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How I Built This

November 4, 2017

Filed under: entertainment,life,review — Terry Wohlers @ 08:22

NPR’s “How I Built This” series of podcasts are excellent. They are candid interviews with the founders and CEOs of some of the top companies in the world. Among them: Jake Carpenter (Burton Snowboards), Perry Chen (Kickstarter), Jim Koch (Samuel Adams), and Herf Kelleher (Southwest Airlines). Others are Mark Cuban (serial entrepreneur), Richard Branson (Virgin), and John Mackey (Whole Foods Market).

To listen to the podcasts, go to the NPR website, review the titles and descriptions, and download the MP3 files. I have downloaded 16 thus far, copied them to my phone, and listened to 12 of them. Most are 40-50 minutes in length. Thanks to John Dulchinos of Jabil for telling me about them.

Most of the people being interviewed had humble beginnings, with little financial resources. They believed strongly in what they were doing and had extraordinary determination. One podcast details how Jim Koch and his 23-year old former secretary sold their first beer and was voted the best in America just six weeks after it became available. Another is an interview with Maureen and Tony Wheeler and how they started Lonely Planet, the largest publisher of travel guide books.

The podcasts provide fascinating insight into how some of the most recognizable brands were established. They are easy listening, inspiring, and entertaining. Thanks to NPR for making them available free of charge.

The Wonder of Flight

July 15, 2017

Filed under: 3D printing,additive manufacturing,entertainment,event,life — Terry Wohlers @ 08:07

Note: The following was authored by Joseph Kowen, associate consultant at Wohlers Associates.

I have always loved to fly. As far back as I can remember, I was always looking upward at the first sound of a plane. I can still feel the excitement of a trip to the airport as a child. I grew up in the southern tip of Africa when air travel was not very popular, so an airport visit might result in seeing only two or three planes. The Concorde came to visit one year, and my cousin was allowed off school to see it. I was not so lucky and had to make do with viewing the pictures he took.

Last month, I visited the Paris Air Show for the first time, a dream come true for an aviation aficionado. The show is a biennial celebration of all things aerospace. It’s a big deal—and big business. Orders valued at $150 billion were announced at the event.

The event is a showcase for new aircraft. It is also an opportunity for more than 2,000 exhibitors to display products and services used to build these complex machines. One of the main reasons for my attendance was to observe how additive manufacturing is advancing in the aerospace industry. AM is indeed playing an increasingly important role in aircraft design and manufacturing. Many AM systems and service providers demonstrated how complex shapes and geometric features can be built additively. Also, they showed how these parts can be made much lighter without sacrificing strength. In the aviation industry, every bit of weight reduction translates into cost savings.

After my professional duties were out of the way, the real excitement was seeing the aircraft on display. The Airbus A380 showed remarkable agility for a craft of its size. The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and the Dassault Rafale performed breathtaking feats in the air.

I have always felt that flying was the ultimate mastery of science over the forces of nature. I never fail to marvel at the ease with which tons of equipment lift off the ground. Having spent a few days soaking up the latest that aerospace has to offer, I am more in awe of the ingenuity of the engineers that have made flight seem so effortless.

When leaving for home, I again luxuriated in the wonder of flight, as I have done since first stepping onto a plane. I suppose I’ll always feel the excitement of flight every time the wheels lift off the runway. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

American Football

September 23, 2016

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 14:06

In my view, it’s the greatest sport on the planet. The action, hits, and wide mix of plays makes the game so exciting to watch. Sure wish they could fix the head injury problems. I’m hopeful that with creative 3D printing methods using lattice and cellular structures, someone will design a helmet that cushions hard blows far better than with conventional methods of manufacturing and materials.

Colorado State Rams: We’ve been season ticket holders for many years, so we attend most of the home games in Fort Collins. This is the last season for Hughes Stadium, so we can expect an entirely new experience next season. More importantly, I hope the Rams improve. The first two games were not pretty, but last Saturday’s game was encouraging. The Rams have finally found a quarterback in true freshman Collin Hill. He threw four touchdown passes and ran 51 yards for a fifth, all in the first half. And, he’s only 18 years old. Tomorrow’s game at Minnesota will be a big test for him and the team.

collin-hill

Nebraska Cornhuskers: Last Saturday, the team pulled through in a nail biter against a ranked Oregon team. My wife and I both grew up in Nebraska, with family and friends still there, and we’ve cheered for the team since we can remember. In recent years, the Huskers have not shown the national prominence of the past, but they’re off to a 3-0 start this season. There’s nothing like a Huskers game in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Denver Broncos: These Super Bowl champs are fun to watch. Defenses win games and Denver’s D could be even better than last season. Prior to the start of this season, the quarterback position was a big question mark with the retirement of Peyton Manning and departure of backup Brock Osweiler. So far, second year rookie Trevor Siemian has been solid and better than most expected. He looked sharp again in last Sunday’s defeat of the Indianapolis Colts, but it was Denver’s Von Miller and its defense that won the game.

