event has been held in conjunction with the annual RAPDASA conference. RAPDASA stands for the Rapid Product Development Association of South Africa. The 10th annual RAPDASA conference was held last week near East London, South Africa. Professor Deon de Beer of Vaal University of Technology, and formerly of Central University of Technology, has been a strong supporter of both the conference and awareness program from the beginning. He understands clearly the need to interest our young people in product development-related careers, as well as the need to build a pipeline of designers, manufacturing engineers, technicians, and others in this important field. While jobs in banking, law, and even medicine are important, they do not create national wealth like that of product development and manufacturing.

Deon and I were given the privilege to spend a couple hours with the students. Unlike some youth groups that I’ve encountered in the past, these kids were respectful, attentive, asked questions, and truly seemed interested. Most had never heard of additive manufacturing before, by any name, and had little or no exposure to methods of product development or manufacturing. I genuinely hope that they walked away knowing that AM as an option, even an opportunity, for them in the future. We explained that the technology offers many interesting applications and careers in industrial, artistic, biomedical, and entertainment sectors. If even a small handful choose to pursue it, it should make life better for them, South Africa, and the world as a whole.

US-Turkey Workshop

September 28, 2009

Filed under: additive manufacturing,education,event — Terry Wohlers @ 14:26

An event entitled “U.S.–Turkey Workshop on Rapid Technologies” was held last week (September 24-25) in Istanbul, a city of about 12 million people. The U.S. National Science Foundation provided financial support to conduct the workshop, which was held at Istanbul Technical University. ITU is the world’s third oldest technical university dedicated entirely to engineering sciences. The workshop was the first international event of its kind in Turkey and it could not have gone much better. More than 50 people attended from Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S.

Dr. Ismail Fidan of Tennessee Tech University did a fine job in organizing most of the speakers and topics. Eighteen presentations provided basic and advanced information around the science and application of additive manufacturing technology. An estimated 380 AM systems have been installed in the country through the end of last year, so a number of people in Turkey are quite familiar with the capabilities of the technology. It is believed that a significant percentage of those systems are from Solidscape and used for making jewelry.

I got the impression that Turkey as a whole is not yet applying AM technology at the same level as countries such as Germany, the UK, or the U.S. Industry and academic events, such as this one, will surely help accelerate the country’s understanding and adoption of the technology. A tentative plan is to hold a second conference, probably in two years. I could envision a second event with additional speakers, a portion of the conference dedicated to medical applications, and table-top displays and exhibits for those who have equipment, software, and services for sale. Overall, Dr. Fidan and the team at ITU did a very good job with the first one and I’m glad I attended.

3D Design Derby

April 11, 2009

Filed under: education,entertainment,event — Terry Wohlers @ 10:09

I was a Cub Scout many years ago, along with millions of other elementary-age boys. The Cub Scouts is a part of Boy Scouts of America, one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. My fondest memory of the Cub Scouts was the pinewood derby, a race of hand-crafted cars, usually from a kit. The cars measure up to 178 mm (7 inches) in length and are raced on a wood or aluminum track. The pinewood derby has been a part of the Cub Scouts program for more than 50 years and is still active.

A 21st century version of the pinewood derby is the 3D Design Derby at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah. In May 2008, 137 high school students raced cars created with Autodesk Inventor or SolidWorks and a Dimension 3D printer. Next month, in conjunction with the Utah Valley University Technology Expo, 150-200 students from 20 high schools are expected to participate in the third annual 3D Design Derby. Any CAD software is allowed, as long as it can export an STL file.

Winners are determined by judging detail drawings, marketing illustrations, and the cars themselves. Some of the categories are the most creative, the fastest, and best in show. Prizes include gift certificates and electronic products such as iPods and flash drives. Trophies, which are also manufactured on a Dimension system, are presented to the top four places.

The 3D Design Derby is organized by the university’s Engineering Graphics & Design Technology Department. It hopes the event will gain radio and television coverage this year and I hope it does too. It is events like this that get kids jazzed about engineering and manufacturing.

Click here to see images of some of the cars from past races. For additional information on the 3D Design Derby, contact professor David Manning of Utah Valley University at

Engineering Theory Versus Practice

March 28, 2009

Filed under: education — Terry Wohlers @ 11:11

The National Science Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering have stated for more than 20 years that American engineering education is too theoretical and not practical enough, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. These warnings have been reinforced by a new report from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It suggests that too much theory and not enough hands-on experience results in graduates that are unable to tackle real-world problems.

Purdue University’s College of Engineering agrees. It is altering its engineering program to address this problem. The new model, which it is sharing with others, emphasizes problem-solving and teamwork. Last fall, it took first-year students out of massive lectures halls and put them in labs that taught them how to solve problems, from concept to completion.

The biomedical engineering program at Georgia Tech is also using a problem-based approach that is serving to attract many types of students, including women. Historically, few women have enrolled in engineering programs, so the new format is helping to improve the balance.

I understand and appreciate the need for textbook learning and the many lessons and theories that it provides. When crossing a bridge or moving at a high speed in a plane or automobile, I trust the people that designed and tested them had a strong grasp of mathematics, chemistry, and physics. At the same time, I have long been a supporter of applied sciences. I believe it creates a well-rounded individual that can address a range of issues and problems and can work with others. What we really need is a balance of both and it looks like our system of higher education in the U.S. is moving in that direction.

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