With some luck, these three teams will have a good season. Injuries and other factors usually determine the outcome. Regardless, we’re looking forward to watching some great football in the coming weeks and months.

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.

Kill Decision

August 15, 2015

Filed under: entertainment,future,review — Terry Wohlers @ 10:15

A good friend recommended Kill Decision and I’m glad he did. Author Daniel Suarez knows how to get and keep your attention. Many compare him to Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy. The techno-thriller grabs you early in the book and has you on the edge of your seat most of the way through it. As odd as it may sound to some, I do not read novels for the pure sake of enjoyment. However, if the book provides interesting perspective into future, I’ll make an exception.

I chose the audio version of Kill Decision so that I could exercise while taking in something good. Also, narrator Jeff Gurner tells a story spectacularly. I’ve heard him before and he’s excellent. He nails foreign accents and characters (for example, a hard-nosed army general) better than anyone I’ve heard and his emphasis on certain points and phrases is flawless.

kill-decision

The book is focused mostly on drones and how they may develop to control the world around us. The tension-filled plot brings together many technical ideas in ways that are not only fascinating, but believable. At times, I could not put it down. The story builds and the plot thickens as swarming autonomous drones communicate and organize attacks. The drones and their “behavior” are modeled after swarms of weaver ants, which are very organized, even deadly, as a colony.

If you are looking for a good book to round out the summer, assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere, consider Kill Decision. You won’t regret it. And, if you like to walk, run, or go to the gym, take the audio version with you. Listening to narrator Jeff Gurner, alone, is worth the price.

Stelarc

July 20, 2014

Stelarc is a performance artist and designer that has lived much of his life in a Melbourne, Australia suburb. He was born in Cyprus as Stelios Arcadiou and changed his name in 1972. His work focuses mostly on the belief that the human body is obsolete, but its capacity can be enhanced through technology.

I first met Stelarc in 2005 at the VRAP 3D printing event in Leiria, Portugal. Travel prevented me from attending his presentation, although he was kind enough to provide me with an eye-opening set of printed images and a DVD. Many of his technical developments and works of art are unusual—some of which you’d have to see to believe. Entering “Stelarc” into Google and clicking Images will give you an interesting sampling.

I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Stelarc again nine days ago in Brisbane, Australia. He gave an intriguing presentation at a one-day 3D printing event organized by Griffith University. People in the audience of 170 were visibly stunned by his work. An example was the 2007 video footage showing a team of surgeons constructing an ear on his left forearm.

stelarc

The skin was suctioned over a scaffold, which was made of porous biomaterial. Tissue in-growth and vascularization then followed over a period of six months. This resulted in a relief of an ear. The helix needs to be surgically lifted to create an ear flap and a soft ear lobe will be grown using his stem-cells. A small microphone will then be inserted and the ear electronically augmented for Internet connectivity. Thus, the third ear will result in a mobile listening device for people in other places.

I was especially impressed by Stelarc’s knowledge and understanding of biomedicine, robotics, prosthetics, and 3D printing. The content that he presented and discussed and the questions he answered showed that he is not only an artist, but a designer and maker of complex machines and systems. In recent years, he has used 3D printing extensively to support much of his work.

Stelarc is a Distinguished Research Fellow and the Director of the Alternate Anatomies Lab, School of Design and Art, at Curtin University, which is located in Perth, Australia. He has many awards and honors to his credit, including an honorary doctorate from Monash University in Melbourne.

 

Good Music

November 25, 2012

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 10:45

Until recently, I’ve been living in the past. With few exceptions, about the only music that I would listen to is classic rock, mostly from the 1970s. My argument has been that much of the music recorded after this period was not very good. I know that some people may disagree, but I just could not find the quality. When rap became popular, well, … don’t get me started.

Our 20-year-old daughter, Heather, introduced me to Foster the People and I liked the music almost immediately. The melodies, harmonies, instruments, and lyrics are good. Then, it was Gotye. Also, not bad. Later came others and I was hooked. I suddenly changed my view of music, but it took about 35 years.

Among my favorites: Fun and One Direction, which offer good quality music. (Heather is currently trying to get tickets for a Fun concert for her, a friend, and me.) I also like some of the music from Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Carly Rae Jepsen.

Heather also introduced me to Spotify, a service somewhat like Pandora, but better, in my opinion. It let’s you produce play lists and download music to handheld devices for plane travel, etc. Also, it lets you name an artist that you like and then it lists songs and bands that are similar. Listening to the music is free when you’re on-line, but you must pay $10 monthly to download the songs to a smartphone.

In the office, we play the radio or Spotify in the background all day long, so the new sounds are a nice change. It’s unclear why the music of the past couple years is so much better, or maybe it’s just me. Regardless, it’s been good.

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.

A Thrilling Sport

November 28, 2010

Filed under: entertainment,life — Terry Wohlers @ 13:32

I challenge you to name an activity or sport that is more thrilling than snow skiing. Perhaps there is one, but I have not experienced it. I’ve not tried sky diving or bungee jumping, at least not yet. I can assure you that speeding down a mountain and not knowing exactly what’s ahead is electrifying. Crashing is a distinct possibility, but that’s part of the excitement.

My first day of skiing for the season was Friday. Copper Mountain, located in Summit County, Colorado, had a 89-cm (35-inch) base at mid mountain and 102-cm (40-inch) base at upper mountain. These depths are unheard of this time of year. I wiped out—only once—and lost both skies. One of them was about 20 meters uphill from where I landed in a fairly steep and bumpy area. A very young girl brought it to me after saying, “Do you need your ski?”

I tried K2’s new Rictor skis yesterday. I liked them a lot, so I may ask Santa for a pair. I’ve had my K2 Axis skis for seven years and like them, but it may be time to upgrade. The technology has improved, so new skis should make the experience even better. If I end up getting them, they will likely make my “Best of 2010” list that I plan to publish in January 2011.

If you have never skied, I urge you to give it a try. You’re never too old to ski. Several years ago, in the month of March, a friend and I rode up a chair lift at Vail Mountain with a 70-some year old who had never missed a day of skiing that season. I certainly hope I’m able to ski when I’m 70. It’s one of the few ways to entirely clear the mind of work and day-to-day stress. If you’re not focused when racing down the mountain, the consequences could be dire, and that’s partly what makes the sport exhilarating.

3D Data for Additive Manufacturing

September 4, 2010

Filed under: additive manufacturing,CAD/CAM/CAE,entertainment,future — Terry Wohlers @ 07:34

CAD solid modeling has been the source of data for most additive manufacturing (AM) parts. I estimate that at least 95% comes from CAD, but it could be closer to 98%. Increasingly, we are seeing more data from medical scanners, primarily CT, and 3D scanning/imaging systems for reverse engineering applications.

In the future, video games could become a major source. World of Warcraft players, for example,  can have their character manufactured by FigurePrints, and about 1,000 per month are doing it. Other companies are working with Z Corp. to offer full color models from games, such as Rock Band 2 and Spore. Much smaller players, such as Karbon Kid and Maqet, have also entered the market. In the future, it might become a large and financially interesting segment.

To gain some perspective on how big it could become, one needs to compare annual CAD solid modeling shipments to video game shipments. The “Big Four” CAD companies (Autodesk, Dassault, PTC, and Siemens) shipped an estimated 116,000 solid modeling seats in 2009, according to data gathered by Randall Newton and published in Wohlers Report 2010.  Meanwhile, game makers shipped 379,000,000 units the same year, according to the NPD Group. What’s more, 778 new game titles were launched in 2009, up from 764 the year before.

Not all of these games are candidates for AM products, but many are. And, as game creators discover the advanced capabilities of AM, more will develop games that create objects consisting of closed volumes—a requirement of AM. As this transition occurs, don’t be surprised to see games gain a strong foothold in additive manufacturing. In fact, it could influence AM system development, similar to how video games displaced CAD’s influence on the development of high-end graphics for personal computers. So, brace yourself for what video games could mean to the additive manufacturing industry.

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